How Healthy Churches Foster Hope

Our current view of the church in our world of post-Christian culture may be one of dismay. After all, church attendance in the last 40+ years has dropped by 10% . Let alone the past year of the pandemic – a world-wide threat to the global church in 2020 and beyond.

However, churches that are to survive and thrive will recognize it takes more than abiding by the status quo. To cultivate a healthy community of members, especially at a time like this, our churches need to be encouraged on a personal level.

How Does the Message of Hope Get Across?

Some may think the leadership team is responsible for cultivating the health of their church, which is true in many ways. However, it takes a vision embraced by the entire church – from pastorate to parishioner – to grow in meaning, purpose, and hope.

Capturing this kind of focus on even the least of these (those with severe mental illness or mental health conditions, young and old), may be challenging if leadership cannot engage on their level.

Which is why every church needs to address purpose in their individual members, before they can see a hopeful future realized.

The needs of the church are quite discouraging if you’re not prepared or equipped to provide help for them.

To successfully instill purpose in individual members, leadership must be trained on meeting those basic needs “the least of these” are hurting for.

This is where the communication and focus on mental health can be instrumental in catapulting your church’s overall health and wellbeing forward into a hopeful promising outlook.

A Quick Review of the Church’s Influence in History

The church has been known for many generations, in fact centuries, and one may argue millennia, for the healing role in this world to meet physical needs. A glance through history will tell you the story of the church’s influence in the world’s spheres of science, art, politics, and medicine.

Medicine, however, has been the church’s main approach to the physical health of those it has ministered to. Since the last century, where technology in science and pharmacology and psychology has advanced, there are discoveries in this field that have begged the question:

where is God in mental illness?

And so, enter the church’s response to mental health and wellness. Where has that been? Unfortunately, not on the radar, let alone on the frontlines.

Until now. Now the church is awakening to the cries and light God has graciously shone on the final frontier of the arguably most vital organ: the brain.

Knowing what the world of science, medicine and pharmacology knows about mental illness, the church can benefit tremendously. If properly and vastly equipped, soon the church can be a lighthouse for the mentally ill in ways no faithless, secular organization or industry can be.

Now What?

The good news: this is already happening.

Out of churches and church-bred faith-based organizations like Fresh Hope, Grace Alliance and various other grassroots efforts for support groups based on Biblical principles, a movement has been stirring.

This is the answer to many lost and saved churchgoers’ mental duress.

This is growing hope for coping with the pandemic.

Realistic solutions are here to address the mind’s disorders.

Recovery and healing can be found in community and support, established by the church.

This is the answer that the secular brain disease advocacy organizations aren’t going to acknowledge, or believe.

But because of this hope, hope found in Christ, the church is already at an advantage.

Already, the support group Fresh Hope for Mental Health cites numbers that are astonishingly encouraging and hopeful:

  • 96% of weekly participants attribute their participation as the reason they now feel more hopeful than prior to their participation in Fresh Hope
  • 92% who have attended other mental health support groups say that Fresh Hope has been more positive and helpful in their recovery than any previous groups
  • 86% of those who were suicidal prior to coming to Fresh Hope report that they have not been suicidal since participating
  • 88% say that Fresh Hope has been extremely important in their recovery
  • 71% who have been hospitalized prior to attending Fresh Hope have had no returns to hospitals since attending the support groups

As sure as the church has been the body of Jesus for the last 2,000 years, it will continue to serve His hurting body and the minds therein. The path to wholeness is not just through ministries and programs. As we see, programs and ministries to serve the church are blessings and excellent purposeful activities within the church.

But take it a step further, and deeper, and the same kind of idea – worship through service to others hurting – will propel the church as a forerunner to contend in the battle of suicidality amidst salvation.

To learn more about starting a support group in your church or community, check out these resources:

  1. Fresh Hope for Mental Health support groups, founded by peer and pastor Brad Hoefs
  2. Grace Alliance support groups
  3. Fellow sufferer and former pastor, Tony Roberts’ book When Despair Meets Delight
  4. Pastor’s daughter and advocate Amy Simpson’s book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission
  5. Dr. Steven Grcevich’s book Mental Health and the Church
  6. Co-sufferer, counselor, and clergyman Ryan Casey Waller’s book Depression, Anxiety and Other Things We Don’t Talk About

About Katie R. Dale: Raised in a Christian home, mental illness wasn’t mentioned until after it reared its ugly head when had turned 16. Instead of a sweet 16 year, it turned out to be a bitter taste of our fallen nature as I became diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I with psychotic features. Now a caseworker and mental health advocate, I’ve written my memoir chronicling the journey through the psych wards, and blog regularly about my lessons on life, faith and mental illness at BipolarBrave.com. You can reach me on social media using handle @KatieRDale or email me, katie@bipolarbrave.com.

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