Mental Health Ministries

MHM e-Spotlight Summer 2017

Summer!We look forward to summer.  Summer is a gift!  Summer months provide a time for renewal and a change of pace from the normal routine.  With no major religious holidays, the summer is often a time when the many activities and demands on our time are less. The pace is slower.

We know that it is important for our physical, spiritual and emotional well-being to take time for ourselves and to create Sabbath time all year long.  But our hectic busy schedules too often dominate our lives. 

With no major religious holidays, summer is also a time when many faith leaders can take time away for personal renewal and to spend time with family and friends.  This Spotlight includes some resources to help support the mental health of our clergy.

May we all use the gift of the summer season to create sacred times for yourself and with friends and family.

Historical Meaning of Sabbath Time

Sabbath is a day set aside for rest and worship.   According to Exodus 20:8, the Sabbath is commanded by God to be kept as a holy day of rest just as God rested from creation.  The Sabbath is observed differently among the Abrahamic religions and informs a similar occasion in several other practices. Although many viewpoints and definitions have arisen over the millennia, most originate in the same textual tradition of: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

In Judaism, Sabbath is the seventh day of the Hebrew calendar which in English is Saturday.  Other faith traditions also have similar weekly observances.  The Sabbath year of rest (Leviticus 25: 8-13) is designated as every seventh year when the land is left fallow, debts are forgiven and prisoners would be freed.  This is also known as the Jubilee year.

How Can We Honor Sabbath Time for a Healthy Mind, Body and Soul

There are many resources and ideas on the importance of taking time away and the importance of self-care.  Taking proper care of your body, soul and mind can keep you in optimum shape for handling stress, which gives you as much resilience as possible to help you manage those uncontrollable things in life. The following are some important basic self-care strategies from the article, Top Self Care Strategies for Overall Stress Reduction by Elizabeth Scott, MS.  Most of us know how important these self-care practices are, but it can be especially difficult to practice them if we are dealing with stress, anxiety and mental health challenges.  It is important to be gentle with ourselves and honor each small step we can take.

  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Maintain Proper Nutrition
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Maintain Social Support
  • Find Hobbies
  • Pamper Yourself
  • Keep Your Mind Sharp
  • Have the Right Attitude
  • Process Your Emotions
  • Maintain a Spiritual Practice

Research shows that a lifestyle including religion or spirituality is generally a healthier lifestyle. Many people use prayer as a major stress reliever and strategy for emotional health. You can use prayer to enhance your spiritual side, or use meditation if you don’t feel comfortable with prayer. Spiritual practice is deeply personal, and whatever your practice, it should nurture your soul.

Clergy Self-Care

Our faith leaders also need to be intentional about taking Sabbath time.  Clergy burnout is a major problem.  With more duties, many clergy report being overwhelmed with more work and responsibilities. The workload and lack of support can lead to feelings of isolation, burnout and depression. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, clergy often self-medicate instead of reaching out for help when feeling anxious, over-whelmed or stressed out. 

Clergy Self-Care BrochureMental Health Ministries has a brochure, Clergy Self-Care: How Clergy and Congregations Can Prevent Burnout and Support Healthy Living.  This brochure highlights these issues regarding clergy burnout. It offers some ideas on what clergy can do and how congregations can be supportive of their faith leaders. It is available on the Mental Health Ministries website as a brochure under Resources. 

What Congregations Can Do:  Feeling overwhelmed by stress takes a toll on the body leading to a number of physical and emotional symptoms.  Congregational leaders need to be alert to the warning signs of stress. Share your concerns with others.

  • Make sure your clergyperson is taking time off for Sabbath and vacation.
  • Don't schedule meetings every night of the week.
  • Give pastors time to spend with their families.
  • Many pastoral changes occur during the summer months.  Find ways to welcome new pastors and their families.
  • Be an emotional support for your faith leaders instead of just expecting it from them.
  • Handle conflicts in a loving, caring manner.
  •  Encourage pastors to foster friendships outside the faith community.
  • Respect the privacy of the clergy family.
Article - Minding Your Pastor's Mental Health

Minding Your Pastor's Mental HealthMinding Your Pastor’s Mental Health is an article written by Cindy Holtrop from a publication of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.  “Clergy health studies show that ministry stress is causing a decline in the physical and mental health of pastors. The reasons are complex. One study found that one in six pastors showed signs of distress with levels of isolation, loneliness, fear, anger, and boredom. Forty-five percent of pastors report having felt burned out to the degree that they had to take a break from ministry (London and Wiseman, Pastors at Greater Risk). An increasing number of pastors are on antidepressants.  To combat this, pastors need to practice mental health self-care by developing healthy supportive relationships, managing stress, and practicing Sabbath rest.”  Click here to view the complete article.

