Starting a Mental Health Ministry
The following are steps identified by Dr. Gunnar Christiansen a long time activist promoting the role of faith and mental health recovery. He recommends that they be followed in order when building a ministry that serves those with mental illness.
I have added some links to his list that may be helpful in your effort.
You may want to consider these and adapt them for your congregation.
1. Gain approval from the senior clergy person and lay leadership
2. Establish a task force at your congregation
3. Education. Learn how you can respond to the need effectively. Get your pastoral care team involved. Consider using the Caring Congregation Curriculum as an education curriculum for this purpose.
4. Provide a support group for family members and a group for mental health clients. See Starting a Depression Support Group for a model of creating such a group.
5. Provide the full range ministry to those who have a mental disorder as you do to others, including pastoral care
6. Establish guidelines for appropriate behavior in church.
- Guidelines for all adults (not just those with mental disorders. Examples of disruptive behavior policies for adults.
- Guidelines for children, for example, how to handle hyperactive children
7. Outreach to those with mental disorders in the community surrounding a congregation. Examples are providing low-cost housing and/or a drop-in center.
8. Provide a model as an employer by offering jobs to those with mental disorders
9. Advocacy on behalf of those with mental disorders to local, state and national government. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is very active in advocacy on many levels.