Mental Health Sundays
Running a Mental Health Sunday for local churches is a great way to introduce this topic to a wide and general audience.
We suggest that these happen best when you already have some momentum in this area - see this article for more information. This is partly so that the event can be put on by a team who already know something about the topc, but also so there is something before (to plan) and after (for people to start being involved with).
We DON'T recommend you run a sunday service at a church as a one-off. We've often been asked to do this, and it can feel as though you are merely filling in the preaching calendar and providing an interesting topic so the pastor can tick it of as having 'done something'. We find that this can actually do more harm that good, as difficult topics are raised with no way for people to take things forward or ask more questions.
A well planned sunday event will have a few people in the church who have been preparing the way in prayer and a hunger to see change. It's worth meeting once or twice (and at least once with the Pastor or other senior leader) to plan the event. One idea is to have the sunday as part of a mini-series on "Our Inner World" or similar. Bear in mind these ideas when considering content:
Good resources for people wanting more are this website (which we obviously think is good!), and our sister site the Mental Health Access Pack which contains far less pages and is focussed on providing specific resources for exactly this sort of event, incuding resources to print. You should also have got to know about local resources such as entries in the Association of Christian Counsellors database and how to get urgent help from your local mental health services. Have a resource table with information.
Keep the the service much the same pattern as normal. Below is a sample order of service / running order.
Use well-known songs/hymns [this is not a good day to teach a new song]. Try to avoid obvious songs about peace [we find they make people wince].
Use some sensitive prayers. These could be ad lib, but there are some good written prayers too.
Ideally include a testimony from someone with personal experience of mental illness. Pick a testimony that is not too triumphalist but emphasises that they are still on a journey. End with a short blessing and how to find out more.
For the 'meat' of the service, you could have a sermon or use a more informal Question-and-Answer format. Either is fine and will depend on the style of your church and who you have available to take part.
After the service, it is good to offer some quiet prayer. Make sure this is just a simple prayer for blessing or healing and does not turn into a mini counselling session. Follow the usual practice for your church.
The 'magic ingredient' is to realise that it is not about the service at all - this is just raising awareness and should ideally lead to a more focussed event - such as a smaller lunch after the service (simple cold ploughman's in the vicarage/manse/hall) to which 'anyone interested' is invited - you may be surprised at who turns up. At this meeting, offer to hear what people want to say and suggest the group meet again, led by someone in the church. Advertise both service and lunch well in advance. You could also adapt this article (or similar) for your the church magazine to get people thinking.
Sample sermons and interviews and other ideas to use or adapt
Your Pastor may not know how to preach on this topic and you may not feel skilled. You need to decide if it is better to have a formal sermon or a more informal Question and Answer. Its good to have a range of inputs like a clinical/pastoral speaker and also a testimony.
Here are two sermons with slides / transcripts. Please feel free to use, share, borrow bits of these for use at your church.
1. A sermon on fear and anxiety - link to audio, transcript
2. A sermon for a mental health sunday - link to audio, transcript
Here are two interviews with links to the questions that were asked and [for the first one] some outline responses. Again, please feel free to use, share, borrow bits of these for use at your church.
1. Q and A at Central Church, Edinburgh - link to audio, questions [and suggested answers], and supporting slides [PPT]. The audio of the interview also contains an interview with two people who have lived experience of mental illness in themselves or their family.
2. Q and A at Shore Community Church, Auckland - link to audio, and questions [in Word and PDF].
Order of Service / Running Sheet
This running sheet gives rough timings, some ideas for [modern] songs and some videos that could be played. Please feel very free to adapt this for your own setting - this is just one outline that worked well. Try to keep things as close to a normal service as possible.