Writing To Equip The Church

Some People Don’t Want To Go To Point B

5 Reasons People Resist Change

At Five Stone Media/LifeSupport our mission is about changing lives.  We tell stories of real people to help others find hope and healing that can help transform their lives.  Through interactions with people seeking life transformation we get a front row seat to the struggles people have with change.

One simple definition of leadership is helping people get from Point A to Point B. If you work in or around ministry you know that some people just don’t want their church to change, they are happy to just stay at Point A. One recent study shows that one in three people would avoid change if they could.  The problem is that change is an unavoidable part of life and ministry.  Understanding why people resist change is an essential step in shepherding people through change.  The following are five areas to focus on as you help others prepare for, and enter into change.


We fear change because of the uncertainty it brings. Painting a clear picture of the intended destination will help reduce fears dramatically.  For change to be accepted (if not embraced), there must be an understanding of the benefits of changing. People need to be convinced that Point B is a place they want to go before they can be comfortable leaving Point A.  The description of the change, and the process for reaching that change must be thoroughly understood by everyone involved. The greater the uncertainty about change, the more likely people will fill in the things they don’t understand with gossip or their own personal fears.


We fear change because we fear we might lose what’s associated with the change. Many people view change as a transaction. It’s important to understand and acknowledge the personal costs of change.  If you are asking someone to trade their current situation for a new reality, they will need to be convinced that there will be a real benefit to their life. Communicate the payoff to help people see the upside of the sacrifice that change will bring.


We resist change because we don’t understand the reason behind the change. Helping people understand why they should change will lead to greater engagement with the change process. If you are entering into a period of organizational change rather than personal change it can be harder for those involved to see the reason for change, this is especially true for people who may not be directly involved, or who don’t have inside knowledge (a church congregation for example). For organizations who are entering a time of intentional change, it is essential to create a message that clearly communicates the need for change, and the timeline for the change. People who don’t get enough information can believe that information is being intentionally withheld. The goal should be to make sure everyone affected by the change completely understands this message and timeline.  There is no such thing as overcommunicating the change message.


Life (and change) moves at it’s own pace. One of the biggest struggles a believer can have is waiting for God’s timing.  Many people need guidance on how to release control over when and how the future will unfold.  Additionally, people who are resistant to change need plenty of time to get used to the idea of change.  In addition to over-communicating the WHY of change it’s important to start that communication as early as possible.  Preparing people well ahead of intentional change will help increase acceptance by those who are naturally resistant.  You can help create a culture that embraces change through consistent messaging in sermons, bible study, small groups, and all other areas of ministry.  When church members need to see what it means to live like a Christian (and how to respond to change), they are going to look to the leaders in your church to find a model to copy. The greatest way to inspire others to trust in God’s timing and will is for every staff member and leader to demonstrate a high level of “change acceptance” in their own lives.


In our work we often encounter people who believe they are simply not capable of changing. Sometimes it’s difficult to see this attitude because pride asks us to hide our uncertainty.  Many people have heard a message of “fake it till you make it” at some point in their lives.  We may find ourselves at a point in life where we know we need to change, but we are unwilling to admit that to others so we simply fake our way through life and pretend everything is okay.  This choice will always lead to more pain.  The change that needs to happen doesn’t go away just because we hide it away.  Delayed change almost always leads to greater damage.  Leaders can counteract the “fake it till you make it” attitude through modeling vulnerability and authenticity and communicating their own personal circumstances and past experiences.

Be Encouraged

Change is a constant in our world.  If you struggle with change or if you lead others who struggle with change, remind yourself that change, while painful is the only way to grow.  As believers we have set ourselves on a path to change from our human nature to be as much like Christ as possible.  If you lead believers you are an essential part of God’s plan to change His world and the hearts of his children.  Remember that the ultimate change we seek is eternal change.  Any earthly struggle will pale in comparison to the rewards of Heaven.

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Who Is Carrying The Weight?

Six Strategies To Manage the Weight Of Ministry

The popular TV show Survivor features tribes of people competing to survive under challenging circumstances.  Each episode includes some kind of challenge where tribes face off in a physical contest. One such contest provides an analogy for the pressures and toll that affects clergy and churches today.

The Challenge

In this game, each tribe member carries a backpack containing an amount of weight equal to a percentage of their body weight. This ensures that everyone gets an equal chance to succeed and that the load is fairly distributed throughout the tribe. Once weighted, tribe members start walking under the weight of their packs. The rules for this challenge state that once the tribe starts moving, individual members can drop out. But, when each person makes the decision they can’t go on anymore, they must hand their weighted pack off to one of the other tribe members who continue to walk. The start of this challenge is fairly boring as everyone is pretty comfortable with their reasonable load. Eventually, the elements start to effect the contestants as sun, heat, rain, poor footing, or insects take their toll. One by one, tribe members tire and begin to drop out.

How It Ends

As individuals leave the contest, the tribe needs to choose who will carry the load for those who can no longer go on. In nearly every group there is one person who others see as the strongest. Tribes do their best to keep one or two of these folks around as long as possible so they have someone to handle the big challenges. As more and more individuals stop walking with their weight, these strong one or two tribe members end up carrying the lions share of weight for their group. The challenge concludes with one final tribe member bearing the tribe’s entire load. The contest is over when, finally the strongest member reaches a breaking point when they either collapse under the weight, or simply give up and quit moving.

Surviving The Ministry Load

If you work in ministry, the parallels between this Survivor challenge and your work are obvious.  Here are six strategies you can apply to the collective weight of your ministry tribe.

  1. Divide The Load Wisely – Identify the weight that everyone is designed to carry.  Everyone who works in ministry is well aware of their gifts and strengths. If you are in a staff leadership position, take the time to reflect on which specific responsibilities feel heaviest to your team members. Is there any way to relieve a bit of the burden or to temporarily redistribute specific tasks?  Many staff conflict issues arise out of a misunderstanding of everyone’s role and who is carrying the most weight. In any role there are invisible weights that other team members aren’t aware of.  Make sure everyone knows how hard others are working to carry their share of the weight.
  2. Make The Weight Seem Lighter – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11(ESV)    If you lead staff members, encourage your team at every opportunity, but deploy your church Body too.  Your church is filled with people who have been given the gift of encouragement.  Know who these people are and ask them to help lift up your staff.  Consider building an exhortation team for your staff.
  3. Observe Your Team Wisely – Most leaders believe that they are skilled at judging others and select who they see as strong team members.  Great leaders recognize that strength ebbs and flows.  Just because someone has always been strong in the past doesn’t mean they are strong today.  Even the strongest people are affected by the challenges of life.  Often the stronger a team member, the less likely they are to share their struggles.  They may be emotionally exhausted and weak at home and in the car on the way to work, but as soon as they walk into the office they turn on the “strong” switch because that’s what they’ve always been and what they believe is expected of them.  Great leaders don’t rely on appearance to judge strength, they take the time and create processes that allow them to evaluate how team members are doing on an ongoing basis.
  4. Add New Tribe Members – How can you engage others to pick up part of the load?  We all know that the work load increases at times during seasons of the ministry year or during times of growth.  Take the time to prioritize and make strategic decisions about what weight you absolutely have to carry and what could be handed off to others.  Are there people like former staff members, high level volunteers, seminary students, or others who can pick up the weight of a few specific tasks for a short term assignment?
  5. Maybe You Don’t Have to Do Everything – We all suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) at times.  We read about a new mission, outreach strategy, Sunday school curriculum, leadership book, ministry conference, technical gizmo, etc. and we want to put it to use in our organization.  Most of us have run across someone who flits from one new thing to another like a hummingbird.  They have a lot of frantic movement and energy, but they’re hard to keep track of, and they sometime aren’t too productive.  One strategy that helps me avoid SOS is to limit change related decisions to four specific times per year.  Each quarter, I schedule time to sit down and strategize about new projects, initiatives, even to make decisions about what books I’m going to read.  These decisions aren’t hard and fast, but they help me avoid being distracted by the newest shiny object in my world.
  6. Sometimes You Just Need to Stop and Trust – Recognize that no person or organization is capable of succeeding without God.  If you find that you have become the last person in the challenge and that the weight of your tribe is too much to bear, hand it all off to God and stop walking.  Trust that he will keep moving for you all.

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How Can I Be Part of God’s Plan

How do you fit in God's plan?

This question can be a struggle, even a stumbling block for Christians. Sometimes it seems like you have your hands full just getting through life and taking care of yourself. It can feel overwhelming and intimidating to figure out how God could possibly use us as part of some intricate and interdependent plan. Knowing yourself can be difficult but it’s such an important part of discovering purpose and meaning in life.

