Mental Health Recovery and the Role of the Church


As the Body of Christ, how can we offer effective and loving support — as well as recovery — for our brothers and sisters with mental illnesses?

We are who are strong are encouraged through scripture “to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves … and to please our neighbor for his good and building up” (Romans 15.1-2). How does this work when we are looking at those who are dealing with mental health difficulties and disorders … mental illness? As the Body of Christ, the Church, do we know how to have effective support not only for loving support, but for mental health recovery?

Now, introducing a simple and helpful way to understand what is really happening in the Church, and a simple overview of how to look at effective support within the Church, is a process.  And, many times it’s usually a family member who is asking more from the church. This is a common question we always get from families. Some churches are ready for everything they can, while others are very cautious.

Here is a short snippet from my original blog, “How to Help Your Church Understand Mental Illness” to help you begin a dialogue within your church leaders:

MINISTRY vs. SUPPORT … If you approach your pastor by saying you want to “start a ministry for mental illness,” they immediately start thinking: money, people (leaders), building space, and then they are naturally flooded with “stigma” concerns regarding liability (remember they do not have a full understanding … yet).

We need to take a different approach that doesn’t overwhelm the pastor. Instead, let’s invite them into a new process of understanding and the implementation of practical support that will not overwhelm church resources.

1) Be Patient and Invite Understanding

Don’t assume that one meeting with your pastor will change everything immediately. Expect to have several meetings to develop a process of understanding. BOTTOM LINE… Don’t be PUSHY or DEMANDING! Be humble, and SUBMIT this whole idea and process to the leadership. By submitting your thoughts and ideas to your pastor, you invite leadership to take ownership. Keep your focus on God, and allow Him to give everyone the wisdom or insight needed to move forward.

2) Focus on a Process that Blesses the Church

Don’t push for a ministry; it is more about having a system of support in place. Invite the pastoral staff to look into strategic steps and a process to build a healthy church response when mental health difficulties are encountered. Remember, the pastor has to lead the church and elders into accepting this too – so your pastor is usually thinking of the whole body, not just a few members.

3) Story vs. Business

Don’t overwhelm the pastor or leaders with your personal story and then assume the need for a ministry. Help them connect to your story, but then look at the “business” steps. Share your story and then show a good process. Pastors like to see a practical plan, not just a great idea with no practical process in place.

4) Be Willing to Lead

Don’t assume the church will hire someone for this … a good pastor is always looking for a catalyst leader to help serve, lead, and build within their church. You will need to decide what level you will want to help with this.

Written by Joe Padilla

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