I wish all of our readers had been able to attend the Mental Health Ministry in the Local Church conference this past weekend, presented by OutsideIn Ministries and hosted by Ironbridge Baptist Church in Chester, VA.
Catherine Boyle and her team at OutsideIn have a vision to bring persons with mental illness into the Body of Christ. I left feeling very encouraged that the Lord is raising up like-minded people in many different places to champion the development of mental health inclusion ministry as he is doing for special needs ministry.
The range of speakers selected for and topics presented at the conference challenged church leaders to consider a broader approach to mental health support and inclusion. Featured presentations examined the science behind mental illness, legal tools to help individuals with mental illness and the importance of developing trauma-informed faith communities.
Catherine presented OutsideIn's model for mental health ministry. She used the illustration of a three-legged stool to represent the cultural support for mental health needs, with one leg representing the government, one leg representing service providers and support/advocacy groups and the third leg representing the church, with the church being uniquely positioned to offer relationship. In their model, components of a mental health ministry include...
- An identified mental health prayer team
- A mental health liaison
- A communication director/team
- A care team
- A plan to identify church and community needs
- Mental health training - including mental health first aid, child abuse training/response, suicide prevention and emotional CPR
I found her "job description" for a mental health liaison to be especially helpful. I've wrestled with the idea of having a "concierge" to provide a single point of contact for families impacted by mental health conditions who struggle with some aspect of church participation and to advocate internally for appropriate accommodations and supports to optimize involvement.
The team at OutsideIn Ministries has much to offer churches looking for help in building a foundation to support a substantial commitment to mental health ministry.
The best way for me to communicate the spirit of the conference is to share this brief video in which Mark Jordan, the Senior Pastor at Ironbridge discusses why his church places such high value on welcoming and embracing families impacted by mental illness.
Editor's note: My presentations from the conference on Mental Health Inclusion Ministry...The Mission Field Just Outside Your Door and Seven Strategies for Promoting Mental Health Inclusion in the Local Church are available here.