Loving The Bruised

carryFollowing yesterday’s post, I’ve been thinking about ways that churches can help those who are struggling.  Here’s a few –  and I’d love to hear yours:

  • Expect that folks in your congregation struggle. They’re human and that means there’ll be eating disorders, self-harm , abuse, addictions and all the other bits and pieces of normal fallen humanity.  (This is what we believe, right?) So..
  • Model weakness yourself: Obviously be wise about what you share, but beware of a leadership model that says that proper Christians have to be strong and together.   If Jesus wept, we can weep too. 
  • Talk about mental health issues: yes – even in sermons: and not as something weird or weak.  Get speakers in to talk about specific issues, provide literature and links on your website, and have testimonies from folks who aren’t fixed, but are working issues through.
  • Welcome everyone.  Including those who struggle.  That means not reacting at someone who has bad hygiene or behaves a bit oddly, or cries during services or wants to sit alone for a bit or wants to talk. Have a team to welcome newcomers, but don’t crowd them!
  • Have space for different needs. For example, room for people to pray and sit in silence, a variety of opportunities for worship, (singing – or not!), seats near the back for folks like me who like to slip in and out, opportunities to talk in private after services.
  • Do church outside Sunday: Give people opportunities for mid-week  support – and not just in home groups.  For some people they’re terrifying – so provide other social occasions – and not just as evangelism.  Think about including different groups: those who need child care, older people, men, singles etc. Meals are lovely, but people struggle in different ways, so don’t base them all around food!
  • Don’t get stressed by other people’s distress.  Empathise and care – but beware of fixing or silencing folks to make you feel better. Sometimes God works not by taking away distress but revealing Himself in it.  Instead of covering up, think of it as an opportunity for following-up.
  • Don’t try and save folks.  Point them to Jesus and, where necessary, extra resources (see next point).  Always work as part of a team and keep appropriate boundaries, (where, when, how long etc).
  • As church, have a clear and consistent pastoral support strategy. Make sure people know who to go to, (if not the minister, then who else?), when and how.  If you’re providing opportunities for prayer or counselling after the service, do it somewhere unobtrusive . Offer different ways of getting support that aren’t just one-to-one eg; links on church website, email or text or post-box for prayer requests.
  • Train and equip those who want to help.  You could do a whole church training evening, or refer people to outside courses, an evening for home groups, a testimony (with follow-up discussion), invite speakers , or informally as part of a mentoring programme. Make people aware of support networks in the wider church and beyond.

9 thoughts on “Loving The Bruised

  1. Good thoughts! I wonder if we need to leave more space for lamentation. Sure, we worship the king, but that long got pretty damn broken too, and there’s a real risk of emphasising the victorious long over the broken servant…not sure I’m being very clear!

  2. I’d like to second Lizzi’s comment. So many of us enter worship time with heavy hearts, that it only makes sense to start where we are (our “red dot” so to speak). If we begin worship with lament that leads to hope, perhaps we all could enter into a more genuine celebration of and connection with Jesus, a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, Who has won the victory on our behalf.

  3. Thanks Lizzie – great point. And I agree Valorie – if we engage with grief then the hope of the Man of Sorrows shines even brighter.

  4. I have forwarded this blog to my church leadership team. Thanks Emma, really excellent stuff. I think grief and bereavement is another area that seems to scare most Christians. A few weeks after losing my Mum who was also a Christian in the same church I felt I had to hide my distress because it made other people feel uncomfortable. Just because someone we love is now in heaven and free from the pain of this world doesn’t mean we miss them any less or know how to go on without them. I got bereavement support through the hospice bereavement team and friends outside of church.
    I left church for several years because it hurt too much to be there among people praising when I was in so much pain. I’ve only recently gone back and although I received a very warm welcome and I know people love and care about me I am very wary of letting my guard down and being vulnerable.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Emma. God bless you x x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *