Advice for Pastors Part 2: Mental Health

I regularly receive the monthly magazine produced by Grassington Congregational Church. Although it’s in a different county, it’s closer to us than many other churches of the congregational way. It quotes some research carried out by Emma Scrivener published in the June 2017 Christianity Magazine.  Apparently, ‘70% of clergy don’t feel equipped to handle mental illness’. I’m assuming this refers to others’ mental illness rather than their own. In which case, I’m amazed the figure is so low. Why would a pastor be equipped to handle such things? If mental illness is real illness, which it is, why should a non-medical professional be able to treat it? If you have pains in your tummy, don’t expect a pastor to remove your appendix. If you have illness of the mind, don’t expect a pastor to be able to cure it. What pastors can do, however, is support such sufferers, both practically and with prayer.

My advice is therefore thus: expect to be asked advice on all manner of problems- family break downs, finance, sexual problems, mental health, politics, planning permission and everything else. By all means say what you can in good faith, but remember you’re not a social worker or a doctor. Also feel free to say you do not know the answer. There’s no need to sound clever or be an expert on everything. Rather, recommend your people see the right professionals. When it comes to the cure of souls, however, you are the professional. People will sometimes talk about anything but their own salvation. You must steer them to prioritise correctly. Jesus urged us to first seek His kingdom and righteousness, then all other things might be addressed.