I have had a fun couple of months with the church I attend in exploring if and how mental health wellness needs to be part of the Church. I talked just this year about my church’s further investment in mental health awareness as well as trainings for staff, congregation, and our local community with regards to faith and mental health. And recently, our pastor made the push to make the mental health of our congregation a priority with the growth and development of each congregation member.
Wellness Is A Need For All Christians
In his book, Mental Health and the Church, Dr. Grcevich talks about how ministries surrounding people with visible and hidden disabilities (i.e. mental illness) should not be it’s own separate ministry that is removed from the general congregation. In a classroom setting, many intervention specialist teachers are integrating care for students with special needs in the classroom for a couple of reasons. First, the socializing is important. Secondly, everyone, including the individuals with hidden or visible disabilities, become aware of this “different treatment.”
Dr. Grcevich later goes so far as to state, any investment for people with mental illness should ultimately improve the whole Church. Setting the argument aside that mental illness can impact anyone so we should make these resources available to all (which is all true and should be part of the consideration), we know that ongoing, healthy mental health practices should be done by all, whether you are in full recovery from your mental illness or you have not directly experienced mental illness, we all experience symptoms within our lives. In counseling, we may call this aftercare for people in recovery as well as prevention for people who have not experienced mental illness.
So if we are wanting to implement and integrate good mental health within the Church we need to not only do good mental health awareness at church and offer Christian resources for support for people with mental illness, but also to implement wellness and prevention resources. I love this definition “Mental wellness is a lifelong process and a proactive strategy to strengthen our mental, emotional, social, and psychological resources.”
What It Looks Like For Us
The church I attend has made a commitment to not only the spiritual health of our entire congregation, but the physical, social, and mental health. Part of the commitment of the church I attend is a small group series we call the Growth Track for individuals who just accepted Christ, joined our church, or start to grow in their faith. Each group is a semester long that looks at Biblical foundations, identifies what kind of leader you are and how to begin to serve in the church, make connections through community groups with other Christians, and a two semester long series on good Biblical hermeneutics. This next semester, we will be adding this wellness group that talks about that bio-psycho-social-spiritual focus right after the foundations group and before everything else.
In looking for something to use, we did not want to make this a “psychoeducation about mental illness class” that may or may not benefit people and as we previously linked, there are already good resources out there for this that we are using. Unfortunately, we could not find anything that would fill this need, so we made our own. We took inspiration from great resources such as Fresh Hope’s Empowering Hope, Grace Alliance’s Thrive, The Sanctuary Course, The Other Half of Church, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and our own 99 Self-Care Techniques for Christians, though none were a church group curriculum about wellness.
How Can You See More?
The curriculum is still in development. Today is the deadline for writing the curriculum, then we should companion videos to go with it, and then we will run it this fall. If you want to get your comments, I’d love to see what interest there is in making something like this available, because I believe the need is there but nothing is yet available that we have found.
Leave a comment below on your thoughts, what you think should be part of it, and if you are interested in getting it.