Our Lifeblood curriculum helps people who are trying to overcome incarceration see themselves in a new way. The group session on Understanding Identity challenges participants to make a choice about the way they see themselves, rather than just accept the labels created by their feelings or the world. It can be helpful for any of us to examine who we are in a new way. Rather than focusing on the things that you understand about yourself, think about the things God understands about you:

  1. The days of your life are also God’s days. Your story is also part of God’s story.
  2. You have been gifted I’m specific ways. Take the time to discover the special ways God has wired you.
  3. God is able to use ALL of your gifts and experiences (even those you think of in negative terms) for his good purpose. Reflect on ways God has used your experiences to help others.

Take some time to use these questions from Lifeblood and reflect on the way you understand who you are:

  1. In the past, has your view of yourself caused you to assume limitations or self-expectations? 
  2. Has the way you see yourself changed?  How?   
  3. Has anyone noticed a change in you? How so?   
  4. Is there anything about your old life that seems far-removed or unrecognizable? Why did those things change?

If You'd Like To Support the Lifeblood Reentry Ministry

We’d love to know that you are praying for our efforts to change the lives of men and women inside correctional facilities and through community-based reentry facilities.  We’d also appreciate your financial support.  Thank you for your consideration and generosity!

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5 Ways Mental Illness Affects Spiritual Growth

If you work in ministry you’ve seen the spiritual growth of individuals stall out from time to time.  Someone can be engaged on a strong growth track when suddenly they lose interest.  More often the spiritual drift is gradual and it can be easy to miss the indicators that someone in your community has become disengaged or lost their thirst to grow.  Most leaders will take the initiative to explore the cause of spiritual drift.  Mental illness can be a major barrier to spiritual growth and can be difficult to spot.  Here are a few of the stumbling blocks created by mental illness.


Mental illness can have a profound effect on someone’s view of themselves. Even people who have a relatively healthy mental condition can have trouble seeing themselves as adored children of God. That perception is much more difficult for those who feel they are defective or unworthy. These are people who actually believe that they are not good enough for God.  They desperately need words of encouragement (from people they know and trust) about God’s view of them.  Share appropriate scripture but bring God’s word to life by adding in examples of times when you have felt inadequate and unworthy of God’s love if you can.

God Perception

Mental illness can feel like a curse from God.  Those who struggle can develop a flawed view of how God is working in their life and world.  They can see God as an angry and vengeful power who is punishing or disciplining them for something (real or imagined) about themselves.  Those in this mindset can focus on the parts of scripture that highlight this part of God’s character.  Share reminders of the ways God has shown understanding, patience, and love for individual people. One good strategy is to help them find a character in the bible with whom they can relate, then illuminate the ways that person was loved by God.


People who are afflicted with a mental illness often feel as if they have lost control of their reality. It can feel like it doesn’t matter what they do, they will never find release or change.  Someone who feels trapped and hopeless may find it hard to understand the benefit of any kind of spiritual practice as they don’t see a way forward.  It’s important for these people to hear authentic, relatable stories of hope and transformation.  Shared experience groups are excellent strategies to help them see God at work in and through them.


Mental illness creates separation.  Many people who are struggling with their mental health (even in small ways) tend to separate themselves from others.  Feelings of inadequacy and assumptions about the way others are judging them, make it easier for the sufferer to simply avoid interactions that they see as uncomfortable.  This avoidance creates a snowball effect.  As the person disengages, their mental illness begins to take up a bigger space in their life so the person detaches even further.  It is important to look for the early signs of isolation and take steps to interrupt the process of detachment. Have your staff and ministry leaders make note of who is missing from services or activities, or who is attending less often.  Invite these people to be involved and connect them with others who will include them in activities, groups, or study.  Be sure that you or your staff is engaging personally with these people.


Mental health struggles and addiction are often partners in suffering.  Sometimes, addiction creates or ignites dormant mental illnesses. Other times addiction grows out of mental illness as the sufferer seeks relief through destructive substances or behaviors.  Addiction can overwhelm a person to the point where each of the previous points (perception of self and God, apathy, and isolation) are all present.  Spiritual growth can also suffer as the addict experiences diminished cognitive abilities and other physical harms.  Believers sometimes cause harm to addicts by addressing the addiction simply as a sin issue.  This over-simplification of a complex problem can drive people away from their community of believers, the church, and God.  A lot of spiritual damage is done in the church by people who see those struggling with addiction as unworthy to be present in church with the rest of the church community.  Ministry leaders would be wise to go out of their way to visibly welcome those who are suffering.  In addition to sharing appropriate bible lessons that reinforce the way God sees and values the addict, ministry leaders and friends can provide prayer and important emotional support. Referral to an addiction profession or program, as well as shared experience groups are excellent ways for church leaders to respond to this mental health need.

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Suffering Well

Suffering well in ministry isn’t easy. This guest post from Krissie Garland, Ministry Director and Counsellor with Care For Pastors shares life and scriptural wisdom from the wife of a pastor who died by suicide. 

Krissie shares some of their story, as well as the questions she faced and faces in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

Krissie will be joining us in the near future as a guest on the LifeSupport Podcast to share more of her story.  Read more about and link to Care For Pastors and A Right Heart below.

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Visit the blogsite for A Right Heart for the article

Care For Pastors

Care For Pastors has a vision to see every pastoral family persevering in ministry, developing a healthy church, and leading in community transformation.  CFP’s bold mission is to uphold pastoral families in ministry by providing the safest place for them to turn, an ongoing relationship of encouragement and counsel, and resources that ignite growth in the pastor’s family, church and community.  For more than a decade Care For Pastors has come alongside thousands of pastors, spouses and pastors’ kids to provide in person and virtual counselling and coaching as well as on-site week-long counseling for pastors and spouses.

A Right Heart

A Right Heart is a ministry that serves the broken hearted and lifts up the name of God so that people know Him, who is true Hope and Healer of all people. ARH equips and empower people wherever they are on their faith journey, providing tools and resources they can use every single day. Through biblical meditation, devotional blogs, personal testimonies, Bible reading plans, classes, and grief support, the hope of ARH is that you will know God and have a greater revelation of who He is and who He’s always been.

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Mental Health, the Pandemic, and Kids

Where faith and mental health meet – An expert voice

"The majority of people with mental health problems never receive treatment."

Dr Matthew Stanford joined us recently for two episodes of the LifeSupport radio show and podcast.  Dr Stanford is the CEO of the Hope and Healing Center & Institute (HHCI) in Houston, TX and adjunct professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital Institute for Academic Medicine. Few people are as qualified to speak about the intersection of faith and mental health as Dr. Stanford. He has a PhD in neuroscience and his research on the interplay between psychology and issues of faith has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Christianity Today, and U.S. News & World Report.

Here is some of the key information Dr Stanford shared with us.

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Are FREE For Ministry Use

You can catch both episodes of the full interviews with Dr Stanford on our YouTube Channel

On Motivation For Ministry

I have a PhD in neuroscience… but I’m also a Christian. Knowing I was in mental health, people in churches would pull me aside to ask me questions about their own mental health or their child’s mental health. And a lot of times they would ask me questions that had to do with the spiritual aspects of mental health, or tell me something that a pastor has said to them. Sometimes it was pretty disturbing, you know, it was a, you know, your depression’s just a sin. You need to pray more or things like that. And that kind of surprised me, cause I didn’t believe that then. So I kind of got interested in that and I came across a statistic, a couple of statistics.

One was that the majority of people with mental health problems in the U S never received any treatment. Also the first place a person with a mental health problem is likely to go is to a member of the clergy rather than a mental health care provider and that’s anyone in the general population. So I became just really fascinated by that, started looking into that and, and God ultimately used to that to lead me to run a full-time ministry that addresses the intersection of mental health and faith and equipping faith communities be more involved in mental health care.

On How Well The Church Is Responding To Mental Health

When I began this work almost two decades ago, there really wasn’t much of a conversation in the church and it was like pulling teeth to get anybody to talk about mental health. Now there’s a real conversation. I mean, people are willing to talk about it. It doesn’t always go much further than the conversation though. I will say that one of the benefits that’s come out of the pandemic, which are very few, is that people generally, even in the general population are very open to discussions of mental health issues now because the pandemic has brought mental health issues to the fore because of the isolation we’ve all experienced.

