Updated: Families impacted by depression…How can the church help?

shutterstock_145410157This is the eleventh post in our Winter 2013 blog series Understanding Depression in Kids and Teens…A Primer for Pastors, Church Staff and Christian Parents. Today, we’ll offer some specific strategies for churches seeking to serve and welcome kids (and adults) with depression and their families.

How can churches help families impacted by depression to experience the love of Christ? Here are some thoughts…

Give those with depression permission to talk about it. Steve Scroggin, President of Care Net (a network of pastoral counseling centers in North Carolina) made the following observation about depression in a USA Today story on pastoral suicide…

“Clergy do not talk about it because it violates their understanding of their faith,” said Scoggin. “They believe they are not supposed to have those kinds of thoughts.”

Our friend Matthew Stanford from Mental Health Grace Alliance was quoted in the same article…

Stanford, who studies how the Christian community deals with mental illness, said depression in Christian culture carries “a double stigmatization.”

Society still places a stigma on mental illness, but Christians make it worse, he said, by “over-spiritualizing” depression and other disorders — dismissing them as a lack of faith or a sign of weakness.

When church leaders are willing to talk about depression, they send a clear signal that they’ve likely worked through the stigma associated with the condition in the church. Given the statistics suggesting that depression is more common among pastors than in the general population, lots of leaders have firsthand experience with the topic. It also demonstrates to persons in the church with depression that it’s safe to be authentic about their pain and struggles in the context of Christian community.

Consider offering faith-based support groups. Mental Health Grace Alliance has an excellent model for such groups. In our concluding post in this series, I’ll touch on the theme that God may use the pain and suffering associated with depression to draw people into a closer relationship with Him. We have the hope of the world in Jesus. Who better to share with people who struggle with hopelessness!

Provide them with tangible help. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, high quality mental health services that are also affordable are in very short supply. Several churches in our area offer excellent short term counseling…in some instances, the counseling is made available for free. Knowledgeable advocates within the church willing to assist parents and families in accessing mental health care through their health insurance or local agencies provide an invaluable service. Free respite care for parents struggling with depression can be an incredible blessing. Churches prepared to include kids with special emotional, behavioral and healthcare needs will likely serve a disproportionate number of parents suffering from depression…the condition being more common among parents of children suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD and other disruptive behavior disorders.

Perry NobleI’ll conclude with a link to a remarkable video from Perry Noble…Perry is a very prominent pastor from NewSpring Church in South Carolina who is much in demand on the conference circuit. Two years ago, he preached a sermon on the topic of depression during which he shared from his personal experiences. This is lengthy, but well worth it. Please share with your friends who are impacted by depression…Perry subsequently wrote a book describing his experiences with depression and anxiety, along with a thought-provoking blog post that we discussed here.

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shutterstock_24510829Key Ministry is pleased to make available our FREE consultation service to pastors, church leaders and ministry volunteers. Got questions about launching a ministry that you can’t answer…here we are! Have a kid you’re struggling to serve? Contact us! Want to kick around a problem with someone who’s “been there and done that?” Click here to submit a request!

About drgrcevich

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Medical Director of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland, and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health.
This entry was posted in Advocacy, Depression, Families, Hidden Disabilities, Key Ministry, Mental Health and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Updated: Families impacted by depression…How can the church help?

  1. Thank you for sharing this information. I personally have experienced many churches not being able to handle teens especially with emotional disorders. The rise of depression in teens and children are getting to the point that it cannot be ignored. Churches feel compelled to not deal with the issues properly and instead blame the person for not having enough faith, or that they did something really bad to cause this. The only response we can give is to look at the scriptures and point out the many who suffered some of the same issues of today. We need to give knowledge, the tools and wisdom to the Church so that they can be more of healing, not cause more despair in their pain.

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