The purpose of this channel goes beyond just creating content. We share why this website is important and what it means to us.[Read more…] about Here’s Our Purpose [Video]
We are a fan of bringing awareness and appreciation towards mental health and substance use and for the past several years have pushed the different months where awareness is being given to mental health, suicide awareness, autism awareness, or minority mental health awareness among others. But we have not done anything for pastors other than recognize the holidays of Christmas and Easter.
October is Clergy Appreciation Month and October 10, 2021 is Clergy Appreciation Day. Here are some Scriptures for you.
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”1 Timothy 5:17 (New International Verson)
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)
So how do we appreciate and honor our pastors?
Having been in youth ministry for eight years, it can feel like running on a treadmill. Your job is to witness to the lost, care for the hurting, and feed the sheep of the Church while raising up leaders, preaching, in many cases not getting paid enough and worrying if your church will have to shut your door. Have something planned on a Sunday and on social media.
Honestly, a simple thank you to the pastors and saying a prayer for them might be a start. Gift cards for coffee or Chipotle are always appreciated. If they have children and they are okay with it, offer to babysit their kids so they can go on a date or offer a local timeshare so they can go on vacation. Give your pastor a sabbatical.
As a final point that might be a hot take, but lasting change is more about, how can the congregation take up the role of evangelism, volunteering, and discipleship that is led by the pastor, but not completely done by the pastor. I believe this would be a great way to show appreciation by taking lead.
Focus on the Family last year talked about Pastor Appreciation Month that I wanted to share. Also, do not forget the pastor’s spouse either.
Earlier this year, we spoke at the Faith + Mental Health Summit. We wanted to share the video this week for you, noting this can be helpful for pastors, Christians, and communities to consider practicing and Christian counselors to implement.
We want to continue to bring more awareness to integrating faith and mental health and this is another chance to do so. Also, if you want to see our specific talk we gave at the Thrive & Cultivate Summit for free and early before we publish it here, sign up for our newsletter as we will be distributing it in a couple of days. Don’t miss out.[Read more…] about Mindfulness Christian Recovery [Video]
We’ve talked about suicide and suicide prevention a lot. Whether it is our Church Suicide Prevention Policy you can get for free or all of the national resources you may want to share in your next sermon or podcast or needing to understand the always controversial conversation of suicide being a sin, this is a topic that is talked about maybe more than any other on this blog. And with September being Suicide Awareness Month, we want to bring it up again.
But this time, we want to talk about a different aspect, support for those who have lost someone to suicide. Here are some statistics from the resource I’m about to share:
- Every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide, leaving 6-8 loved ones grieving devastating loss.
- Approximately 45 million people have been greatly distressed by suicide, in the U.S. alone. Many grapple with horrific, stigmatized loss, debilitating emotions, and complex personal challenges.
- Adult loss survivors are nearly 10 times more likely to consider suicide themselves in the initial months following loss.
- Suicide loss survivors are 64% more likely to attempt suicide, and 80% more likely to quit their jobs or drop out of school – compared to those who have suffered sudden loss to a natural cause.
Alliance of Hope is a resource for people who have lost someone they care about to suicide, whether a parent, spouse, child, friend, coworker, or neighbor, we know this population needs support. I love their motto “‘suicide postvention’ is suicide prevention.” Here is a quick video of what this means:
Alliance of Hope has an online forum, their solution to finding likeminded people the same way Celebrate Recovery or AA helps those with a substance use addiction. They also have a huge list of books to go through and while not all of them are religious, they will help. And for those who have been able to grieve, they even have an area where you can help volunteer yourself to support others who are in the midst of it or to help bring awareness to your community or church. They also have a hope after suicide brochure you may want to look at getting.
To be clear, if this article looks a little fragmented, it’s because these are the statistics, Scripture, and notes I have for my presentation with the Church Mental Health Summit that goes live September 10, 2021. If you watch it on that day, it’s free. If you want to get access to it after that fact, use our affiliate code to sign up and catch everything all year long for you and your church.
