Churches and mental health

“Pastor, I think something is wrong with our son.” “My husband has been talking about killing himself.” “Our daughter-in-law is using drugs and I’m worried about our grandkids.” “George died two years ago, but I still can’t stop crying.”

Pastors get to participate in wonderful events, such as baptisms and weddings. But few people outside the ministry realize how much of a pastor’s work involves helping people through life’s most difficult moments, and increasingly, those moments involve mental, emotional or behavioral health. Parents, spouses, family members, and friends may not always know what kind of help a loved one needs, but they know where they can find someone who will listen to their concerns and offer guidance.

As a former pastor, I know all too well that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by those in need. Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Other times, people come to clergy with problems that our seminary classes never addressed, like domestic abuse or social media issues involving teenagers. Still, people expect their pastors to have the all the answers. And after an exhausting day of helping church members find those answers, pastors go home to the challenges within their own families.

One way pastors can effectively serve the needs of their congregations without neglecting their own families is if they admit to their own limitations and reach out for help. There’s no sin in recognizing there are only so many hours in a day, or that you may not be entirely comfortable when it comes to handling some situations. It’s okay to reach out to others for assistance

When it comes to mental health challenges, many pastors are discovering the advantages of becoming a partner with professional counselors such as the team at Care to Change. When a member of the congregation approaches the pastor with an issue that may require more time and expertise than the he or she has to offer, the pastor can refer them to Care to Change for help from highly educated professionals who use evidence-based approaches. Just as important, our practice is rooted in Biblical values, so the pastor doesn’t have to worry that the counseling will be inconsistent with the church’s beliefs.

Care to Change can also assist with the well-being of the pastor and the church staff. Serving others is immensely satisfying, but it can take an emotional tool. From individual counseling to workshops that help employees and volunteers balance their pastoral work with their private lives, our team can protect and enhance everyone’s emotional health and enthusiasm.

Are you a pastor or lay leader who would like to know more about how your church can become more effective at responding to mental health needs? Join us for a free hour-long program, “Mental Health & the Church,” at Care to Change at 8:30 a.m. this Thursday, May 9.