One would think that if there was anywhere we could show exactly who we are and talk about our deepest joys and deepest struggles, it would be the church. And yet, so many ideas of who we “ought to be” as Christians become the standard of what we expect people to be within our church communities.
Instead of being vulnerable and honest around issues of relationships, addiction, insecurity, job loss, sexuality, mental health and financial security, we tend to pretend everything is just fine for the sake of not upsetting one another. How can we pray for and support each other if we don’t even really know each other?
While the Christian community has become more communicative around sexuality and our physical being, mental health is still a topic to be avoided, as it is in the world beyond our churches. Instead of waiting for the world to lead the conversation, wouldn’t it be great for the church to once again be at the forefront of conversations that lead people away from shame and secrecy into a practice of being whole together?
If your friend broke their leg, you would want to help as they needed, right? The same goes for mental health. If you know you could help your friends and other neighbors be full members of the community, wouldn’t you want to try? Also, if you were struggling, and you didn’t know why, wouldn’t it be a kindness to have a friend notice and work together to find answers?
These are some of the conversations church leaders are having, but with few tools to address conversations around mental health, much less long-term mental health need or immediate crises. As the Newark Presbytery Leadership Training Team discusses educational opportunities to offer, talking about mental health was a clear need.
Doing a mental health first aid training specifically for our youth leaders was a good place to start because there is already a cohesive group of youth leaders within the presbytery. We have been working to build a support system and programs for the youth and youth leaders in the presbytery, and offering such a training was a good next step.
Newark Presbytery has many small churches with volunteer youth leaders, part time youth leaders and elders in charge of youth programs. These leaders don’t always have the opportunities for Continuing Education or training that full time and ordained staff might, including and especially dealing with mental health. This training is accessible and available to anyone who works with youth. We encourage you to join us on April 8th. You can find more information on this event on the event page.