Article – Clergy Mental Health

An article from The Christian Citizen by Mark Stephenson addresses the issue of clergy mental health.  The article shares some startling statistics.  “Although most congregations and pastors do not want to face it, our research revealed that many ministry leaders live with mental illness.”

  • The number of pastors diagnosed with clinical depression was double the national average.
  • Forty five percent sought advice from their family doctor regarding stress and anxiety issues.
  • Nearly one-fourth of all pastors (23 percent) acknowledge having “personally struggled with mental illness,” and half of those pastors say the illness has been diagnosed.

The article is available on the Christian Citizen website.

Toolkit – Guide for a Clergy Leave of Absence for Mental Health Reasons

A significant number also experience burnout. A Mental Health Task Force established by the Disability Concerns offices of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America has developed a document called Guide for a Clergy Leave of Absence for Mental Health Reasons that provides guidelines and suggestions for pastors and for church councils.  The task force collaborated to produce a guide and supporting materials.

The Toolkit includes:

  • Guide for a Clergy Leave of Absence for Mental Health Reasons (CRC and RCA versions)
  • Case Studies for Discussion
  • Leader’s Guide for Case Studies
  • Slide Presentation Options
  • Facilitator’s Guide for the Group Presentation (CRC and RCA versions)

The attached materials were created for CRC and RCA churches, and the documents have been tailored to the polity and practices of each denomination. For this reason, some of the documents are labeled "CRC" and some "RCA." Churches with different polity and practices are welcome to use these materials as a guide for creating your own. If you do this, we ask that you acknowledge your source.  Available by clicking here.

Blog Article - Living with Bipolar: Friendship in Faith and Recovery

Living with Bipolar: Friendship in Faith and RecoveryAn article by David Wise in a bp Magazine’s blog explores the relationship between faith and recovery.  “Faith has always been a huge part of my life, even if there have been time periods where I have not acknowledged it or practiced it in community.  Faith has helped me regain my mental health alongside psychiatry, therapy, and self-care. I believe faith will always play a role in my life, whether it is a major or minor role, is yet to be seen.  There is something about coming face to face with something bigger than ourselves, with others in community, that has transformed my life, particularly a life of struggling with bipolar disorder.”

Webinars – Pathways to Promise Webinars

WebinarsPathways to Promise has a very helpful updated website.  The ENGAGE, LEARN, AND NETWORK LEADERSHIP FORUM offers webinars that you can listen to in their archives.  You can listen to these webinars at

  • Suicide Tool for Faith Communities- Presented by Dr. David Litts. 
  •  3'M's Meditation, Mediation, Medication, providing Mental & Spiritual Wellness to those who serve in Communities of Faith-Presented by Rev. James Alberty
  • Sabbaths Of How:A Time for Healing presented by Rev. James Alberty and Lesley Levin
Website – Music Serving the Word

Music Serving the Word is a Christian website that offers resources and support pastors, worship leaders and musicians.  When Mental Health Ministries began 16 years ago, we were blessed to work with a talented producer, Mario Barnabe.  The videos and DVD’s offered by Mental Health Ministries were produced in collaboration with Mario.  Mario has been sharing his talents for many years with another group, Music Serving the Word.  Their website offers a wide variety of resources including devotionals combining music and visuals, a prayer blog and short videos about hope based on the book, Discover Hope, by Richard Parrish.  These video clips are available on YouTube.  You are invited to explore the website for resources and devotions appropriate to your needs.