On The Pandemic

Churches have absolutely been overwhelmed by the mental health fallout from COVID so they are much more open now to this discussion of mental health. And so I I’m very, I say cautiously optimistic you know, a conference like this, that there are people who are actually interested in the intersection of mental health and faith and you know, it’s excited and exciting to see that. And so I really have a lot of hope for the future of the church in mental health.

On Kids And The Pandemic

“50% of teens have new or worsened mental health issues since the start of the pandemic.”

Kids are not dealing well with the pandemic.  If you look at the data on kids and mental health issues, since the start of the pandemic, one study came out that said that 50% of the parents of teens are  reporting that their team now has a worsened or new mental health condition since the start of the pandemic. When you expose children, particularly younger children to these adult issues, you know, like, you know, kind of these culture war, mask arguments and issues like those, they simply don’t have the cognitive and verbal abilities to deal with it.

So, if they see you having a lot of fear, uh, they’re modeling your fear, they’re modeling to try to learn, to be resilient and deal with stress. And so if you’re absolutely freaking out because your school district has mandated that your child wear a mask. A child doesn’t see that as a constitutional issue. They’re not able to process it at that level. And so you’re damaging your child.

What we’re seeing are dramatic increases in depression, anxiety, particularly in female, young females, in numbers we’ve never seen before, increases in suicide. Because of the isolation and the fear, but also because of this overarching kind of discussion, argument, debate that’s going on and they simply don’t know how to process it and we’re crushing them. And so step back for a moment and don’t worry so much about your constitutional rights and worry about your child.

I think that’s what Jesus would say. We need to worry about our neighbor. That was in a book I read one time it was in the Royal law or something. But the thing is we’re not doing that and our children are suffering and the isolation is really damaging them and we’re more worried about whether they have to wear a mask or not and less worried about the fact that they’re just being crushed by this.

Three Things That Will Help

Number one, limit the amount of news and media that you’re getting because you know, frankly most of it’s garbage, it’s not much news anymore. We get commentary and it’s overwhelming. And so personally, I have a process where I look at several websites in the morning to get some news, and I watch one news program in the evening and that’s it. I minimize the amount of news. I want to be informed, but I also want to make sure I’m not overwhelmed with the talking points thing.

Number two, don’t expose children to adult problems. I mean, they’re obviously exposed to the pandemic, but they don’t need to be exposed to your concerns, your anger about this or that, about  mask mandate. A mask mandate issue is not a child’s issue, that’s an adult issue. And so if you don’t believe that your child should be wearing a mask to school, but your school district has mandated it, having a fit at home about it, and how their constitutional rights are being violated, and then sending your kids off to school after hearing you complain about that damaging them. If you want to work to deal with mask mandates, you do that in the background, not with your child. Another thing is, I think you need to sit down and have a conversation with your child. How is this affecting you? The pandemic? How is, how is it affecting them? How do they feel? Are they afraid? Have conversations, have daily conversations about this so that they can have an opportunity to get those emotions out and learn how to express themselves.

Number three, I think you have to not stop living. I think that’s what a lot of people have done.  You can look at the pandemic as an opportunity to spend more time at home with your child, work in game night, have devotionals, just watch a movie. We have all this media at home, take advantage of that. Spend time with your children, spend time with your family. Don’t stop living just because a pandemic is going on. I also think that people should have days where they don’t talk about the pandemic at all.

Pandemic Attitudes Informed By Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote this great letter. He was asked by a colleague. Was it okay? For Christians to flee the plague, to, to run, to get away from the plague or did that show a lack of trust in God or was it going beyond our calling? and Luther basically gave a very detailed explanation, but he basically said as believers we’re going to do what’s asked of us because we we’ve been told by God to obey the governmental authorities, but we’re also going to care for those around us. If we are in positions like pastor, or governor, or mayor or if we’ve been placed in positions where we’re supposed to care for people, we’re not going to flee because we’re going to meet our calling. If we’re just a citizen. Who just is supposed to care for themselves or their family. Well, then it’s okay to leave.

And I think the same thing here, I mean, I don’t, we don’t need to get into a discussion whether masks work or not, or whether vaccines work or not, what are we saying to the population about the way we’re acting as Christians. Christians care about people. Jesus cared about broken people. We’re acting more like we’re worried about ourselves.

Read the full Martin Luther letter reprinted with permission at Christianity Today.

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Things We Don’t Talk About In Church Part 2 – Doubt

Doubt Comes With The Territory

At LifeSupport, our craft is telling stories.  We study the stories we collect and we see a lot of consistency in the way people talk and feel about their mental health struggles. One common area that people struggle with is doubt in God. We often hear during our interviews that people feel shame over the doubts they have. 

Doubt is an easy road when we are faced with challenges of life, particularly so when faced with mental health struggles (either our own or those of a loved one).  I have a friend who says he never doubts in God.  I don’t believe him.  I may be wrong, but I believe doubt is a part of our flawed humanity.  Doubt may lie dormant and hidden in some of us, but when life gets difficult, doubt awakens, and without care it can take control. 

The bible is riddled with passages that acknowledge doubt as a condition common to men and women.  In our current world, where newscasters seem to share more negative stories than positive, where connectedness breeds division rather than unity, and where God seems less and less visible in everyday life, is it any wonder that doubt is still a part of our reality? 

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The Dangerous Side-effects Of Doubt

  • Doubt Isolates Us from Other Believers – when someone thinks that their doubt is abnormal they try to hide it. Any time we attempt to conceal part of ourselves (even from those closest to us), we begin to isolate.  The more we isolate, the more we listen to our own voice rather than the voices of those who wish to love and support us.  Listening to a large dose of self-talk when struggling with mental health tends to feed shame and so, more isolation.
  • Doubt Feeds Fear – As a believer, I sometimes have times when my faith is challenged. When I see God as not having ultimate control, I tend to believe that if God isn’t in control, I must be. My response to that loss of connection to my faith is to fear what might happen as a result of me being in control of my life. As a believer, if I start to think that God isn’t really who I thought he was, then almost anything or anyone could influence what happens in my life.  When the surety and eternal truth of God is replaced with doubt, fear is bound to grow.
  • Doubt Changes our Self Image – Sadly, most of us know people who have turned from their faith. Many of those experienced doubt, and told themselves (or were told by others) that they should simply believe in themselves. When we doubt God we tell ourselves that we are capable of doing life on our own.  Our doubt interferes with our ability to see our lives in terms of God’s plan.  The problem is that this seems to work for a time.  Eventually though, life becomes too much for us to bear without the sustenance of God.  As most of us have seen, the resulting collapse is accompanied by pain and destroyed relationships, and sometimes death.

So What Can We Do About It?

Don’t Pretend It Doesn’t Happen

Most of us are hesitant to talk about the parts of life that challenge us.  We tend to make ourselves look like what we think of as “normal”.  The problem with trying to look normal is that we each can have our own definition of what “normal” is. People tend to take their cues from others about what they think they should look and act like.  In the case of believers, someone who is struggling will look to those they perceive as “good Christians” or their church leaders.  People may be suffering silently while trying to mold themselves to look like the people they believe have it all together.  One of the ways we tend to “keep up appearances” as Christians is to hide our doubt. The fact that all of us experience doubt in God from time to time seems like something we should hide.  The fact that we rarely seem to talk about doubt as a normal part of the life of a Christian feeds the stigma that people perceive.

As a church leader, being open about your own doubt has a tremendous effect on people who are looking for cues as to how to deal with their own. You can help counter the stigma of doubt by sharing your own stories of doubt AND the way you responded to that doubt.  Offer specific strategies and biblical examples that helped you fight back doubt.

Start some conversations about doubt in your church

Someone is afraid to ask you about this and they need your help (that may be someone on your staff). Here are a few ideas to get discussions started in your lobby, office or in a group setting:

  • Why do we doubt God?
  • Why doesn’t God eliminate our doubt?
  • What are some examples of doubt in the bible?  How do those help us understand our own doubt?
  • If there are times in your life when you struggled most with doubt, can you identify any reason that you were more prone to doubt in those particular times?
  • What do you do (or what could you do) to defend against doubt?

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Writing God's Story

Collecting Stories For Ministry

Collecting stories for ministry can be challenging.  But, sharing stories of God at work in our world is important and we have a great example to follow. The bible is (in part) a big story of what God has done in the past. Your church is filled with stories of what God is doing today.  We sometimes avoid the parts of God’s story that include suffering, but God’s story is a story of suffering and the rough patches are where our lives often intersect best with the bible.

There are people in your church who have suffered and they have stories to share that will help others who are walking through similar struggles. People with lived experience can be wonderful resources for you, but only if they understand how important their story is and only if you hear about those stories.