Scripture and addiction
Paul sent Timothy to the Ephesian church due to poor Biblical teach and tolerating immoral behavior and laid out what a church leader should be.
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truth s of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.1 Timothy 3:1-13 (NIV)
Paul then talks about idolatry, impulse control, and God’s plan for Christians
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Types of addiction
- Among people aged 12 or older in 2019, 60.1% (or 165.4 million people) used a substance (i.e., tobacco, alcohol, kratom, or an illicit drug) in the past month. [SAMHSA]
- Among the the almost 140 million current alcohol users in 2019, nearly half had binge drank in the last month. Among those binge drinkers, 16 million people or nearly a quarter of them are daily heavy drinkers. [SAMHSA]
- This is not an issue that is only for the community, many pastors also have struggled with this issue, leading to many issues within the Church including a high suicide rate and domestic violence for pastors which we will talk about later. This has led to high profile pastors ending their life, leading their job, or quitting ministry all together and leaving their church with more questions than answers. [New Spring Church]
- Most pastors (76%) oppose marijuana use, as of a study in 2020 by Lifeway Research [Lifeway] compared to all Americans at 60% wanting recreational use. [Pew Research]
- Unfortunately, there are no statistics with drug use for pastors. Imagine a pastor having such strength to talk about their own recovery? It’s certainly out there, several pastors who are involved in Celebrate Recovery‘s Celebrate Pastors in Recovery. Unfortunately, it is more stigmatized than pastors with pornography, mental illness, burnout, alcohol misuse, or domestic violence.
- 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month. Comparing this to 1 in 5 youth pastors and 1 in 7 senior pastors use porn on a regular basis and currently struggling. That’s more than 50,000 U.S. church leaders. 43% of senior pastors and youth pastors say they have struggled with pornography in the past. [Covenant Eyes]
- A Barna research study has even higher statistics, finding most pastors (57%) and youth pastors (64%) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past. But less than 1% recommended telling their congregation. LESS THAN 1%. [Barna]
- There are several Christian leadership articles out there on how to battle church burnout, but one survey done recently by Faithlife is the 2021 Pastoral Mental Health Report and identifies that 40% of 25-40 year old pastors feel burnt out and 36% of of 41-60 year old pastors do as well. We work with poor boundaries, working at home, not seeing our kids, working more than 50+ hours on a salary less than what McDonalds’ minimum wage is, and being under appreciated.
Pastors and suicide
- Pastor, mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson dies by apparent suicide, wife reports
- Why Are So Many Pastors Committing Suicide?
- A young pastor preached about depression, then killed himself. His widow wants to help others by talking about it
- Megachurch pastor takes his own life after struggle with mental illness
What Can We Do To Fix This?
- Let’s publicly talk about it.
One area I didn’t list in my areas of addiction is pride. But we know it is something many pastors struggle with. I see in in the Facebook groups of youth pastors being victims to it from senior pastors, senior pastors posting not wanting to look bad, and issues of threats and poor leadership. We need to open up.
- Churches, pay for pastors’ insurance so they can access treatment.
- Go to counseling pastors, even if to get a check-up
- De-stigmatize it or normalize the conversation
I told you pastors are not talking about their own recovery, such as with drug use. Imagine a Church where we can be honest about our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and not fear being exiled. This starts in leadership, first and foremost, with pastors and elders. If you want your congregation and community to be honest, you need to be honest yourself. Unfortunately, this concern is only preached from the pulpit with citing a single Bible verse or two and completely dismissing any scientific or behavioral conversations. We say its wrong and move on, ignoring our own addictions, shortcomings, and how to receive help if we are doing so.
- Find prosocial activities
That Faithlife survey I referenced with burnout also talked about what pastors do to handle stress which included great things such as exercise (48%), being with family or friends (54%), and prayer (65%) but also included such things as alcohol (9%) which was never made to get rid of anxiety and social media (42%) and television 60%) which we know is not a way to relax but distract and sometimes make stress worse or blur boundaries of work and home life. Take care of yourself or you will have nothing to give. And serve your family as they are your first mission field. [Pastoral Mental Health Report]
- Celebrate Recovery/Accountability in Celebrating Pastors in Recovery
Last year, I gave a presentation for the Church Mental Health Summit on “Youth Ministry, Mental Health, and Substance Use” that I will be sharing below to you guys for free. This year, I am giving a presentation on “The Pastor’s Approach To Addiction” with an understanding that pastor’s do struggle with addiction, whether it’s alcohol, working to the point of burnout, or other things.
