There seems to be a big discrepancy between churchgoers and pastors when it comes to the role of churches in providing mental health care.
A recent study by Barna Group found that a majority of Christians (52 percent) believe that the church should provide counseling services to members. However, only 31 percent of pastors agree with this statement.
Mental health advocacy has been on the rise in recent years, and many Christians are looking to churches for help with a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, grief and addiction. They also want churches to provide resources and support for those who are struggling with these issues.
But according to Barna’s study, pastors are more likely to see the Church’s role as being primarily focused on evangelism and discipleship. They are also more likely to believe that mental health care is a job for professionals, not pastors. And while pastors don’t disagree that the local church has external and tangible needs to meet in the community, those roles definitely fall lower on their priority list.
Brittney Moses, author and mental health advocate, believes the Church can be a solution to communities struggling with mental health crises.
“Research for over 25 years has shown that when a person’s in psychological distress, they will go to their church,” Moses told RELEVANT. “They will go to their clergy or their house of worship before they ever step foot to a mental health professional. That’s why I’m so passionate about having conversations on equipping the Church with this, because that’s where people are going. I think there was a study done where they found that something like 59 percent of pastors had counseled someone who went on to receive an acute mental diagnosis. That means there was something more severe and persistent and it may have slipped right by the pastor.
“I do think the Church plays a preventative role in being able to learn the basics and see when something more severe is going on that needs more help, and could be partnering with mental health professionals as a first response to that,” Moses continued. “Before we had institutionalized healthcare, the monasteries were converted into places of care where they took care of the travelers and the mentally and physically sick. The Church always had this community role in supporting those who were struggling or battling illness. I think that rings true today.”