How to Minister…

This came out of a conversation on another blog, and I thought it might make a good post. I’m only writing from my perspective and experience. So, not everyone suffering from mental illness will agree with me. If you don’t please comment and let me know where I got it wrong.

How to minister more effectively? Big question! I think first, we need to seek to make ourselves and our churches welcoming for those that are mentally ill, or otherwise suffering. Church should be a place where people can share their struggles in these areas without fear of prejudice or judgment, but so often it isn’t. We are all so busy pretending to have it all together out of fear of what others will think that we never realize that everyone is struggling with something! We can only minister to the ill and struggling if we know of their condition!

Further, if we really have a desire to minister to those with specific illness, we should research that illness. We should learn about how it works, its symptoms, its treatment, the side effects of treatment, etc. the only way to truly understand of course is to go through it yourself, but I think people would be surprised by how much they can learn from research and how it could equip them as they try to understand. Then just ask the person how they are impacted by their illness. What it feels like, how it impacts their life, etc. I know for me, I’ve always appreciated people that really sought to understand, that really tried to get it.

I also think that a lot of times, the one that seeks to minister is really going to have to seek in order to minister. A lot of us are the sheep that have wandered off. I know for me, when I am feeling the worst, my desire for isolation is highest. For all of my friends it should be a big sign that I’m not well when I fall off the radar. Even when I logically know I shouldn’t, I withdraw, and find myself unable to really think rationally enough to resist withdrawing. So, I need people who will call me, and not wait for me to call them. It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how abandoned I’ve felt in my illness. On more than one occasion I didn’t hear from my closest friends or anyone at my church for months. I even sent out a panicked email to a few friends once about falling into depression again and asking for prayer, only to receive no response.

And just listening is HUGE. I know that people are sometimes afraid to reach out because they worry about saying the wrong thing. Well, sometimes, you don’t need to say anything–just listen and be physically there. Even if you say the wrong thing, if you do it from a place of humility, love and a genuine care, most of the time that is what will come across to the person and it will mitigate anything “wrong” you might have said.

If you mean how PP could help…maybe some posts and/or links about Christianity and mental illness and how mental illness is real and it’s often a physical problem and not a spiritual one (if they are out there?). I know this territory is woefully uncharted in the realm of Christianity. Perhaps prayer that more writing and teaching would occur in this area. I guess that’s another way the local church could help: sermons that touch on the reality of mental illness and that while depression, etc. might sometimes be a spiritual problem, it’s often a physical one, and it’s not something to be ashamed of.

I hope this might help someone.

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4 thoughts on “How to Minister…

  1. “We are all so busy pretending to have it all together out of fear of what others will think that we never realize that everyone is struggling with something!”

    Well said Rachel. Isn’t another word for pretending hypocrisy?

  2. Rachel, A Scripture came to mind as I read through this entry.

    Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for the time of trouble.

    There is a lot to be said about true Christian friendship. Friends that love unconditionally and are there for you even when you mess up. They are committed to being there for you the best they know how and what more could we ask for?

    Unfortunately, life isn’t always that way.

    There is so much that needs to be done to educate the Body of Christ about mental illness so that the stigma can be done away with once and for all. There are so many believers on the shelf because they are floundering and not knowing what to do or who to go to that they can trust.

    I was a part of a church for eight years and thought it was our final stop. Sadly when mental illness and psychology came up my wife and I left the church, even though my Pastor was one of my closest friends.

    I have ideas I am bouncing around Rachel and if something comes to fruition, I would love to see you participate. You are a glowing light and precious to God. Thank you for sharing your life.

    P.S. It seems you steal some of my thoughts! God is so good to us. I pray nothing but His best for you.

  3. Rachel,

    Couldn’t change a thing about what you said. As you might be able to tell from my post’s on Bill’s blog I almost always have something more to add. One of the great as well as detrimental aspects of the manic side of this illness. I often say too much. One friend lovingly called it diahrea of the mouth.:) But there is much to be said about this subject that just hasn’t been being said.

    erunner-

    You’ve got me thinking I’m schizophrenic now, or you’re my clone. To a t, your post could have been written by me. My hope is that it still will be our final stop. Just having to take a hiatus from there to be able to go back and help them grow in this area I hope.
    I love and miss them very much. The Lord has been working in me teaching me and I hope to be a spark that will bring more understanding and light to this issue there.

    I too am still looking for exactly how the Lord wants to use this to minister to others. I’d love to be apart of whatever He leads you to as well as have you be a prt of something, if anything I do as well.

    Scott

  4. scott: boy do i know the feeling of diarrhea of the mouth! sometimes, i think to myself “shut up, rachel!!” but sometimes i can’t quite do it! 😉

    may God teach us all to minister and to comfort each other with the comfort He’s given to us.

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