If you are interested, you can use our affiliate code and sign up for this year’s Church Mental Health Summit now.
Last year I spoke at the Church Mental Health Summit on the topic of youth ministry and substance misuse. If you are interested, next week I’ll be sharing that video for the public. This year I will be presenting on “The Pastor’s Approach To Addiction” talking within the leadership category and addictions pastors struggle with and how to work through that.
If you are interested in signing up, you can do so with our affiliate link here. It’s free if you watch it on September 10 or with their all-year pass if you need to watch it later. Below is an interview I did with Laura Howe who has put together the conference the last two years that you will find informative.
I’d love to see you at the summit!
The world of counseling with licensure and titles can be confusing. Sarah J. Robinson highlights in her book I Love Jesus, But I Want To Die how she sought out a Christian mental health professional but was actually emotionally harmed in the experience and the person identifying as a professional had not credentialed experience and was not licensed. As people go through schooling to become a professional in the mental health field, I have heard many stories of people wanting to practice as a Christian counselor and being given poor advice that is either flat our wrong or sometimes manipulative and led to wasted time and money.
It’s also important to note that spirituality is recognized by secular organizations as an important aspect of mental health. It is my personal believe that there are no wrong choices with regards to mental health, but we need to not muddy what we are allowed or capable of doing and not misdirect individuals or professionals. Christian counseling it puts life into perspective through a Christian lens. Further, I’ve seen comments from people such as “In the end, I’d prefer to offer traditional Christian ethics and wisdom. I need to be able to live with myself at night” that are degrading and combative and will not be supported here.
So to help clear the air on the confusion that is present, I want to clarify the differences between a licensed counselor, biblical counselor, Christian counselor, and pastoral counselor/chaplain. There may be further clarification needed as this article exists, so do not hesitate to ask questions in the comments or offer alternative experiences. Note this is from a United States perspective.
What does it take to be licensed?
Each state is different. Unlike many in the medical field, there is no current reciprocity in the United States. If you work in California and want to move to New York to do counseling there, they have different rules. So what we share is a generalization, but for the most part, is true in the states.
- A licensed counselor is governed by a state licensing board with state/federal ethics and laws that must be followed. You must meet your state’s minimum guidelines, including any oversight procedures.
- Licensed counselors are required to have a graduate level degree from an accredited university and graduate exam, though some states may distinguish a licensed clinical counselor as a master’s level counselor. You will also need to be supervised for a varying amount of years and clinical experience under a supervisor, typically about 2 years and 2,500 hours of clinical work, as well as pass a federal exam before you can practice on your own.
- Licensed and clinical counselors are protected terms, meaning if you are not licensed but claim to be, you will be subject to fines and/or arrest.
- Licensing boards have the ability to take away your license due to any confirmed grievances such as inappropriate sexual relationships with clients, payment fraud to clients or insurances, or proselytizing of clients.
- Having a licensed does not bar you from promoting Christian practices or beliefs in your work area, but you need to have a strong understanding of ethics and legal implications, a supervisor you respect and can help guide you, as well as consult legal representation and have a fully defined client rights and responsibilities policy.
What is a biblical counselor?
A biblical counselor is someone who wants to help people suffering, through the lens of the bible. This differs from a licensed counselor in many ways.
- There are many different certifications, though the more known one’s are The American Association of Christian Counselors’ (AACC) Light University (though they do not use the term biblical counselors and muddy it by saying Christian counselors) or the late Jay Adams’ Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) that have different expectations. It should be noted many biblical counseling institutes are not under an accredited governing body.
- The training, instead of 2 years and 2,500 hours of clinical work, consists of completing their training and the company’s exam as well as 50 hours of direct hours to receive a certification. (Specifically referencing ACBC)
- You do not need a master’s degree and are govern by the school you are licensed through, not a state licensure board. They have their own code of ethics.
