There’s something going on in our culture that we need to talk about.
The latest statistics I’ve read show that around 18% of Americans have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
I think most experts would argue that this number is low because many people are struggling with various levels of anxiety without professional help.
A second statistic that is staggering is that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34.
Mental health is a serious issue for our people.
This is a conversation that we need to engage as church leaders.
Our people need help!
I have a few ideas.
We need to engage this conversation but we need to do it in a wise way.
Inaccurate and unhelpful information can hinder people in our churches who are struggling with anxiety, depression or other forms of mental health.
Because of this, it is really important that we learn.
Before we speak, we need to be able to answer the question, “What’s it like to be you?”
Rebekah Lyons has a very helpful and biblical voice in this conversation.
I found her recent conversation on Carey Neiuwhof’s podcast to be enlightening.
Also, Rebekah has written a few great books.
Here is her newest.
Secondly, I am sure there are people in your life who have or are battling forms of mental health.
Ask them to share with you what that struggle is like.
Listening well to this conversation will empower you to engage others in a thoughtful and empathetic way.
In addition, learning from others will protect us from using unhelpful or hurtful words and phrases.
For example, something I’m working on because of the learning I’ve done is to be very careful and specific in my wording from the stage.
Anxiety is a loaded term.
I often think of “anxiety” as a synonym of “stress” or “worry” but for many in our congregation, their experience with anxiety is closer to “clinical anxiety” which is probably best understood as a disorder.
So, when I teach the Scripture, “Do not be anxious about anything,” I’m learning to be wise and careful in how I talk about anxiety, stress and worry, being very intentional about my wording.
This nuanced communication is important and only comes through learning from others.
Perhaps the most helpful thing we can do as leaders and teachers is to be authentic about our own struggles and mental health history.
So many people struggle in the shadows because they feel shame over their mental health challenges.
Honestly, even bringing up the topics of anxiety, depression and suicide from the stage has opened the door for a lot of good conversation with the people of our church.
I have been thanked by many for talking about mental health.
This tells me that people want and need to talk openly about their personal struggles or the challenges of journeying with others through their mental health challenges.
Opening the door for these conversations has felt like a huge sigh of relief.
Also, if you are willing to talk about your own battles and history and how God has met you in those spaces...I’m telling you, God will use your vulnerability in powerful ways.
Teach Rest and Boundaries
In my experience, so much of the stress and anxiety that we are experiencing in our culture is a result of a frenetic pace and a lack of boundaries.
We go, go, go...always producing, always achieving, and never stopping.
And, we often lack boundaries around huge stressors like social media and work.
God modeled rest for us.
Sometimes it feels like we believe rest is optional.
Maybe it was something for the Old Testament people and not us.
Not true. We were designed to rest—even before the fall.
And when we ignore this good design, we and others pay for it.
I would encourage us to teach and model rest to our people of all ages—starting with little kids.
Rest was a normal part of our culture, now it isn’t.
We need to teach people how to rest from work, social media, our phones, from performance and from achievement.
Rest has become radical teaching in our culture and we are desperate for it.
I hope this has been helpful. Thanks for reading. We’d love to hear your thoughts on hospitality in the comments below.