What makes a friendly church?
There were a large number of comments to the various questions we have asked both in small groups and online about what makes a mental health friendly church. It is not possible to list them all below, but we have tried to group them into various themes. There is of course some repetition. We were also struck by the brave people who recalled their often very-difficult experiences.
Pastoral care strategy which is available and easy to understand
Training for people who have a heart to help and want to get involved
Team looking out for mental health issues, with a mix of people and skills, with good networks, educated in counselling approaches,
Variety of Mid-week opportunities [not all ‘counselling’ or ‘interventions’
Greeting team, but not over friendly, not in your face, but able to notice and follow-up if needed
Coffee time or other meeting opportunity around the service
Prayer network to text into
Seats kept free at the back so people can slip in and out.
Variety of ways into the church and not just Sunday – badminton nights, curry clubs, etc [especially for men as mums & tots groups seem to be all there is sometimes]
Resources available like leaflets, books and local information of relevance
Reaching people who are nearby
If the minister is NOT the person to go to [ie, in a large church], is this made clear and is it clear who else to talk to
Message from church that mental health issues should not be seen as weakness, talked about / sermon on occasion
Kind, welcoming spirit
Not glib, good listeners
Everyone needs support from time to time
Leadership appropriately open, honest and vulnerable and not superhuman
Not just triumphalistic songs, but a full range of worship including the wilderness times, some reflective expressive worship opportunities [may not be on Sunday?]
Feeling that people are available if you need them and that there is spare capacity and space, not busyness
Each person able to be part of some kind of small grouping so if they are not there it is noticed and acted on
Allowed you be yourself, allowed not to talk if you don’t want to today
Not made to feel you have to be ‘fixed’ – prepared to get alongside people with complex problems
Non-judgemental, accepting, nurturing, person-centred [different people have different needs]
Honest Testimonies. Complicated problems talked about and not simplified
One or two visible available people to talk to, and NOT at the front of the church after the service
Distinguish between unhelpful behaviour and seeing past this to the person
Physical space to escape to for quiet
A hug or a touch – people with ‘mercy’ gifts
Hospitality – please revive it!
Not 'reacting' to people who are unusual to look at or struggle with their hygiene
A theology that is holistic and linked to social justice and sharing with groups who have similar goals.