I do not take it for granted that there are a lot of Christian counselors in our audience who have a heart to see the Church grow in its efforts towards mental health. I want to issue a challenge to these Christian counselors. What can you do to support churches in their growth of understanding and integrating mental health into their ministry?
I believe we are all given a unique set of talents that can help serve pastors across the world. So to help, I want to share 5 ways counselors can support pastors as a diving board into this conversation. Next month, with KeyMinistry, I have an article scheduled to talk about the flip of this, 5 ways that pastors can help support counselors.
Create Church EAPs
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for church staff would work just like any other EAP for a business, though you may want to tailor this differently with the spiritual implementation, high demand and burnout with staff, and privacy with regards to elders or senior pastors not needing to know the information.
Your insurance may have it, but I do know at the time of this writing that almost all (I haven’t seen one yet) Christian Health Sharing Plans do not have an EAP option nor do they have any coverage for mental health at all. This would need to be the responsibility of your church.
The idea? The churches you work with are given some kind of priority (maybe they are seen in 3-5 business days) and the first 3 sessions per individual per situation a month that is initially covered by the church. Anything beyond this would be an expectation of insurance and the individual to cover with whatever referral is given by the counselor.
Offer Free Training For Volunteers
We’ve previously shared several online video trainings you can get for a variety of mental health concerns. But there is something about doing training in person. Whether it is getting immediate feedback or questions answered you can’t from an OnDemand video or the roleplaying opportunities that might be needed depending on the training itself, it’s important. If you want to see some options on what this could look like, look at what I and my church put together for our volunteers.
Pastoral Support Network
Consider some kind of pastoral support network. This might be very professional oriented or informal. Maybe it includes a time of eating, community prayer, and supporting positive, Christian self-care techniques. Maybe you also incorporate a team meeting afterward where counselors can get billable case management time with pastors who you have a release of information for clients that were referred to counseling from the churches. But think about being part of or starting your community’s own Pastoral Support Network. See what the churches need and brainstorm how you can be a resource for them.
Join or Volunteer in Ministries
Whether you decide to start, help facilitate, or support a Christian mental health group at a church in your community at a church or decide to be part of a church’s hospitality, feed the homeless, or compassion ministries, go invest in them. Of course, you need to make sure you do not over-extend yourself, but volunteering and service are apart of our Christian faith, so make sure you leave time for what God is calling you to do.
Help Translate Clinical Concepts
I think one of the biggest barriers for pastors with regards to mental health is the worry that what you are teaching clients and the community is counter to Christian traditions and beliefs. When you talk about mindfulness, connect how this directly correlates to spiritual formation. Help show how prayer, reading Scripture, and worship are all coping skills that can be used in counseling. And whether you decide to do the work yourself or use our Church Mental Health Awareness Cards, help pastors understand mental health in light of Scripture. Christian integration with mental health is absolutely important for you, but also for your local churches.
We’d love to hear from other counselors. What are some things you wanted to do or are currently doing as counselors or as pastors, counselors are doing for you?