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Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Families Impacted by Mental Illness

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The church across North America does a weak job of welcoming and including families of children, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions or trauma. One obstacle is the absence of a widely accepted model for mental health inclusion ministries for kids, teens, adults, and their families.In Mental Health and the Church, Dr. Stephen Grcevich seeks to put forth a The church across North America does a weak job of welcoming and including families of children, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions or trauma. One obstacle is the absence of a widely accepted model for mental health inclusion ministries for kids, teens, adults, and their families.In Mental Health and the Church, Dr. Stephen Grcevich seeks to put forth a model for a mental health/trauma inclusion ministry of sufficient flexibility to be implemented by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. This model is based upon an understanding of seven barriers that families of kids, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions face if they seek to regularly attend a local church: ADHD, anxiety disorders, attachment disorders, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and difficulties with social communication/interaction. The model includes seven broad inclusion strategies for helping persons with common mental health conditions and their families to overcome barriers to active engagement in the full range of ministries offered by the local church.


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The church across North America does a weak job of welcoming and including families of children, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions or trauma. One obstacle is the absence of a widely accepted model for mental health inclusion ministries for kids, teens, adults, and their families.In Mental Health and the Church, Dr. Stephen Grcevich seeks to put forth a The church across North America does a weak job of welcoming and including families of children, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions or trauma. One obstacle is the absence of a widely accepted model for mental health inclusion ministries for kids, teens, adults, and their families.In Mental Health and the Church, Dr. Stephen Grcevich seeks to put forth a model for a mental health/trauma inclusion ministry of sufficient flexibility to be implemented by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. This model is based upon an understanding of seven barriers that families of kids, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions face if they seek to regularly attend a local church: ADHD, anxiety disorders, attachment disorders, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and difficulties with social communication/interaction. The model includes seven broad inclusion strategies for helping persons with common mental health conditions and their families to overcome barriers to active engagement in the full range of ministries offered by the local church.

53 review for Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Families Impacted by Mental Illness

  1. 4 out of 5

    George P.