Study – Why Is It So Difficult for Physicians to Discuss Spirituality

Megan Best and colleagues from the Psycho-Oncology Cooperative Research Group at the University of Sydney, Australia, conducted interviews with physicians from Australia and New Zealand. Participants were asked in open-ended questions why spiritual conversations with advanced cancer patients were so difficult and what the underlying challenges were (prompted by the fact that these discussions seldom took place). Results indicated the following themes in physician responses:

  • confusion over differences between spirituality and religion
  • peer pressure from other physicians who disapproved addressing these issues with patients
  • issues of personal faith that cause confusion about their role as a healthcare professional vs. addressing religious issues with patients
  • institutional factors such as the presence of chaplains who can address these issues
  • historical factors in their medical training having to do with the separation of science and spirituality

Researchers concluded that “the current suspicion with which religion is regarded in medicine needs to be addressed if discussion of spirituality in the medical consultation is to become routine.”

Books – Protestant Christianity and Mental Health: Beliefs, Research and Applications and Judaism and Mental Health: Beliefs, Research and Applications

Protestant and Jewish Mental HealthDr. Harold Koenig is a physician researcher who has spent over 30 years investigating the relationship between religion and health, and directs Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.  He has authored two new books for mental health professionals, clergy, researchers, and laypersons interested in the relationship between religious involvement and mental health in both Judaism and with Protestant Christians.  A brief history and concise description of beliefs, practices, and values is followed by a review of research and then by recommendations for practice based on research, clinical experience, and common sense. 

Both books are available on Amazon for $7.50.

The book on Protestant Christianity is available on Amazon here and the book on Jewish mental health is available on Amazon here.

Book – Bookends: Between Madness and Grace

BookendsBookends: Between Madness and Grace, by Jerry Dowdall, is a fictional story of Aimee, Bill, Edward and Michael who are trapped in the darkness of mental illness, highly competitive and destructive jobs or in the throes of difficult marital and family conflicts. The protagonists attempt to resolve their personal conflicts yet their choices only lead to more despair and suffering. The three atheistic men however discover the most unlikely leader—Aimee, Bill’s young Christian mentally ill daughter. In her chaotic and often times humorous way, she unknowingly follows the Lord’s will and guides all of them out their personal prisons.  The book underscores falling in love, getting a job, finding meaning and purpose in life despite the disability, and for some, discovering God midst the tremendous suffering.  It also underscores how persons living with a mentally illness can indirectly guide and teach others as well. Available on Amazon.

Book – Mental Illness and Your Marriage

Mental Illness and Your MarriageDo you want to experience relief from frustration, resentment, fear, and despair in your marriage? In the US and Canada, at least 40 percent of all marriages fail. Divorce statistics for marriages where one person has bipolar disorder are even worse—it is estimated that 90 percent end in divorce! 

Although many marriages fail, some can defy the odds. And they can not only survive, but thrive! This book is loaded with marriage repair and enrichment tips from a couple who’s been through the trenches of mental illness. Rev. Jim Stout has struggled with bipolar disorder throughout most of his adult life—twice even being hospitalized in a mental institution—but he and his wife Leah managed to overcome the challenges and now enjoy a wonderful life together.  They’ll show how they saved their marriage and give you practical techniques to save yours. Available on Amazon.

Jim has also written: 
Recovering and Rebuilding from a Severe Mental Illness
Bipolar Disorder: Rebuilding Your Life

Book – Church Health for the Twenty-First Century: A Biblical Approach

Church Health for the Twenty-First Century: A Biblical ApproachWhat does the Bible have to say about church health?  John Marshal Crowe is a former pastor and suffers from bipolar disorder.  His experience with mental illness and churches led him to focus on one needed area of ministry which healthy churches can do. They can fulfill the Great Commandment to love through being in ministry to those with a mental illness and their families. This is the subject in chapter 6 of Crowe’s book.  Each chapter has helpful questions to assist in thoughtful discussion for individuals of small group study.  Available on Amazon.

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Snippets from Susan

Shine On Me
Celtic PrayerAs the sun rises, Lord,
Let your light shine on me.
Destroy the darkness about me,
Scatter the darkness before me,
Disperse the darkness behind me,
Dispel the darkness within me.
Let your light shine on me.

As the sun rises, Lord,
Let your light shine on me.
The warmth of your Presence,
The brightness of your love,
The radiance of your joy,
The shining of your hope.
Let your light shine on me.

As the sun rises, Lord,
Let your light shine on me.
Your light to guide,
Your light to lead,
Your light to direct,
Your light to brighten.
Let your light shine on me.
(Celtic Prayer by David Adam)



Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119