In an earlier article I discussed the way stories can be useful to your ministry.  Sometimes it’s hard to find stories in your own church that help people see God at work.  Here are a few idea for encouraging and gathering stories.

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Help People See God in Their Stories

Sometimes people have a hard time seeing God in their story.  One way to find stories is to explore what’s going on in the lives of people and then ask them a simple question, “Do you see God at work in what’s happening in your life?”  I think it’s easier for most of us to think of God working in the lives of others while we don’t consider that we should be getting his attention also.  Depending on a person’s stage of spiritual growth, they may need some help connecting the dots to recognize God’s hand on their back. Here are a few strategies you can pass along that will help people start to see where God is involved in their life, and where their life connects with scripture.

  • Reflect daily on your own life by keeping a daily journal of not only what happens in your life but your prayers too.  By keeping a record of your prayers (and those of others), you’ll be better equipped to see answers to those prayers.

  • After daily bible reading, reflect on when and how the scripture reminds you of people or events in your own life, or where it seems to apply to struggles or decisions you are faced with.

Lead By Example

Help people see how sharing their story can serve others by sharing yours to encourage and support others where appropriate. I’ve noticed that people who work in church ministry tend to shy away from talking about their own struggles and how they are leaning on God.  When ministry leaders are not transparent they can make others believe that it’s not okay to share their struggle either.  Most people who struggle with their mental health already feel a stigma around sharing openly. Few people are better placed to counteract the stigma of mental illness than church leaders.

Be Curious

Don’t be afraid to ask people for stories.  Most people love to talk about themselves.  You know that person on your staff who really loves to connect with people and find out what’s going on with their lives?  Teach yourself to be more like them.  In fact, teach yourself to be that person.  There isn’t much that’s more important to your ministry than knowing the people who are part of your church family.

Ask Group Leaders

You can’t know everyone and you can’t hear all the stories first hand.  If you have a groups ministry in your church, your group leaders are interacting on the front lines of life.  They are hearing stories every week that can illustrate not only the way God really works in today’s world, but the value of groups too.  Ask group leaders to bring those stories to you.  You will need to exercise some care here to make sure you are not encouraging gossip.  A “safe” way to collect stories from group leaders is to formalize a process.  Make sure that your leaders understand why you are looking for stories (to illustrate God at work in the lives of people) and that they in turn communicate that to their groups.  No group leader should share someone else’s story with anyone without first getting the okay from the relevant people in their group.  Group leaders should also be equipped to recognize stories that demonstrate God’s connection to our lives, and that encourage others.

Build a Story Culture

The easiest way to make story a part of your church culture is to start making it a part of your staff culture.  In fact, if your staff isn’t completely on board you are going to struggle getting your attenders to value story.  Take some time during staff meetings (at every level) to share stories that illustrate the way people are seeing God connections in their lives and in the life of the church.  Sharing these stories from the pulpit illustrate to the church that it’s normal to see God in everyday life. 

Make it Easy

Provide simple and numerous opportunities for the stories to come out. There are people in your church who are waiting to share their story. They have things they want to share but they don’t have anyone who knows them or who will listen.  You can provide simple (and accessible) ways for anyone to share a story of how they’ve seen God at work (this might also be a way for people to ask questions about how God might be working).  Here are a few practical tools for story-collecting:

  • Websites/publications – Many churches collect personal testimony stories as part of the baptism process. Provide the option for these stories to be shared with others and then distribute through printed material or create a section of your website where you can highlight these stories.  Encourage staff to refer to these stories during teaching/equipping opportunities.
  • Testimony nights (or just call it Story Time if you don’t want to be churchy). Schedule an evening event once a month or once a year when people can share a specific story about the way God has responded to their life. Ask people to prepare by identifying; what happened, in what way did God play a part in the outcome, how they know God was part of their story, what did they learn about God and/or themselves, how does/did this encourage them.
  • Story related bible study. Similar to testimony events but more interactive. Ask people to share their specific story and then enlist the group to help find biblical parallels and God’s intervention.  Or have participants pick out a story from the bible that helped them understand their own life experience, or themselves and discuss.
  • Create a special email address, place a “Story Dropbox” in your lobby, or other employ some other system where people can send you stories at any time they want.

God’s continuing story is being written in your church.  You can engage your church to help tell that story.

Collecting Stories For Ministry Read More »

Meet the AACC

Do You Know The AACC?

Do You Know The AACC?

The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is an organization that is committed to assisting Christian counselors, the entire “community of care,” licensed professionals, pastors, and lay church members with little or no formal training.  Members of the AACC include both licensed mental health professionals as well as ministry leaders, and caring church members with little or no formal training. It is the AACC’s intention to equip clinical, pastoral, and lay care-givers with biblical truth and psychosocial insights that minister to hurting persons and helps them move to personal wholeness, interpersonal competence, mental stability, and spiritual maturity.

Partners For Referral

Many Christian mental health professions are member of the AACC.  These are professionals who live in our communities and who can be a valuable asset as referral partners for people in your congregation struggling with mental health issues.  Many of the mental health professionals who serve as advisors to us at LifeSupport are AACC members.  The AACC website provides a Find A Counselor feature listing professionals based on location.

Read more on understanding roles and partnerships in our Overview of Mental Health Ministry

Resource Partners

We are pleased that the AACC recognizes LifeSupport as an official AACC Resource Partner.  The AACC provides opportunities for us to share LifeSupport resources with new churches and ministry leaders from all over the United States and world. We’ve seen firsthand that the leadership and staff of the AACC reflect Christ.  We have confidence to affiliate with the AACC in part because of the guardrails they profess in their Vision and Values as presented on the AACC website.

AACC Vision and Values

“The vision of AACC has two critical dimensions. First, we want to serve the worldwide Christian church by helping it become more mature in Christ, while taking on His heart of love and sacrificial care. Secondly, we want to be serving, educating, and equipping 100,000 professional clinicians, pastoral counselors, and lay helpers in the near future.

We are committed to helping the church equip God’s people to love and care for each other in the same spirit that Christ loves and cares for us. We recognize Christian counseling as a unique and case-based form of Christian discipleship, assisting the church in its call to bring believers to maturity in the lifelong process of sanctification- of growing to maturity in Christ.

We recognize that some are gifted to do so in the context of a clinical, professional and/or pastoral manner. We also believe that selected lay people are gifted to care for others and that they need the appropriate training and mentoring to do so. We believe that the ‘seat’ of helping ministry in the church is supported—must be supported—by three strong legs. These legs are the pastor, the lay helper, and the clinical professional, and it is to these three roles that AACC is dedicated to serve.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV

Core Values

“In all of my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6 NIV

OUR SOURCE: We are committed to honor Jesus Christ and glorify God, remaining flexible and responsive to the Holy Spirit in all that He has called us to be and do.

OUR STRENGTH: We are committed to Biblical truths, and to clinical excellence and unity in the delivery of all our resources, services, training and benefits.

OUR SERVICE: We are committed to effectively and competently serve the community of care worldwide—both our membership and the church at large—with excellence and timeliness, and by over-delivery on our promises.

OUR STAFF: We are committed to value and invest in our people as partners in our mission to help others effectively provide Christ-centered counseling and soul-care for hurting people.

OUR STEWARDSHIP: We are committed to profitably steward the resources God gives to us in order to continue serving the needs of hurting people.”

Stay Tuned!

Our relationship with the AACC presents opportunities to provide you with more mental health resource options.  Stay tuned as these are developed.

We invite you to explore all of the benefits of AACC membership and the resources they offer at https://www.aacc.net/

Do You Know The AACC? Read More »

Who Is The Hero?

LifeSupport - with contribution from Ian Burns

Who is the Hero?

One of the things we focus on is how we communicate with people about LifeSupport.  We are guided in this area by marketing guru Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand.  One of the foundational elements of marketing that Miller teaches is that, rather than us, the customer should be the hero of the story.  In other words, you are the hero of our story.  When we create and distribute ministry resources, we focus on acting as a guide for you as you do the heroic work of ministry. 

Who is the Hero in Your Church?

For the people you are trying to reach, the story is about them – until it’s about Christ.  Christ is the ultimate hero but if we don’t make the people in the pews the hero first, they won’t understand how Christ can be the guide for their life.

A Little Background on Heroes

Superman didn’t always have a weakness and kryptonite didn’t always exist. Radio listeners and comic book readers were losing interest in a hero who had no limitations. The producers and writers needed to introduce a weakness which Superman’s villains could attack. (Shelton, 2021).  The writers learned a lesson that shows up in all great movies, a hero is defined by the obstacles they have to overcome. 

