It's Not Complicated
Loving people with mental illness is different than curing them. Sometimes we complicate things. A common trap that many church leaders fall into when seeking to help people is attempting to diagnose mental illnesses.
Diagnosing a mental illness should be left to mental health professionals. The church should simply be in the business of loving someone the way Jesus would love them. That means creating environments of transparency, where we reduce stigma and where it’s okay to be hurting.
What Do We Label Sin?
In a recent LifeSupport interview, Pastor Paul Marzahn of Crossroads Church in Lakeville, MN addressed this and the ways the church can create a culture that reflects God’s love in a place where people can safely seek help for the problems of life.
Marzahn said it is common for pastors and ministry leaders to put too much emphasis on the sin in a person’s life when mental illness is concerned.
“Often times we say, ‘This, this and this are wrong and if you do these things, you are a terrible person and you are far from God,’” Marzahn said. “If I share it in that manner, then people are going to be very reluctant to come forward and say those are their issues.”
Segregating "problems" Can Reinforce Stigma
Too many times, churches will not openly talk about mental health and when a person brings their struggles to the church, they are referred to a counselor or a group of some kind. However, these people need to understand that they are not different from others in the church and are loved the same.
“If we remind people that we are all sinners and need God’s grace, that we all have problems that pull us from God, then they will see that we are open for them to come forward and help them,” Marzahn said. “But if they feel judged, or a sense of not being welcomed, then there will never be the opportunity to help them.”
A mental illness is just like any other illness that needs a diagnosis from a professional, sometimes needs medication and needs the church community to love them, support them and pray for them.
Need Help Loving People With Mental Illness?
The Library of LifeSupport videos and group curriculum are built to help reduce the stigma of mental illness. The LifeSupport Podcast shares stories of real people that can help your church support others. If you or your church needs help connecting with a mental health professional, contact us at email@example.com.