I don’t normally break the fourth wall and talk personally about experiences as I want this website to be a resource for mental health professions and churches to begin a dialogue on how we can unite together more. But this is one of those intersections where my personal experience can be an example, where my church is helping break the stigma of mental health.
Do Churches Need To Break The Stigma
The fact is churches avoid talking about mental health. There is research from Lifeway:
“49 percent of pastors say they rarely or never speak to their congregation about mental illness.”
Never means never.
Rarely means it’s referenced one time in a prayer from the pulpit every quarter or one sermon a year it notes mental health.
We can do more.
What Churches Can Do?
My church has decided to take on this topic and concern of the church moving beyond the stigma of mental health.
Talk About It From The Pulpit
Our church has decided to do a five week series on mental health and faith. They are calling the series Empty and you can watch the recordings of the services here. So far, we have talked about depression, anxiety, and fear, all from a Biblical perspective, but not one that puts it into shame and guilt.
The best part? The pastor is asking professions for help on how to do this more. How to refine their sermon as they use good hermeneutics to integrate the Bible into our culture. It’s normalizing mental health and providing hope.
Because we are talking about really difficult topics that are sure to stir emotions (I know this because I have been seeing the tears all month), we wanted to make sure we did not leave people empty-handed when they left.
When they walk out the sanctuary doors, we have a mental health booth (pictured below) with resources from NAMI on what mental health is (these were free), brochures from counseling centers we have personally vetted if they need to be referred to counseling, and a member of our mental health team at the booth to personally connect with someone.
We hope this allows people feel there is help out there.
We actually have an area of our lobby called Next Steps to help people who do not know Jesus walk through the salvation story and enter into the church community with discipleship. These next steps I’m referring to actually are for mental health.
We have small groups that talk about anxiety, how to improve your marriage, ways to connect with other widows to find strength and support, and Celebrate Recovery for substance use recovery. Further, we have partnered with a local counseling center to have them come into our City Center for counseling. We also have a mental health team formed to be asking what else we can do for our congregation and community: a crisis response team, mental health awareness cards, and training for our church leaders for deescalation.
What Else Do You Have?
It’s interesting, our pastor has ended his services with the following phrase, “we want to be a church where you can find hope and help.” This month has shown that to our congregation and that we really mean it. But we have to always be re-evaluating this.
So I want to ask you, what else is your church doing or have you seen other churches do to break down the stigma of mental health and further the cause for Christ?