Hope Over Anxiety: Michigan church addresses mental health in its community
A church in Michigan is resourcing its community through educational and faith-based seminars on mental health-related topics. Over 100 people attended Flushing Community Church of the Nazarene’s Hope Over Anxiety seminar on 22 October.
“Our hope is that our community, non-believers especially, would be able to see the church as a place that’s willing to resource them for a real, practical need,” said Lead Pastor Terry Bate.
The seminar was led by John Comstock, coordinator of The Discipleship Place, and Janet Dean, a licensed psychologist and professor of pastoral counseling at Asbury Theological Seminary. Comstock and Dean recently developed a mental health video course through The Discipleship Place.
The seminar featured two sessions: the first was a foundational session on understanding mental health issues and anxiety. The second session, titled “Barriers & Bridges: From Shame to Empathy,” focused on how to have more empathetic interactions and conversations with those struggling with anxiety and other mental health-related issues.
“My husband and I now more clearly understand the source of our son’s anxiety and depression,” said Julie, a woman who attended. “We will be able to better support him through it.”
Mental health topics became a focal point for Bate and Flushing Community Church as they sought ways to impact the community. After a few ideas were floated around, Bate and his team gravitated towards mental health resources.
“The idea was driven by how to help the community with a practical thing, a common thread that we’re all struggling with,” Bate said.Bate is also a crisis support counselor at Flushing High School and has seen the effects of mental health issues firsthand. He’s also seen family and friends struggle. He hoped that by putting on an event like this, the church could help resource the community to identify anxiety within themselves and others and especially how to help their children through it.
According to Bate, it’s important to craft conversations about mental health struggles around the idea of a “continued journey.”
“When we craft the conversation around that, I think that builds credibility for people who might be unwilling to acknowledge their struggles,” Bate said. “For us to say, ‘This is safe,’ helps them think, ‘Ok, this is good. They’re not going to condemn me. They’re not going to tell me I’m broken and look at me weird.’”
Bate hopes that more churches begin to facilitate healthy conversations, education, and support for those who are dealing with mental health struggles personally or supporting others who may be struggling with mental health.
Comstock and Dean’s video series and learning course, “Mental Health in Discipling Communities,” is an educational resource for those seeking personal practical tools or desire to create that space within their churches.
“Mental health struggles are a significant concern in our communities and impact people regardless of age, geographical location, and socioeconomic status,” Comstock said. “We hope that the series gives pastors and laity a foundation to build upon as they minister to people with mental health struggles and offer compassionate hope.”
To learn more about the “Mental Health in Discipling Communities” video series, click here.