The Current State of Heroes

We’ve all just experienced a year of obstacles.  Covid has disconnected us in profound ways. In states of uncertainty, exhaustion, loss, and multiple stressors many people no longer feel like a hero, experiencing guilt and/or stigma in their weakness.  Sometimes the hero faces overwhelming obstacles.  If you look through literature and movies you’ll see that most successful heroes required a guide to help them through the obstacles.

The church has the opportunity at this time to act as a guide for the heroes in our pews.  The church is able to hold out the ultimate help for a world of struggling people, in a word: “Jesus”, but not the sanitized version of Christ that shows a detached, and pristine savior.

We as hurting human beings need a God who knows our struggles intimately. Just as a Superman without kryptonite fails to inspire, a detached omnipotent being who does not deeply know suffering, provides little courage in the face of everyday trials.

Charles Spurgeon expressed it well: “But there is one very comforting thought in the fact of Christ’s ‘being made perfect through suffering’ — it is, that He can have complete sympathy with us. He is not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. In this sympathy of Christ, we find a sustaining power.” (Spurgeon – Morning and Evening, 2021)

Take Aways

  • The present suffering in our world creates opportunities to reach people and to help people be like Christ.
  • God sees people as his heroes. Heroes need help to overcome the obstacles of life.
  • God equips those in ministry as hero-guides
  • Difficulties are not due to a lack of righteousness or blessings. Jesus was divine, but was born in a stable’s uncomfortable manger, due to no space being available to Him, mocked by religious leaders, as well as being humiliated and subjected to agony through crucifixion.
  • Stories of overcoming through Christ are excellent tools for evangelism.
  • Recognize the heroes in your church and share their stories.

Interested in Learning More?

Our latest Free Webinar, Attachment and Trauma – How it Impacts Body, Soul and Spirit is coming up on June 16, 2021.  Presenter Melinda Cathey is a therapist who spent nearly 30 years working with orphanages and trains and consults on trauma informed therapy Melinda will share information on how church communities can become safer and more compassionate environments that help people partner more effectively for healing trauma.

Ian Burns

Contributing Author
Ian Burns is a South African school teacher and psychology student. His long term aim is to qualify as a psychologist or counsellor. He believes that a combination of psychology and experiencing Jesus practically can lead hurting people to greater healing.

Who Is The Hero? Read More »

self perception

Perceptions Are Everything

Table of Contents

Self Perception

Self-perception can trap us in harmful behavior.  Our past experiences create deeply held beliefs about ourselves.  These beliefs can create barriers to changed behavior because our experiences are fundamental to our perceptions of “truth” in the world.

“It’s impossible to live right if you believe wrong.”

I can’t remember who said this quote, but I remember the quote because it so succinctly captured what I was seeing in the traumatized kids I work with, what I was learning in my neuroscience studies, and the truth in Scripture I had memorized; “Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).

How Do We Come To Believe What We Do?

 Whether they are beliefs about God, yourself, or the world in general; you might be surprised to learn how much of your beliefs are based on your experiences rather than on any teaching you received. What we are taught will only be regarded as true to the extent that it is compatible with our reality or our own experience. It looks something like this:

For example, let’s say one day your mother is taking you for a walk in your stroller. Out of the blue the neighbor’s giant boxer jumps up on your stroller, barks, and tries to lick your face. Your body is designed to pick up all the accompanying sensations; the sound of the barking dog, the sight of it’s teeth showing, the feel of the tongue on your body, etc.  What happens next is the key. In a process that is still not fully understood, our mind makes meaning out of this experience. Almost instantaneously your brain determines if this experience is pleasurable or threatening and releases the corresponding neurotransmitters; adrenaline for threat and dopamine for pleasure.  How we understand our experience becomes our perception. If our perception is “Dogs are mean and scary”, we will feel fear.  The next time we encounter a dog, we will probably try to avoid it. We might even say we hate dogs. People with dogs will not encourage their dogs to engage with us, and we will persist in our perception that dogs are mean.

On the other hand, if your perception was, “The doggy wants to play with me”, “Dogs are fun”, you will feel happy. The next time you encounter a dog you will attempt to pet it and play with it. It probably will play with you. This will further your perception that dogs are fun.

In short, our experiences create our perceptions which largely determine our behaviors. Our behaviors often create self-fulfilling feed-back loops that deepen our perceptions. What we think is profoundly important. Our thoughts impact what neurotransmitters get released and thus, our very brain chemistry. Our thoughts also determine our emotions. For example, it is neurologically impossible to think you are worthless and feel happy. Likewise, you cannot believe you are safe and loved and feel fear. And the vast majority of time our behaviors are driven by our emotions, whether we are aware of them or not. When was the last time you intentionally reached out to someone in whose presence you feel afraid? Or when did you lose your temper with someone to whom you feel great compassion?

Behavior is the Symptom

This is the problem with trying to bring about transformation in yourself or others by primarily focusing on behaviors. Behaviors are not the problem, but rather the symptoms of the problem. The root problem is our thinking. We often say that Jesus is really after our hearts and we see this in his many encounters with people. When we say that, we don’t mean that Jesus is trying to deal with a person’s physical heart and address their clogged arteries. Rather, we understand that He wants to get to the crux of the matter and deal with the core issue. The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collectors, the prodigal son; all had major sin behaviors. But when they encountered Jesus His concern seemed to be first and foremost that they knew and believed that He was the Son of God. Then He wanted them to experience and understand that as such He knew them, He knew everything about them and everything they were doing. And in spite of that, He loved and valued them, had the authority to forgive them, and the power to heal them. Then He invited them into a relationship with Him and a new way to live based on these truths. He was challenging their core perceptions of themselves, the world, and God.

Transforming the Mind

The Hebrew word for “heart” (Lev) is what we call the “mind” or “the will”.  And this is why Scripture implores us to transform our minds. A huge misconception prevails in the church when we equate the “will” with behaviors instead of with the mind. This leads to beliefs that we can simply flip a switch, grit our teeth, try harder, and change our behaviors. I have not found that theory to be helpful in my own life or in any life of the many orphans, traumatized kids, or counseling clients I have seen over the last 30 years. When we understand that our “will” is actually connected to our minds, we get a lot more serious about transforming our minds.

The Lord tells us in Matthew 6:22-23; “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore, the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Again, Jesus is not concerned with our blue or brown eyes and whether or not we have cataracts, but rather with what we see. That is, our perception or understanding of reality. If our perception of ourself, the world, and God is based on truth, then our whole body will be full of light. Our very neurotransmitters and brain chemistry will be impacted. Our emotions will be able to find the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:6-8). Our will, our choices, our ability to love others will increase as we are rooted and grounded in the love of Christ for us and filled up to all fullness (Ephes. 3:16-19). We will be like cups so full of His love for us that we won’t need to act out of a desperation to get our own needs met. When our deepest needs are met by Him and His love, then we will be able to give to others out of our abundance and overflow.

But if what we see, our perception, is not based on truth, Scripture tells us the whole body will be full of darkness. Neuroscience supports this. People with perceptions of worthlessness and powerlessness are flooded with stress hormones that impact their emotions, physical health, behaviors, and relationships.

Understanding Your Self Perception

It is important to understand that most of our perceptions are subconscious. Our core perceptions or beliefs have been hard wired into us by the time we are three years old. Am I loved and valued? Is the world safe and predictable? Are people basically good and trustworthy? Do I have the power or ability to get my needs met? Is God a good, kind, faithful God? The most important things we believe become like the hard drive of our brain that is installed way before we develop conscious memory. These become the narratives on which we build our lives. This seems a bit unfair! If our minds and perceptions are formed from our experiences and we have been unfortunate enough to have had negative, abusive, or neglectful experiences, what are we to do?