- They cannot bill to insurances or accept mental health grant funds from state or federal levels. Some churches are willing to pay for services in lieu of this, other biblical counselors need to accept only cash pay.
- You also need to understand how your church’s denomination interacts with biblical counselors’ certification. Current the ACBC will not allow you to hold certification with them if your practice is in a church with a female pastor, even if she is not the lead/senior pastor.
What is the term Christian counselor?
A Christian counselor is not a formal licensure or certification required, but instead an expressed viewpoint of the therapist. (That being said, if you want to seek out Christian counseling principles, I recommend AACC’s Light University. Not a licensure program or master’s degree, but great material) It simple identifies your own personal worldview, identifying to other professionals and clients that you are an expert in talking about Christian principles and how that can integrate into your profession. Some clients prefer to work with an individual of the same faith, pastors typically want to refer to fellow Christians.
As a licensed professional counselor, social worker, marriage and family therapist, or other mental health professional, you can adopt this identifier. Socioeconomically, it is identifying your own perspective, just as I have seen some counselors identify as a military mental health counselor or black counselor. There is no special training that has to come with it, but it does very much bias your perspective.
What this does not do is exempt you from any ethics or legal proceedings. If you are licensed and operating under that licensure, you must still follow their expectations. One Christian therapist put it very well, “I have a section on my intake asking clients whether or not they would like to incorporate spiritual principles into our session as well as what their faith background is. Based on that (because then it aligns with client goals), our sessions either have a foundational Christian focus or are simply focused on the therapy, tools and principles.” As I stated before, you need to have a strong understanding of ethics and legal implications, a supervisor you respect and can help guide you, as well as consult legal representation and have a fully defined client rights and responsibilities policy.
What is a pastoral counselor or chaplain?
Pastoral counseling and chaplains are traditionally, a cleric, or a lay representative of a religious tradition, attached to a secular institution, church, Christian non-profit, or a private chapel. Many pastors I know have part of their job as a local pastoral counselor or chaplain.
Each denomination, church, or organization has different expectations of education, some requiring a Bachelors or Master’s degree, such as Liberty University’s Chaplain degree. Many degrees are heavy on theology and light on mental health, so ask questions before signing up for degrees to make sure it meets your expectations.
Further, a hospital or military chaplain may be required to serve many different person’s of faith in their time of personal crisis. Finally, pastoral counseling may simply be a title given to a lay person who has no formal education but hopes to meet the needs of individuals who are hurting. We do not endorse any individual who does not have a a formal understanding of mental health or the science behind it.
I can’t believe I’m saying this full phrase, but “15 years ago…” 15 years ago when I was at the beginning of my time in youth ministry with Youth for Christ, I made a great decision to go back to school for a Masters in Family Ministry. One of the best things I learned in my education was the best way for myself to rest.
Self-care is vital for anyone, even more so when you are in an emotionally or cognitively taxing position like counseling or pastoral role. And it stings even more when we preach rest, focus on God, and caring for yourself and others, yet don’t practice as you preach. At times it feels like too many people need our support and not enough time in the day.[Read more…] about Rest For The Weary
The world of mental health is still in its early days and the interconnection of Christianity and mental health is even younger than that. So connecting to thought leaders on the topic as well as finding resources so you do not have to reinvent the wheel is important. Our goal is to share not just resources, but evidence-based, Christian integrated resources for you.
For those that do not know, we have a lot of additional resources beyond the blog. Whether you want something we have put together as a kit in our shop or links to mental health resources your church needs to have on hand.
One of the resources we recently updated is our Books We Recommend You Read. Surprisingly, its the second most visited page on the site and we’ve added more books we’ve reviewed as well as a look into other books we will be reviewing upcoming. It’s important that what we share is something I would fully stand behind. Just as important, some of them I personally have differences of opinions, but the information still stands up, so you are not receiving biased ideals.
What books would you recommend us review that are at the intersection of Christianity and mental health?