“Why We Offer a Christian Mental Health Group at Our Church” By Dale Rose
By: Pastor Dale Rose
Mental health issues and how to deal with them came ‘out of the blue’ when our son was diagnosed as schizo-affected. It was “upfront and personal” and very hard to deal with, but we had no choice. The problem was ever growing as the experiment with different prescriptions did little to alleviate the paranoia, delusions and other symptoms Steve was enduring.
As a family, where faith is paramount, we found that there wasn’t really any help within the church. We traveled from church to church because our son believed that surely we would find the right place where this ‘problem’ could be dealt with once and for all. Our search in the Christian community was met with one pastor who told us the problem was solved, “we cast out all the demons.” Steve was excited, “finally someone found the problem and I’m going to be ok.”
He wasn’t ok and it was a great trial of his faith and of ours. Steve was a Ministerial Studies graduate at one of the finest universities and found his place in ministry soon after graduation in Hawaii. He was doing fine in a Calvary Chapel Church. It was there that he first began to exhibit signs that something was wrong. Things didn’t work out and he returned to the mainland.
For years we dealt with Steve’s mental illness as best we could. At one time we even found a Christian therapist who was of the same denomination as us and was within our insurance program. Unfortunately, the therapist was transferred to another distant hospital, too far for us to travel. We were met with frustration after frustration in our quest to find something besides meds and therapists who didn’t understand the spiritual aspects that were part of Steve’s particular illness.
We have found that the enemy of our soul delights in beating up those with mood disorders. We often heard Steve say….. “God told me he was through with me, I’ve committed the unpardonable sin.” It would require sessions of prayer and reasoning to convince him that it was a lie from hell. We continued to support him and take him to counseling sessions and some peer support groups, some of which only made things worse. We couldn’t find the right therapist! The support groups were not supportive at all, sometimes all the negativity only made things worse. There didn’t seem to be any hope anywhere.
In March of 2014 I went to a symposium called Mental Health and The Church. It was held at Saddleback Church where Rick Warren is Pastor. Before hearing any presenters, I was browsing the many books that were available for sale in the different booths.
One of the books caught my eye, it had a simple title, FRESH HOPE. That’s what we needed, fresh hope. Oh how we longed for something that would help us out of the pit we were in. Speaker after speaker presented their stories and helps in regards to mental health and mood disorders. One speaker stood out, Brad Hoefs, the author of the book I had bought before the sessions began.
Brad had his break with reality just like Steve. It too was traumatic and life changing. Both Steve and Brad lost their ministries because of their mental health diagnosis. When I returned to our church after the conference, I consulted with the lead pastors and told them about FRESH HOPE and that the three of us, Steve, my wife and I would like to see this ministry at our church. At that time, one person had to have a mental health diagnosis in order to charter with FRESH HOPE. Steve was so excited when the leadership said yes to our proposal; he would once again have a place of ministry, helping facilitate a faith based mental health support group.
We began the training through the manuals and videos provided and set a date a couple of months ahead for our launch. Sadly, we lost Steve to a massive heart attack two weeks before our launch. But having walked beside him in his journey for seventeen years, we decided that we could use our experience and knowledge gained to help others.
Four and a half years have elapsed since that symposium and we continue to minister to those who suffer from the stigma associated with mental illness. We are doing our part to end the stigma and break the silence, we see FRESH HOPE at our church as Steve’s legacy.
I visited a mental health ward at one of our hospitals five times last week. This week we will have our regular meeting with people looking for help and hope; they won’t leave disappointed. Fresh Hope fills the bill! Last week twenty seven people left feel better than when they came. We recently had to change our meeting location because we outgrew the old one! Steve would be so glad to see that his years of suffering helped us to better reach out and touch someone. Fresh Hope is an expression of God’s hand extended. Now our quest and challenge is to develop new leaders. Our belief is that every church needs Fresh Hope! The statistics demand a response from the Christian community. I have found that Fresh Hope is the best response a church can offer!
Thank God for all of the different groups making an effort to alleviate the pain and suffering of those with mood disorders. However, some of them are stuck in molds that aren’t the best. One church uses a program that goes for twenty-four weeks, but if you miss the first two weeks, you have to wait till they start over! You are welcome at Fresh Hope anytime!
Pastor Dale Rose is Minister of Pastoral Care at Canyon Hills Assembly of God in Bakersfield, California. He and his wife, Martha, facilitate the weekly Fresh Hope peer support program for the church and are ambassador-advocates for mental health issues. Martha does the “heavy lifting” (teaching) each week. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.
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