Some Practical Tips

  1. Do an inventory. “Behold, Thou does desire truth in the innermost being. In the hidden part Thou will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6)
    • “Search me O God and know my heart; Try me and tell me my anxious thoughts.”  (Ps. 139:23)  “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” (Prov. 20:27)
    • Journal. What do you really think about yourself? Are you valued? Loved? Worthy? Able to be forgiven? Have a purpose for your life? Belong somewhere? What do you really think about God?  Is He good? Kind? Faithful? Predictable?        Available? Interested in you? What do you really think about the world?  Are you safe in it? Do you have the ability, know-how to get your needs met? What do you really think about relationships?  People can/cannot be trusted?  You can/cannot really be loved? They are unpredictable? Worth/not worth sacrificing for?
    • Pay attention to your body. Take 5 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and before bed to just tune in to your body. Are you tense or relaxed?  Is your heart rate elevated?  Do you have headaches? Knots in your stomach? Knots in your neck? This will tune you in to your emotions.  Do you feel peaceful? Happy? Anxious? Depressed? This helps you verify if you have understood your perceptions in “b” above correctly. Your perceptions and emotions should correspond. Your body will tell you the truth. If you think you feel secure and loved and purposeful your muscles will be relaxed. If you are aware you think you are powerless and incapable of receiving love your muscles will be tight, heart rate elevated, etc. If you have clearly identified your core perceptions go to #2.  If you have not repeat steps “a” and “b”.
  2. Get In Scripture
    • Study the Psalms or Bible characters to whom you can relate. What were their struggles in perceptions? How did God change them? 
    • Find Bible Study Guides to help you study certain characters like David, Gideon, Habbakuk,  Jonah, Ruth, Peter or Paul.
    • Wrestle with God as you seek to align your perceptions with the truths in His word.
  3. Ask the Lord to meet you on the way
    • The Lord delights for us to taste and see that He is good, that He loves us, that He is for us. He knows that our perceptions are based on our experiences. He designed us that way. He knows that we cannot believe something we are taught if it does not line up with our reality. He longs  to meet us and give us corrective experiences. Ask Him. “We have not because we ask not.” (James 4:2)  
    • Ask Him to open your eyes to what He is already showing you and ears to what He is saying to you. 
  4. Pray for new experiences with safe people to correct your false perceptions
    • Take slow, deliberate steps as you enter unchartered waters; learn how to discern who are safe people you can trust (if this is hard for you ask a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor).  
    • Ask the Lord for a mentor someone who can help walk this journey with you who is further down the road as a Jesus follower and in knowledge of truth especially in areas of our identity in Christ.
  5. Seek a counselor – Get the help you need.

Remember,  “It’s impossible to live right if you believe wrong.”

Self Perception Resources:

Check out Melinda’s previous LifeSupport article, Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Melinda A. Cathey M.A.

Co-Founder, The Harbor, St. Petersburg, Russia Consultant/Educator for Trauma Informed Care
Melinda lived in St. Petersburg from 1992 -2002 with her husband, Mark, and their three children. Prior to their time in Russia, Melinda received her MA in Counseling Psychology from Trinity International University in 1985 and practiced individual, family, and marriage counseling in a variety of settings: community health, church, private practice. While in Russia, she co-founded The Harbor with Alex Krutov in 2001 and served as its Executive Director until 2015.  The Harbor was the first transitional care program of its kind in St. Petersburg and the second in Russia. Most recently, Melinda completed TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) Educator Training in 2015 under the study of the late Dr. Karyn Purvis at TCU in Dallas, TX. She now trains and consults on trauma informed therapy and The Harbor model of residential care with those working with orphans or foster kids in any capacity. Her training of TBRI principles has been enthusiastically received in Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Bolivia, and the U.S.

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Real or Fake

Leadership Transparency Doesn’t Just Grow Your Church

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Leadership transparency and mental health

Leadership transparency doesn’t just grow your church, it shreds stigma.  Let’s face it, as Christians it can be very difficult to share our struggles with those in church. Leaders, like all of us carry some fear of judgement or shame. However, church leaders carry the burden to walk the walk, which means swallowing hard to set an example for others no matter how much we want to hide.

Those battling mental illness can relate to the fact that there is stigma attached to what they’re facing. Unfortunately, mental health has been an issue that many churches feel inadequate to address, so it either is handled the wrong way or not addressed at all. This makes sharing mental health struggles even more difficult.

In our experience, churches where leaders are transparent and willing to talk about their own struggles set an example that multiplies hope.  When a leader is vulnerable people see (sometimes for the first time) that it’s okay to share and ask for help.  In a transparent church people start to heal.  Along the way these churches also attract people.

For one pastor who shared his struggles, it ultimately helped others find freedom.

Read more on stigma in the church here – https://lifesupportresources.org/mental-health-stigma-solutions/

Pastors get hit with life like anyone

Pastor Ben Courson is the founder of Hope Generation and in an article recently published by the Christian Post, he shared his battles with depression and suicidal thoughts. He experienced different kinds of trauma ranging from the death of his sister, the suicide of a friend and the end of a long-time relationship.

He was eventually diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“My counselor said, ‘You have one of the most difficult cases of depression I’ve ever had to treat,’’ Courson recalled in the interview.

He shared staggering numbers from the CDC that found that 30 percent of millennials said they had thought about suicide in the last 30 days.

“So, it’s not just me,” Courson said. “Our whole generation is going through this clinical depression, and nearly half of people report being harmed in their mental health since the coronavirus hit.”

Pastors are not perfect. Yes, we look to them for guidance and understanding, but everyone is struggling with something.

A major misconception

Mental illness is unique among other illnesses because it has stigma attached to it that makes many believe that there is something wrong with them spiritually.

Courson said a common misconception surrounding people who struggle with mental illness is that they are ‘weak.’

In the interview with the Christian Post, he cited Hebrews 2:10 which speaks of Christ being made ‘perfect’ through suffering.


God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

Leadership transparency attracts people who need hope

To deal with the stigma surrounding mental illnesses in the church, the best way is to simply acknowledge it and  share experiences.

“The very things that seem to create mental illness in us, or feeling ostracized or separation anxiety…out of that fire and tribulation, He (God) comes to create a fire that can actually be an asset,” he said.

A pastor who shares his or her mental health struggles, helps position their church to grow because people will recognize the church as a safe place to find God and God’s helpers.

See the article mentioned in its entirety at https://www.christianpost.com/news/pastor-shares-how-god-used-his-suicidal-ideation-to-help-others.html

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Church attenders

Church Attendance Influences Mental Health

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Poll - Attending church helps with mental illnesses

Church attendance influences mental health according to a recent poll.  These results are surprising to some in light of the state of mental health generally among Americans.

With recent factors such as Covid-19, racial tensions, political elections, and financial and job losses, the mental health of Americans has taken a hit and that is shown in a recent poll. It’s not surprising that the mental health of Americans has worsened since 2019.

Gallup conducted a poll at the end of 2020 to get a better picture of what actually happened to the mental health of Americans after a very difficult year.

The poll is entitled, “American’s Rating of Their Mental Health as ‘Excellent’ by Demographic Groups from 2019 to 2020.” Every group had a drop in its ‘Excellent’ mental health rating…except one: Those who attended religious services weekly.

‘Excellent’ mental health improved for frequent church goers

Despite the overall drop in mental health across the country, it’s amazing that any demographic would actually improve its ‘Excellent’ rating.

However, that is what happened with those who attended religious services last year. Now, the Gallup poll did not specify what kind of religious services those included, but it would be safe to say that the major religions, including Christianity, were included.

According to the poll, the ‘Excellent’ rating of mental health for weekly churchgoers was improved by 4 percentage points. That is much better than those who attended services monthly (a drop of 12 percentage points) and those who rarely went at all (a drop of 13 percentage points).

Why does attending church improve positive mental health?

What can we take from this information?

First, it is important to remember this poll just surveyed those who consider their mental health ‘excellent,’ it doesn’t survey those who consider their mental health fair or poor. However, it is also important to realize that this poll stated that Americans who considered their mental health as excellent dropped nine percentage points in 2020, a record in 20 years.

Secondly, we need to ask, “Why did the number of people who rate their mental health positively increase, even during one of the hardest years ever for mental health? This is a great conversation-starter for any pastor, ministry leader who is trying to improve the way their church responds to those struggling with mental illnesses.

Start more mental health conversations in your church with our Mental Health Discussion Videos

It's not all good news!

Some churches are afraid to dive into mental health and quickly give a person a referral to a mental health professional. There is nothing wrong with referring someone to a professional, but there is a reason why people with mental illnesses still come to church.

No matter what people are dealing with, they seek hope, faith and love to help them. The church body should be that for anyone going through anything.

The Gallup poll is trying to get the point across that the ratings of Americans’ mental health is sinking to a new low. This should alarm churches about what is happening around them.

The church needs to show the love of Jesus to those battling depression, suicidal thoughts and loneliness and continue to walk alongside them, even if they refer them to a mental health professional.

To view the Gallup poll mentioned in this blog, visit https://news.gallup.com/poll/327311/americans-mental-health-ratings-sink-new-low.aspx

Church Attendance Influences Mental Health Read More »

Bread see the way grief is a tool to survive his loss

Grief As A Helper

Where Does Grief Take Us

God gives us grief as a tool.  As time passes on after the death of a loved one, we will be faced with a choice when it comes to grief: We can try our best to avoid it…or we can take its hand and let it lead us.