    In the spring of 1996, I entered an extended season of sadness. Not the kind of sadness where you wistfully wipe a tear from your eye with a Kleenex, by the way. It was the kind where you wake up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably for hours. The sadness lasted for months. A licensed Christian counselor diagnosed me with clinical depression. Through prayer, Scripture, counseling and the help of family and friends, I made it through that awful season, one of the worst I have experien In the spring of 1996, I entered an extended season of sadness. Not the kind of sadness where you wistfully wipe a tear from your eye with a Kleenex, by the way. It was the kind where you wake up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably for hours. The sadness lasted for months. A licensed Christian counselor diagnosed me with clinical depression. Through prayer, Scripture, counseling and the help of family and friends, I made it through that awful season, one of the worst I have experienced in my life. One I don’t ever want to enter again. The first time I mentioned this episode in a sermon, I was surprised by the grateful response I received from a few members of the congregation. Though their words varied, their responses repeated a theme: “I’m glad to know that I’m not the only Christian who struggles with this.” After that sermon, I began to reference my depression if it was appropriate to the content and context of my message. I want people in the Church who struggle with mental health to know they are not alone. May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. Summarizing statistics about the incidence of mental illness among U.S. children and adults, Dr. Stephen Grcevich writes, “more than fifty million Americans today experience at least one diagnosable mental health disorder on any given day” (emphasis in original). These disorders can be episodic or persistent, and they can vary in intensity and effect. Many churches have begun excellent “special needs” and “disability” ministries, but these ministries tend to focus on obvious, physical problems. By contrast, mental health disorders are a “hidden disability.” Mental health disorders keep people away from church, unfortunately. Grcevich writes: “Whether we realize it or not, our expectations at church for social interaction and conduct, when combined with the physical properties and functional demands of our ministry environments, represent significant barriers to church involvement for children and adults with common mental health conditions and for their families. Church can feel like hostile territory for families impacted by mental illness.” The twin goals of Mental Health and the Church are to identify those barriers and to outline a “mental health inclusion strategy” for overcoming them. The barriers include stigma, anxiety, executive functioning, sensory processing, social communication, social isolation and negative experiences of church. Stigma arises because churches mistakenly interpret mental health disorders as moral disorders. A child with ADHD lacks self-control in certain environments, for example. Self-control is a moral virtue. Ergo, the child has a moral problem. Right? It’s not that simple. An ADHD child can exercise some degree of self-control, but certain environments stimulate the child’s hyperactivity and inability to focus. Too often, churches blame the child, not realizing that the way the environment of the Sunday school classroom (brightly colored walls with lots of decorations) or the nature of the activities (hyperkinetic worship followed immediately by sitting and listening for long periods) can work against ADHD children’s ability to control themselves. The next three barriers — anxiety and other mood disorders, executive functioning weaknesses, and sensory processing disorders — describe how mental illness itself creates barriers to participation in church activities. Consider sensory processing disorders. Today, many churches darken the auditorium and light up the stage for the song component of their Sunday service. They crank up the volume and often use flashing lights in a well-produced, high-energy set of worship music. Many people love this. People with sensory processing disorders don’t. It’s overstimulating and distracting. Indeed, it literally can be painful to them. The final three barriers pertain to the barriers that result from the clash between the first four barriers and church participation. People with mental health disorders find it difficult to communicate in what most of us take to be a normal church situation. They became socially isolated. And because churches don’t always treat people with mental health disorders well — including children — they and their families develop a bank of negative church experiences. Grcevich believes churches can and must do better at ministry to people with mental health disorders. For each of the seven barriers just identified, he proposes a strategy for overcoming it. “Mental health inclusion is best understood as a mind-set for doing ministry rather than a ‘program’ for ministry,” he writes. He uses the acronym TEACHER to outline that strategy: T: Assemble your inclusion TEAM. E: Create welcoming ministry ENVIRONMENTS. A: Focus on ministry ACTIVITIES most essential for spiritual growth. C: COMMUNICATE effectively. H: HELP families with their most heartfelt needs. E: Offer EDUCATION and support. R: Empower your people to assume RESPONSIBILITY for ministry. Grcevich provides helpful suggestions and examples under each of these seven headings, but for purposes of this review, I think it will suffice simply to name the elements of the strategy. Too many people in America suffer mental illness silently and alone. The church, an institution founded on the good news of Jesus Christ, should be a place of hope and help for them. Mental Health and the Church is an excellent resource for pastors and other church leaders, showing them how to do this. It is based on sound conservative theology, but it also is attuned to the best in contemporary, evidence-based psychology. I recommend it enthusiastically. Book Reviewed Stephen Grcevich, M.D., Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018). P.S. This review is cross-posted with permission from InfluenceMagazine.com. P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michele Renee Renaud

    In a catalytic explosion of sensitivity, awareness, compassion and wisdom, Dr Grcevich of Key Ministry and Church4EveryChild provides a clear blueprint for the inclusion of special need children or adults within church settings. Also a good connector for teachers, parents, healthcare providers or any field dealing with the human condition. Where faith can and does provide comfort, the outlined information in this well written book, confronts an issue that has been far too long in existence. Invi In a catalytic explosion of sensitivity, awareness, compassion and wisdom, Dr Grcevich of Key Ministry and Church4EveryChild provides a clear blueprint for the inclusion of special need children or adults within church settings. Also a good connector for teachers, parents, healthcare providers or any field dealing with the human condition. Where faith can and does provide comfort, the outlined information in this well written book, confronts an issue that has been far too long in existence. Invisible disabilities, mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, or educational are included in the context. In meeting the gap for the many children, adults, and families who often seek church as a support within their communities; Dr G. serves the public with a groundbreaking truth telling handbook that opens the door for growth for an otherwise un-reached portion of individuals. In keeping with the inclusion sentiment, this book also crosses the barrier between mental health facilities or human service professionals by offering insights that may unite those fields with the church settings in order to better serve the people within every community. Most importantly he succinctly discusses the plethora of mental health issues often overlooked within the church body and provides valuable mental health assessment with instructions on how to implement healing while integrating these populations into the church. Whether in developing ministries, in or outside the church walls, this book may very well be the start of something far reaching. It is a must read, must keep, must share handbook that every church leader or ministry worker must get. Practically every page has been highlighted and this is a book to get and send to your church leadership, your mental health facilities, your school administration and anyone you know who is willing to be a part of change for the good.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Smith

