Can we find friendly churches?

What makes a church a good one to go to if you are struggling with your mental health? Is it the fact they have a Counsellor on staff or have an annual Awareness Day? Or is it that they are aware enough to care, small enough to notice and moving slow enough to care. We want to know your views.
 

Imagine Dave, from Doncaster, who is still recovering from depression. He went to church when he was young, but that was in Durham so he knows nothing of the church scene locally. One of the benefits of his depression is that it has made him consider spiritual matters again and he is interested in Christianity. But he doesn't know where to start...
 

He could of course have a look on www.alpha.org to see where an Alpha course is being run, but he hasn't seen the adverts yet so doesn't know it exists. He has seen a list of churches on a local 'church net' website, but has a major problem - he has no idea how they will react if he tells someone there that he has been depressed. You see, when searching on the internet, he also saw lots of articles about the bad experiences people have had at church when sharing their mood. "These are nice places, thank you, and we don't want to talk about things like that"
 

Imagine if there was a way that Dave could easily access a database of local churches [and other contact points] so he could narrow his search down to say 10 churches in Doncaster. If I was Dave, this would make me far more likely to take that first perilous step of crossing the threshold one Sunday morning to see if the Peace really is shared!
 

How would you compile such a database?

 

At Mind and Soul, we have been thinking about what would make a Mental Health Friendly Church and we'd be really interested in your views. When you try to actually come up with a list of characteristics it is actually quite hard. Here are a few that I have brainstormed.
 

  • -- Obvious: a Counsellor on staff, a formal Pastoral Care network, had a sermon on depression in the last year...
  • -- Less Obvious: part of a local mental health forum, the team who man the welcome desk are trained to listen, prayer ministry is available after every service, there has been a sermon against gossip in the past year...
  • -- Less Direct: there is a really good X [X = e.g.; a coffee morning on every other Tuesday which is great if you are struggling with your mood], there are regular testimonies about mental health problems [that are not all positive and triumphalistic]...
  •  

The obvious ones are just that - obvious - and don-t necessarily make for a mental health friendly church. This is why I have also tried to think of more oblique ways of measuring effectiveness and friendliness.
 

Anyway, you get the picture. This is a difficult list to generate and an event harder rating scale to compile. Can you help us? What do you think of this:
 


DRAFT STATEMENT: What do you think of this statement? What would you change / add / remove? Please see the comments people have made so far, both at the Safe Place event mentioned above and also on line.
 

Churches are friendly to issues of health and disability as measured by the extent to which:

  • -- People with difficulties feel they ‘belong’ whether or not they are able to take part in or attend meetings (although it is of course a good sign if they do feel able to attend and be part of meetings)
  • -- A contact/team is available to consult with who ‘champion’ issues around disability and health and are able to signpost local services
  • -- Information is available in alternative formats appropriate for different needs [e.g. large print, audio, electronic]
  • -- Physical adjustments are willingly made to help those with different needs and the style of individual services is relatively predictable
  • -- Church activities welcome, accept and are positive environments that are flexible to people’s needs
  • -- People give their time sacrificially to listen and respond to pastoral issues, ideally described by a Pastoral Care Policy/Strategy
  • -- The culture/ethos of the church is one of an on-going journey of valuing all, addressing their needs and enabling them to use their gifts and contribute
Rob Waller, 10/01/2010