Lead us where?

Grief is gut-wrenching. It can lead us through anger or guilt, but where it ultimately takes us is a place that we could never get to without it.

A Unique Perspective on the Grief Journey

Brad Knefelkamp experienced what we call the worst loss, the death of a child. His son committed suicide and it flipped Brad’s life upside-down.

That’s when Brad had to face grief head-on. He had a vision, or a dream, about grief where he had a decision to make…does he take grief’s hand?

In an interview for LifeSupport’s Worst Loss series, Brad recalls the dream:

“It’s a figure of a man who’s coming up to the window and the next thing I know he’s standing at the foot of my couch and his figure is all like 9 feet tall and his head is down, his shoulders are slouched, and I can’t make out any distinct features of him. Everything is kind of fuzzy. And he’s holding out his hand for me to take it and I thought to myself, ‘I’m not taking your hand. I know who you are.’ For some reason I knew this was grief. I’m not going. Because in my mind I was like, ‘I know the company you keep. And they’re not good. And I’m not going to go down that road of all that this depression and all this sort of thing. I’m not going there.’

Brad said that no matter how many times he said ‘No’ to grief’s hand, grief wouldn’t leave, and kept reaching out its hand to him.

“It was just taking forever and so finally I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take your hand,’ and the minute I touched him we were on a street, we were in a town and there are all these streets going around all in different directions and I notice that the streets had different names. One was called ‘Anger.’ One was ‘Depression’ and so on.”

Brad then said grief took him down a dark alley, where he noticed something approaching him from the corner of his eye.

“All the sudden, from behind me, I just felt like I had got hit by a sledgehammer on the back of the head and I got knocked to the ground by a list of questions.”

“Why didn’t you go visit him while he was alone?!” “You knew he had to be alone!” “Why didn’t you?!”

“Every time I tried to get up, I got hammered again and ended down on that pavement and I remember looking up and grief is just stand there waiting for me…”

A Light at the End

As Brad endured the hits and hammering from these questions, and while grief waited for him, he finally saw where grief was taking him.

“Way down the alley, there was light. And as I looked, I could see in that light it was a park and the sun was shining. There were kids laughing and playing. And I realized where grief is leading me and nothing else would have led me there.”

Through this difficult journey with grief, Brad had a revelation: Without taking grief’s hand, he would have never found the light at the end.

Does this mean that grief just leaves or disappears?

No, but it gives the person suffering from loss a needed perspective about grief.

Grief as a Tool

Brad’s dream about his journey with grief showed him something very important.

“Grief is not my enemy, grief is now, in a certain sense, my companion. My life is never going be the way it was before Logan died. It can’t be. Part of me is missing.”

Grief is God-given and He gives us grief as a tool so we can cope with the worst losses in our lives. So in that sense, taking grief’s hand is like taking God’s hand, and trusting him to lead us through the most difficult times in our lives.

Brad’s story is available in the Mental Health Discussion Video Library at lifesupportresources.org.  You can listen to an in-depth interview with Brad about grief  on the LifeSupport Podcast here.

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Overview of mental health ministry

Overview of Mental Health Ministry

Elements of Mental Health Ministry

We hope you find this overview of mental health ministry useful as a tool to help you plan your ministry strategies.  This is not meant as a comprehensive framework as there are many possible ways to structure and implement mental health ministry.  Our focus at LifeSupport is to develop resources that use personal STORY as a way to equip people to support the mental health needs of others.  As we create or find new resources that will help you, we’ll add them here so make a note to check back.

Table of Contents

Understand and Communicate The Need

You’ve probably heard the statistics by now.  Roughly 20% of the U.S. population is struggling with their mental health right now.  Sadly the number of people who bring their mental health struggles to the church are far fewer.  According to the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey, only 15% of depressed people reported attending religious services weekly and 39% of depressed did not attend services at all.  Similar numbers are expressed for people who describe  themselves as worriers.  There is a corresponding lack of reliance on scripture for these groups.  An obvious conclusion is that people who are struggling don’t see the church (or scripture) as an effective answer for their problems. It is critically important for the church to address this image so that people see that God has answers for life’s most difficult problems.  Life is hard for all of us sometimes.  But, there are many people in our communities (and sitting in our churches) who feel alone in their pain.  When the church fails to acknowledge mental health struggles, some people will get the message that the problem they have is not something the church wants to hear about.

When a church is educated, and talks about the real problems that people are facing, members are much more willing to share their struggles and to reach out for help.  One of the reasons LifeSupport exists is to help facilitate these difficult conversations.

Related Resources

Address Stigma

Sadly, many churches still have a limited response to mental health needs.  Often the response takes the form of counsel to seek answers in scripture, to pray more, or to simply refer out to a mental health professional.  These kind of responses perpetuate stigma and communicates that the church isn’t really the place to bring that part of yourself, and/or we don’t really think that’s a significant problem.

Transparency in leadership can go a long way to changing attitudes around mental health.  We know from personal experience that sharing stories of personal struggle, and Christ-centered transformation will have significant positive influence on church culture.

Related Resources

Relationship Matters

Nothing about the mission of the church can happen without relationship.  Human beings were designed for relationship.  But it can seem like some people are afraid of the very thing their nature demands.  Churches create experiences, schedules, facilities, and entire ministry strategies all with the aim of cultivating Christian relationships. Mental health ministry presents an ideal opportunity to cultivate a deeper level of relationship for your people.  It may help your church to look at mental health ministry as a way to mimic our triune God.  In the struggle we face to balance our mental health against the pressures of the world, it might help to think of the three relationships common to us all;  our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others.  Each of those three relationships deserves our attention.  Most people are deficient in one or more of those relationships.  Consider how your church can help people balance and strengthen these three relationships in terms of the following areas of their church life:

  • Serving Opportunities
  • Spiritual Growth/Education
  • Small Group Experiences
  • One-on-one care/Staff Interaction
  • Christian Community

Related Resources

Shed Light on Suffering

When someone walks into a hospital they expect to encounter suffering, healing, and healers.  Hospitals are built to respond to the physical suffering that is part of life. When it comes to mental health suffering, churches are the primary physical location of God’s caregivers. The reality is that walking into a church in the United States evokes many expectations.  It would be helpful to ask if those expectations include the presence of suffering, healing, and healers.  

Asking a church family to take an active role in suffering is a big ask.  Prior to bringing your church members into the strategy, it’s important to engage in some serious self-awareness among your board, leadership, and staff.  Here are a few question to ask yourselves:

  • How often do you hear or see suffering at your church?
  • Does your church have a shared theology of suffering?  How is that theology communicated?
  • If you were an attendee at your church who is overwhelmed by something in life, would you know how to ask for support at your church?
  • How often, and in what ways does your church acknowledge suffering as part of God’s plan?
  • Do you have a strategy for your ministry leadership team to talk about and support each other’s suffering?

Related Resources

Understanding Roles And Partnerships

One of the most common objections we hear to churches becoming involved with mental health ministry is that people who are unqualified may overstep their knowledge, authority, or simply do harm because they lack experience or training.  This discomfort in understanding roles is understandable and can even be seen as a positive tension.  Nobody will be well served by individuals or organizations who over-reach their gifting, experience, or relationships.  However, non-professional care-givers can provide effective and necessary support (sometimes, in ways professionals can’t). The local church is ideally placed to help equip and encourage this type of care-giving through healthy Christian relationship. 

For all parties, care should be taken in establishing guardrails around responsibilities for supporting mental health needs of people in the church.  Each church should have a well communicated plan for areas of responsibility and limitations for support activities.  Consider creating limits of responsibility based on the following categories:

  • Christian mental health professionals outside of the congregation
  • Christian mental health professional who are part of the congregation
  • Staff/Ministry Leaders
  • Lay Leaders
  • Those in Relationship with the Person in Need
  • The Congregation/Christian Community

Related Resources

Ministry Strategy Areas

Even though you may not be ready to integrate mental health into all ministry areas, it’s a good exercise to explore the ways mental health can be influenced through all aspects of your church’s activities.  We’ll be adding future articles to cover mental health strategies for each of the following areas:

  • Teaching
  • Care Ministry
  • One-to-one Care
  • Care Groups
  • Group Ministry
  • Student Ministry
  • Organizational/Leadership Development

Why Mental Health Ministry Belongs in The Church

People need to hear, over and over that God has a solution to the problems of our world.  The local church is in the best position to help people see that God cares about their mental health suffering, and that he has an answer for those problems too.

