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I am wondering about ministry training for church leaders, pastoral care teams, disability advocates, and others who deal with disabilities, especially in the area of mental health. 

The question continues to come up, "How can we better equip our leaders, volunteers, as well as members in general to minister more effectively to members who deal with disabilities, especially in the area of mental health?" 

There seems to be an inability to know how to minister effectively in this area especially. Why does this continue to happen considering the amount of resources available as well as numerous workshops dealing with this? Much effort goes to address this issue and yet it seems that people with disabilities, especially in the area of mental health, continue to feel alone and abandoned.

Is there anyone who has had some success in their congregation? What is working? How can we minister more effectively to truly reflect that everyone truly belongs and is a valued member of the body of Christ?


I work for the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions division. We have a chaplain specializing in training churches in mental health awareness.

I'm sure she would be happy to share ideas.

I would HIGHLY recommend going to this is the website for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). Contacting them will get you some great, and more importantly, solid biblical resources for helping people with all of the problems in life. We often claim to believe in the truth and authority of God's Word, claiming its infallibility and inerrancy (which we should) but we sadly so often fail to trust that the Scriptures are sufficient for all of life's problems (2 Tim 3:16, Prov 19:7). A good certified Biblical Counselor can help clear a lot of the misunderstandings of mental health and also show how the Scripture is sufficient for handling most of life's problems. This is not to say that there are many organic, biological issues that people face, but often times, things are mislabeled... and often without scientific consensus on data. Anyways, I could go on and on, but I would really look into the resources that ACBC can provide. They should have a locator to find out where the nearest Biblical Counselor is or even a training center. Hope this helps! God bless.

Many pastors participate in Clinical Pastoral Education programs, which can include awareness of mental health and disability concerns. In the Reformed tradition, we may best be served by combining our vibrant spirituality with discerning use of the sciences. In many congregations, licensed social workers and therapists can present information based on their training so as to nurture caring responses to people with disabilities. It may be particularly helpful to learn some of the various mental health terms, so that the community can best work together (instead of enabling or blaming or any of the other unhelpful behaviors). 

I trust that readers will keep in mind the vulnerable ones who may believe that simply "praying hard enough" or "believing more strongly" could lead to abandoning a medication regime or other treatment plan. The church is in a wonderful position to affirm what we've learned from social and medical sciences in combination with faith-filled prayers and the support of the community. 


This is a rich inquiry, and a complicated one, because we are complicated creatures!


I would highly recommend the Stephen's Ministry resources. Very foundational training for lay pastoral care   teams. I would also recommend employing a Parish Nurse or the equivalent.

Pastoral care teams need someone to train, encourage and support their work. Also keeps workers accountable. 

Our churches need to prepare for the complexities of pastoral care needs within our communities.


Pathways to Promise ( has a series of three books related to mental health ministry development, and a toolkit for regular events on mental health awareness. They also train people in Companionship Ministry development, and have models for developing local mental health coalitions among faith groups. Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid classes hosted by the church are often a good start ( . And getting the local NAMI chapter to send out a speaker trained in telling their stories of recovery "In OUr Own Voice" has often been helpful. There are often local pastoral counseling agencies that have staff trained in both mental health therapy and spiritual care to provide an integrated experience. For example, SamaraCare is my local pastoral counseling agency in Naperville IL that many congregations help support and refer to ( They have regular monthly consultations among staff to integrate mental health and spiritual care into their services . 

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