Sometimes those struggling with mental illnesses come to me and my staff for help, but we don’t have resources to direct them to. What can we do as pastors and church leadership to appropriately help these emotionally and mentally unstable members of our church? Where would we begin?
-A Compassionate Pastor
We are beginning to see more and more solid faith and mental health resources surfacing, and these can be a great place to start, which is often the most challenging part for pastors. Consider the statistics of a recent pastoral survey: of those polled, only 12% of clergy felt they were ready to respond to mental health needs. Additionally, 50% of those clergy reported that they are approached two-to-five times a year regarding mental illness. Also, of those who suffer with mental illness, 32% share this fact with only a few close people in their lives, and 34% didn’t tell anyone at all. Of particular concern, one-in-five clergy reportedly believed mental illness to be spiritual or demonic possession. Those statistics are staggering.
It’s been said, “God heals, doctors treat.” Thankfully there are resources for pastors, such as:
- Fresh Hope For Mental Health – An organization led by Pastor Brad Hoefs, which has a curriculum and training course for churches looking to implement a counseling/group-therapy program. Its purpose is to empower individuals dealing with a mental health challenge, as well as their loved ones, to live a full and rich faith-filled life in spite of their mental health challenge.
- Grace Alliance – A non-profit organization providing Christian mental health recovery resources, support groups and training for churches, communities, families and individuals.
- Pathways2Promise – Fifteen faith groups and three mental health organizations created Pathways in 1988. Pathways develops caring ministries for people with mental illnesses and their families.
- Troubled Minds – In this resourceful read, Amy Simpson, whose family knows the trauma and bewilderment of mental illness, reminds us that people with mental illness are our neighbors and our brothers and sisters in Christ. She shows us the path to loving them well and becoming a church that loves God with whole hearts and whole souls, with the strength we have and with minds that are whole as well as minds that are troubled.
I would encourage you with God’s words to Joshua, “Don’t be afraid, and be of good courage.” There are great resources here to look into for your congregation as well as your own study.