by Jacquelyn Scott

Mental Health and the Church: Save Our Slighted

This is an urgent call to all leaders within the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day). There is a segment of our brethren (in, and outside of our denomination) that is being underserved, and if we are to call ourselves Christians, we must make an immediate, unified effort to bring them back into the fold. Those of whom I speak are the ones who have left the church, not because of disagreements with policy or doctrine, but because of the way they were treated when they were struggling with a life-controlling issue.

Some of them did not leave the church because they stopped believing in God, they left because they were made to feel that God had stopped believing in them. As ambassadors of His word and His love, we must find ways to work together with the healthcare community to not only help them with their mental and emotional problems, but to also reconnect them with their faith.

We can have ongoing discussions about the theology of mental health, the “original sin,” and the carnal nature of human beings. We can have lively debates about the merits and shortcomings of the various denominations, religions, and spiritual beliefs of the world. It is healthy and enlightening for those of us who are strong in our faith to have these kinds of conversations and interactions.

Beginning Stages of their Spiritual Walk

However, we must be cognizant of the fact that there are those who are at the beginning stages of their spiritual growth. They are looking for guidance, validation, acceptance, and love; not condemnation and shaming. How we treat those who are going through mental, emotional, or moral complications can sometimes cause a lasting effect on their connection with God. This is not something to be taken lightly!

In the past three years since I started my Healthy Minds = Healthy Churches initiative, I have attended many workshops, seminars, and meetings that were focused on the topic of mental health and the church. One common thread that I came away with was that there are people who have turned their backs on not merely their local church but on Christianity as a whole because of the way they or a family member was treated by those in the congregation or the leaders.

We Need to be a Lighthouse

A while ago, I had a conversation with an acquaintance. Because of confidentiality, I will not go into details, but the subject of denominations and mental health came up. This person revealed that because of decisions that other family members had made, they were all condemned “…to hell…” by a church member. The look on that person’s face and the hurt in their voice is still etched in my mind; I am close to tears just writing about it. Those of us who are leaders within the conference must do all that we can to cause the Church of God (Seventh Day) to be known as a lighthouse to all of God’s people, not just a chosen few.

God’s Word Provides

Being Christian does not make us immune to human emotions and reactions when we are faced with trauma, tragedies, and illicit temptations. Scientists, biologists, psychologists, sociologists, physicians, etc., are constantly “discovering” what God already knows. His Word provides warnings and instructions on how to avoid life’s tragedies and seductions, and guidance and prescriptions for those who are in the position to help those who succumb to the tragedies and trappings of this world.

Therefore, it is essential for congregations to maintain a “helping” ministry to be available for those members who need counseling and discipleship. Having a properly trained team in place helps to take some of the service off the shoulders of the pastors; they should not have the sole responsibility. It also establishes an atmosphere that makes it easier for those who might be uncomfortable about seeking help. There are many reasons that people leave a congregation; one of those reasons should not be that there was no one who was qualified, or had the time, to help them with their life-controlling issues.

A “Helping” Church

There are several ways that we can become a “helping” Church – a body of Christ that is known for caring about the wellbeing of the complete person – body, soul, and spirit. Just to list a few:

  • Take a survey of the congregation to find out what classes, groups, training, the members might be interested in attending.
  • Determine who in the congregation is trained/qualified to offer counseling or facilitate a group.
  • Compile a list of local agencies/providers that you can refer members to if they have issues that cannot be resolved within the church setting. (It is not a sign of failure or lack of faith if it is deemed necessary to make an outside referral. The important thing to remember is that referring someone to an outside source does not mean that the love, support, and discipleship provided by the church ceases.)
  • Encourage members to take the Essentials of Vibrant Leadership class offered by Artios.
  • At least once a year, conduct a “Recovery & Reconciliation” service in which the entire day is focused on forgiveness, healing, and reconnecting with God, with printed information available for groups, counseling, discipleship, and other wellness resources.

God’s Ambassadors

There are many more suggestions available for forming a “helping congregation”; too many for one article. I would like to hear from some of you to find out what your church is doing to help those who are dealing with mental and emotional problems. Also, I would be glad to have a further conversation with you about how all of us can work together to form a mental, emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual network to make sure that we do not lose a member because of lack of compassion, mercy, love, or grace. As God’s ambassadors, we should not give less than what He gives freely to us.

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5, NIV)

You may reach Jacquelyn E. Scott at this email address: