As a Pastor, you have a charge given to you by God, to attend to his people. Caring for their needs and guiding them through life on the solid foundation of the Word of God, is the calling that has been placed upon your heart. You are to care for God’s people, shepherding them lovingly home to be with our Father in Heaven one day.
This call encompasses caring for all their needs. Helping them apply Jesus Christ to their physical, mental, and emotional needs, as well as their spiritual needs, is the ultimate role you will play in your parishioners’ lives.
Traditional Pastoring often entails making hospital visits, nursing home stops and calling on the homes of those who are experiencing physical illnesses. These visits are commonplace for most in the Ministerial field. I want to ask you though, what about the illnesses you can’t see? Who is making those house calls? Statistics show that 25% of your congregation is dealing with some sort of mental health issue, are those needs being tended to by your church? Although these illnesses lurk in the emotional and mental realms of those that attend your church, they are just as real. These inner illnesses can be just as life-threatening and debilitating as any physical illness.
We need to have at least a lay education in seeing and spotting those that may be silently suffering amongst our flocks. Educating yourself on the warning signs of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues can mean the difference between life and death for your parishioner. Sadly, in the United States, 123 people complete suicide every day. Christians are not immune or exempt from suicide. Pastors, priests, born-again baptized believers have all succumbed to suicide in recent years. Suicide does not discriminate, it can affect Christians too.
We can do simple things like following up with people who are experiencing major life changes, this simple act can be the lifeline they may need to stay healthy in times of trouble. When somebody loses a loved one, does your church offer grief counseling? When a job is lost, does anyone take the person aside to make sure things are ok? If someone’s attendance starts to falter do you check up on them to see if their mental health is the cause? We need to start thinking about the mental health of our congregation. It is as equally important as the physical health of those we care for in our church.
Many mental health issues keep people from even coming to church. Those that suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Depression may never have the mental or emotional strength to even breach the doorway to a church sanctuary, who will call on these people, to encourage them that Jesus Christ is there to help them through these storms as well?
I challenge you to take up this commission in 2019, make your congregations’ mental health a priority. Look at ways to apply Jesus Christ and his teachings to the emotional and mental well being of your congregation. The Bible is full of examples where God takes the time to address our emotional and mental needs, and if it is important to God, it should also be important to us.
To learn how to better serve the mental health issues of your congregation you can check out National Alliance for Mental Illnesses (NAMI) FaithNet resources. Here you will find prayers, sample sermons, and support from other Christian groups that are embracing the need to better serve our congregation’s mental health needs and concerns. https://www.nami.org/namifaithnet
Together, we can encourage each other, to make 2019 a pro-active year to address these issues and draw people closer to the Lord by showing them that they can lean on the Lord to weather all storms. We can show them that they are not alone and that the church does care for their needs.
If I can help you in any way please feel free to reach out to me at TamaraDalrymple@HealthyMindMinistry.com or phone me at (304)-305-0819
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