If people are receiving exclusively secular help for their mental health needs, the church is failing to fully share the way God’s word speaks to all of the problems of the world.  Every time a person doesn’t receive help that is directly tied to scripture, or God’s plan for us, that person may hear that God doesn’t have an answer for their struggle, or that he doesn’t care.

Don't Take Our Word For It

Here’s a quote from Pastor Ryan Alexander, of Hosanna Church in Minnesota, where they openly and deliberately address mental health.

Addressing Mental Health as a church has become one of our signature themes and something we have become known for in the south metro. We regularly hear from mental health professionals that some of their clients first sought help because of how Hosanna has addressed the topic...many men have overcome the stigma and sought counseling because I shared my story. That is all I need to hear in terms of affirmation and motivation for addressing mental health as the Church."

Overview of Mental Health Ministry Read More »

Biblical Counseling

Crisis Biblical Counseling by Karen McMahon


Why I Do Crisis Biblical Counseling - A Personal Philosophy

Crisis biblical counseling sounds complicated and intimidating, but it’s just a way to respond with biblical help when trauma happens in life.

When a tragedy strikes, life as we know it abruptly changes. We immediately seek to make sense of what has happened yet likely can’t focus and feel overwhelmed. Our minds replay the event over and over searching to come to terms with it all. In crisis, we can become overwhelmed, confused, distorted, even grasping for air as we feel out-of-control. One minute we are flooded with emotions the next minute we are numb. Question after question filters through our minds… “This can’t be happening?” “Will this pain ever go away?” “How can I go on?” “What will I do now?” Heartbreaking pain rips open a new world to a sufferer; a world that seems to be spinning out of control.

The Word of God is Sufficient and Essential for Counseling

The church is where biblical counseling shines. It is in the context of a loving community that God provides the ideal environment for the care of souls. Biblical Counseling is built on the premise that God’s divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and has practical help for life’s problems (2 Tim 3:16-17).  The One who created our soul is sufficient to comfort and encourage our soul. God uses his people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to minister his Word, to walk compassionately, sensitively, patiently and prayerfully with others. To enter their pain and help bring practical wisdom to bear in a functional way (1 Thess 2:8). Because sin permeates the fallen world; our own sin, the sin of others, or the effects of sin on the world, biblical counseling in the church body is not optional. Our love for God is fleshed out by our love for others (1 John 3:10,18) and we should all desire to carefully minister to those in pain in their highest highs and lowest lows.

Counseling is a Community Endeavor

It is definitely not God’s plan for the church to be a place where an isolated counselor in confidence and secrecy is the only one helping struggling believers. Seeking help from other Christ followers is one reason God put us in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:25-26). In his wisdom God has chosen to do his work—through the church. In community we find help from other godly men and women who live and speak truth to one another (Eph 4:15-16). Because we will naturally seek our own desire when left alone (Prov 18:1) and can be taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit according to the tradition of men and not Christ (Col 2:8), every believer to some degree, is expected to be biblically loving others and promoting the maturity and health of the body.

We Must Know Our Own Heart

My personal philosophy of crisis counseling begins with knowing my own heart. As a staff Director of Discipleship Counseling at my church, I count it a privilege to counsel individuals with God’s infallible Word. Not only am I able to watch God’s powerful Word change a heart but his truth always brings transformation to my own walk. I have suffered, I am suffering, I will suffer. I have asked many of the same questions my counselees ask; “Where is God?” “Is it my fault?” “Did God cause this to happen?” “Lord why didn’t you stop this?” I too have felt the isolation and the pain that no one really understands what I am going through.

It doesn’t matter if a sufferer needs help because of their own sin, the sin of others, Satan, God, or because we live in a fallen world; as a fellow sinner and sufferer, we are all called to compassionately minister to them and help them see that God’s Word has answers.

It Is NOT About Fixing Them

Minimizing suffering is not biblical, nor is it about fixing the sufferer, helping them get over it, or giving them coping skills (God’s goal is much more glorious). Scripture tells us why there is so much sorrow (Rom 5:12) and prepares us for suffering. Evil is real and destructive and the effects of sin is everywhere. Suffering is written into every one of our life stories as a means of sanctification, a catalyst that God uses (Rom 8:28-29), but when pain invades our own life truth can become distorted. Knowing that pain and heartache will come in the normal course of this fallen world (2 Tim 3:12), we need to be prepared personally as well as help others suffer with faith in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.

I believe strongly that crisis counseling be sensitive to the weakness of another, seeking to understand, patient, long suffering, Christ focused not problem solving, directive and dependent on prayer. It must be motivated by love and concern (Acts 20:31) to present another complete in Christ (Col 1:28).

Ministering Truth

My own counseling care starts with an ongoing love for and working knowledge of the Scriptures. I will not be able to minister God’s Word if I don’t know Truth and actively apply it to my own life. If I am not walking in submission to the Holy Spirit I cannot seek to help others and if I’m neglecting the study of the Word I will give my own opinion instead of God’s opinion. It is Scripture that knows our heart, knows how we change, provides comfort, and gives us the power to suffer well.

My counseling care must be sensitive, compassionate and directive. Understanding a struggler’s life story, worldview, shaping influences, thinking, and the impact their pain is having on their daily life helps me better understand what they are going through.  We weep and mourn with them, we are patient with them and we are faithful to Scripture knowing God’s Word is sufficient, speaking to every human struggle, bringing conviction and hope.

Always Truth in Love

Truth must always be blended with love and grace.  The greatest change someone needs is to trust Christ enough and respond biblically in the midst of pain and loss… but this can be hard when in the depths of despair. It is with empathy and compassion we help another know that they are not left alone. Not physically, because the body of Christ surrounds and ministers to them in significant ways. Not spiritually, because God is in it, God will see them through it, and God will finish what He began.

Hope in Sorrow

Our hearts are revealed in crisis which is why biblical crisis care goes beyond behavior to the heart that has its own desires, wants, will and affections (Heb 4:12). A sufferer’s pain must never be minimized or ignored but the lens of Scripture has to be the functional foundation that their pain is seen through. Wise biblical counseling sensitivity guides and directs a particular person with a particular struggle so that their pain is understood in light of who God is, who they are, and who Christ is.

Without a doubt, helping someone in crisis to think and respond biblically (reframing and reorienting their worldview) will take time. It is not a “one size fits all.” There may be many aspects of God that are unbalanced; God’s goodness and the evil that is happening to them. God’s love and the pain they are in. God’s purposes and the suffering they are experiencing. God’s faithfulness and the dreams they have lost, are just few. Understanding and interpreting difficulties through the lens of Scripture has to be ministered at a pace that is appropriate for the situation for that person.

God Uses the Body of Christ

God’s community is a counseling community. We need each other. God intended for each person in the body to be helped by the body (Ro 12:15). This means that everyone cares (or counsels) on some level. Seeking input from others who are close to the sufferer and including a mentor or advocate is very important. I believe if someone is in a small group their first avenue of help should be their small group (or leader) but if they need more help than the group can provide, their group should be involved in caring at some level even if the sufferer seeks out a pastoral care through a biblical counselor in their church.

Love Endures for the Long Haul

Crisis counseling can be messy. It will take time…lots of time, compassion, love and patience. Getting into the darkest moments of someone’s life where suffering is deep and painful is not for the timid, but God is the agent of comfort and change and we are his vessels used for his glory. All of us are suffering under the effects of the fall but our risen Savior enables us to experience hope and great joy in the midst of sorrow. God is infinitely bigger than any pain anyone of us may face but there are times we need another to help bear that heavy burden and point us back to Christ. That is why I do crisis counseling.

About the Author

Karen McMahon  is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota, is a founding Regional Board member of the Biblical Counseling Alliance, and is a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theological Studies and a MA in Biblical Counseling

More on the Value of Relationship For Mental Health

Refer to our article entitled, Perfect Love Casts Out Fear by Melinda A. Cathey.

Crisis Biblical Counseling by Karen McMahon Read More »

A Remodel That Helps Reach The Hurting by Jenita Pace


A Church Plan to Reach The Hurting

There is no doubt that anyone who has experienced a remodel understands the depth of work, determination, and variety of skills it takes to accomplish.

As we see the growing levels of trauma and pain in the people around us in and in our church, it can be difficult to determine how best to meet the needs?  In order to meet the evolving needs of your people, here is a guide on how to begin to evaluate and process how to create a psychologically remodeled space that will draw the hurt and lost to Jesus, the ultimate counselor and healer.

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