4 Ways Leaders Can Promote Mental Health in Times of Crisis

Special thanks to Dr. Henry Cloud for contributing this post.

The Bible clearly says that when one of us hurts, we all hurt. There’s no such thing as one little finger hurting and the rest of the body not also experiencing that pain. That is what it means to be part of the Body of Christ. The beauty is, the Body exists to help heal the parts that are injured and in pain!

We have come a long way in the Church over the last 30 years to normalize issues of mental health. Yet, opportunity remains for churches everywhere to be seen as a place that hurting people run to, not away from. The basic issues that underlie most mental illnesses are issues of humanity: how isolated someone is or chooses to be, how in control of themselves a person is versus how much they are controlled by others or the outside world, how they metabolize the pains of life, and how they move out of the child position and assume the authority of adulthood. But take those four issues and you find that the Gospel addresses all of them:

  1. The Gospel says we are to be reconciled— to be brought together and not isolated.
  2. The Gospel says we have freedom to be in control of ourselves and are empowered to draw boundaries.
  3. The Gospel says there is forgiveness and healing to be found that addresses the hurts in our lives.
  4. The Gospel says God empowers people with gifts and talents to live adult lives.

What we find is that spiritual growth in and of itself produces healing of the fractures that all of humanity experiences.

Dr. Henry Cloud

Churches that address issues of mental health in their bodies embrace the full, healing power of the Gospel in that respect. They are also the ones that are partnering with professionals in their communities to consult with them, oversee support groups, and lead healing ministries.

Amidst the mental health epidemic our society faces, the COVID-19 crisis has compounded stress, anxiety, depression, and pain in our churches and communities worldwide in unthinkable ways. Now, more than ever, is the time for the Church to rise up and be the place where the hurting can find healing.

The healing of a church begins with the healing and health of its pastors and leaders. All too often as leaders, we can become so focused on the needs of those around us that we lose track of what is happening in our own hearts and minds… and one cannot give what they do not possess. .

Four Ways Spiritual Leaders Should Take Care of Their Hearts and Minds During a Time of Crisis

  1. Stay connected. During a crisis, particularly one with the challenges of social distancing, connection is attacked. Leaders should be the ones leading the way in creatively facilitating regular, virtual connectivity. Process with your people and teams about how this is affecting them — don’t be afraid to get personal. And in all you do, lead with empathy.
  2. Prioritize structure. Many, if not most, of our routines went out the door when COVID-19 hit. Now is the time to create new structures for ourselves and those in our communities. Ensure that everyone on your volunteer and ministry teams clearly understand their roles and responsibilities during this time. Create incremental, achievable goals for yourself and those you lead.
  3. Focus on what you can control. There are things we have all lost control of due to the crisis. Lead the way in practicing healthy compartmentalizing; limit yourself to worrying about things you’re not in control of to 5 to 10 minutes of the day. Use the rest of the time to actively engage in the things you do have control over.
  4. Practice rhythms of rest. A crisis sends us into fight-or-flight mode which is not sustainable long term. You must practice rhythms of rest. Take unhelpful thoughts captive. Limit when and how often you are exposed to the news. Dispute worry with God’s Word. Instill a gratitude practice. Engage in the now over the not yet.

Now more than ever, you may be experiencing concerns regarding your personal mental health and the well being of those you lead and serve. Over the past several years, I’ve heard from Christian leaders all over the globe: “we feel ill-equipped to handle the issues of mental health in our churches and we need a simple program to help.”

That is why I created Churches That Heal: an all-new, digital resource designed to equip pastors and churches to handle issues of mental health in their communities through a biblical and psychologically-sound plan of healing. Although this program was in the works long before we knew about COVID-19, and I believe it will leave a lasting impact long after, the opportunity for the Church to engage in mental health conversations is unprecedented. I’m honored to share this new resource with you and link arms as we build a Church that hurting people run to, not away from.

To learn more from Dr. Cloud about the role of the church when it comes to addressing issues of mental health, visit https://churchesthatheal.com/opennetwork/.

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