Colorado Community Church Paves the Way
Have you been seeing the need for mental health ministry in your church, yet hesitant to step into the mental health space? You’re not alone!
We reached out to the coordinator of one of our longest-running groups to learn from her experience and start debunking some of the misconceptions surrounding mental health ministry.
Beth Lang is the Targeted Ministries Coordinator at Colorado Community Church in Aurora, Colorado, which has been running My Quiet Cave programs since 2014. At that time, the conversation about mental health was starting to be more prevalent in the media and culture, and the church found that even within their community, people felt isolated, unseen, and unsupported in their mental health challenges.
These church members communicated that they wanted a safe place to be able to process their mental health journey within a small group setting and to discover the “God piece” that was missing for them. Hearing these deep-seated needs from their community inspired Colorado Community Church to start their mental health ministry.
Now that their mental health ministry is in place and flourishing, the culture at the church has changed in two ways. First, the people being served through their My Quiet Cave groups feel much more comfortable speaking out about their mental health challenges. They’ve communicated that they feel more loved, welcomed, and embraced. Secondly, the church is seeing this group of people move beyond just attending services to connecting, and serving in other ministries.
Because of the incredible impact that an intentional mental health ministry has had on the people and culture of Colorado Community Church, Beth wants to share the top three misconceptions that may be holding your church back from serving in this area as well.
Myth #1: Severe mental health cases will create an unsafe environment
Truth: Investing in a culture of support increases the safety of your church community.
The number one misconception Beth hears from other faith leaders is that they are afraid they will be completely overrun with people who have very severe untreated, undiagnosed mental illnesses. The concern is that if they start promoting support groups within their church and to their local community, these people are going to escalate in an unsafe way on their church property.
Beth goes on to share that her church currently has about 3,000 attendees over the weekend services. Because Colorado Community Church hosts several different My Quiet Cave groups in multiple sessions throughout the year, they are able to serve over 100 people annually. However, each group ranges from about six to 12 participants, which means the number of group members in the building at any given time is very small. Beth states that in all her years at a large church openly promoting its mental health ministry, they have never felt overrun by the amount or severity of need.
Another important point Beth makes is that the programs they offer tend to attract people who are pretty self-aware in their mental health status. She finds that the majority of group members who have a mental health diagnosis tend to be connected with clinical support as well. Most people are looking for a group of peers who are also struggling, so they can be transparent in sharing their stories and daily lives.
Myth #2: Extreme cases will cause the church to get sued
Truth: Your team will be equipped with training that will make your church a safer place for all.
This misconception falls under the umbrella of the first. Faith leaders understandably fear that if anything escalates on the church property, the church or leadership will end up getting sued. Beth often hears: ‘What if someone escalates?’ ‘What if our leaders aren’t equipped to handle it?’ ‘What if we have to restrain someone using one of our security volunteers and then they get sued?’
These are all valid concerns; at the same time, Beth wants to calm these fears by sharing that in more than eight years of mental health ministry, Colorado Community Church has never had to call 911 during their group programs. The same policies and safety measures that your church has in place for general operations and services will serve your mental health ministry.
In addition, by taking an intentional approach to mental wellness, your team can become equipped with specialized training that will benefit all members of your church. The My Quiet Cave facilitator training program provides essential skill training and suicide awareness training for group leaders. My Quiet Cave also provides links to external training opportunities on our Resources page.
Myth #3: We won’t be able to properly recruit and equip volunteers
Truth: Many people have been impacted by mental health struggles and are called to serve in peer-led ministry.
The last misconception Beth hears most is that churches won’t be able to recruit enough volunteers or be able to equip them adequately to handle situations that might come up.
Beth wants to encourage those with this hesitation that in any church body, you would be surprised by the number of people who God is calling to step into lay leadership in this ministry.
There are people who are passionate about this. They might be caregivers or family members. They might be people who have previously struggled and are in a healthy place. They might even be people who work in the mental health field.
Once you have created the infrastructure for a mental health ministry, you’ll find that people who go through the programs and experience healing will want to then step up and help facilitate another group. Some of Beth’s strongest group leaders started out as participants. In group models that are based on peer-led support, leaders that emerge from within the groups are specially equipped to serve.
In addition, My Quiet Cave provides a comprehensive facilitator training program that is free and open to all group facilitators. Any individual who is called to serve and who is supported by their church leadership can become fully equipped as a peer support group leader.
My Quiet Cave is grateful for our longstanding partnership with Colorado Community Church and their service to the Denver Metro area. If you are looking to be inspired by a church that has overcome misconceptions and grown an incredible mental health ministry, be sure to check out the mental health page at Colorado Community Church.
Interested in learning more? Please reach out to our team today.
Author: Katie Radcliff | Interviewer: Kimberly Britt | Editor: Joanna Jackson