    Absolutely fantastic book on a much-needed discussion topic. Not only does Dr. Grcevich come at it with 30 yeas of experience in the field (and ministry), he explains the challenges in layman's terms and gives us actionable items that are practical and simple to implement. I cannot recommend this book enough. It's one of a kind in a ministry that is only beginning to get the attention it so desperately needs. All church leaders should read it, even if they are not directly connected to mental he Absolutely fantastic book on a much-needed discussion topic. Not only does Dr. Grcevich come at it with 30 yeas of experience in the field (and ministry), he explains the challenges in layman's terms and gives us actionable items that are practical and simple to implement. I cannot recommend this book enough. It's one of a kind in a ministry that is only beginning to get the attention it so desperately needs. All church leaders should read it, even if they are not directly connected to mental health/inclusion ministry. A must-read for Christian education leadership.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Claire Krantz

    Holy cow. “Who might Jesus bring to faith if the people in your church resolve to work together to remove whatever obstacles are getting in the way for many of your friends and neighbors who need to experience Jesus?” I can’t think of a better vision than that!!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wanda Parker

    A much needed book for the Church.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Frances

    If your church is having trouble dealing with members or adherents with mental health issues or wishes to reach out to people or families with mental health issues then this book is the start of where you need to be. Whether it is children of adults, Dr. Grcevich gives us valuable insights into how to make our spaces friendly to people with such issues, how to train staff and members to grow relationships with this group of people, and how even when they can't attend regularly we can help them r If your church is having trouble dealing with members or adherents with mental health issues or wishes to reach out to people or families with mental health issues then this book is the start of where you need to be. Whether it is children of adults, Dr. Grcevich gives us valuable insights into how to make our spaces friendly to people with such issues, how to train staff and members to grow relationships with this group of people, and how even when they can't attend regularly we can help them reach spiritual health even in their difficulties. Although I had never heard of Key Ministries before I read this book I believe that they have what we need to see our way forward as people who wish to bring everyone to God.

  7. 4 out of 5

    B Dittrich

    When it comes to mental health, Christians can erroneously believe that the issue is either all science or all sin. Dr. Grcevich does an incredible job of distilling the issue and showing churches both the barriers to attendance and the modifications to make for those dealing with mental health issues. His clear, practical information is useful in helping every church to do SOMETHING to make their congregation more welcoming to those facing everything from autism to schizophrenia. And families w When it comes to mental health, Christians can erroneously believe that the issue is either all science or all sin. Dr. Grcevich does an incredible job of distilling the issue and showing churches both the barriers to attendance and the modifications to make for those dealing with mental health issues. His clear, practical information is useful in helping every church to do SOMETHING to make their congregation more welcoming to those facing everything from autism to schizophrenia. And families will find this important release validating as well. Don't miss this long overdue guide!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan Sheaffer

    I really enjoyed and found great use from Part One: Understanding the Problem. Part Two was good, but I felt the most important content came in Part One.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Beau

  10. 5 out of 5

    Len Flack

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    Dave Hamilton

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dione Miller

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kay Smeal

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kiersten Adkins

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  16. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Jamieson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Chowdhury

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Smith

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Cummings

  21. 5 out of 5

    DONNA MITCHELL-Depending on Him

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan French

  23. 5 out of 5

    donna singleton

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Seng

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sunshine Paypay

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    Matt Baker

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    David B.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

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    Melanie Ngan

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    Sarah Kane

  32. 4 out of 5

    Kassidy

  33. 5 out of 5

    Robert

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    Lisa Jamieson

  35. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla Previl

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    Mary Lynn

  37. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

  38. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Crowe

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    Brad McNutt

  40. 4 out of 5

    Josephine

  41. 5 out of 5

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  42. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  43. 4 out of 5

    Craig

  44. 5 out of 5

    Thorben

  45. 5 out of 5

    Bob Morton

  46. 4 out of 5

    Columbia Bible College

  47. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey Baker

  48. 5 out of 5

    Kian Ming

  49. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Evans

  50. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Rosales

  51. 5 out of 5

    Claire Morris

  52. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  53. 4 out of 5

    Brian Alvey

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