How churches, pastors, and counselors are working together

I remember from 25 years ago, back in 1995, when I was starting out in pastoral ministry, that one of the important things to do when starting out as a new pastor in a new church was to compile a list of trusted Christian counselors. Pastoral counseling provides some basic training to give pastoral and spiritual encouragement, but there are some occasions where intensive and professional mental health care was required.

That was 25 years ago. The need for mental health professionals, especially among Asians and Americans, has only increased, with more awareness, symptoms from post-COVID isolation, anti-Asian hate, and other factors. Asian Americans are the least less demographic to seek mental health services and faith leaders are often the first point of contact when individuals and families face mental health problems or traumatic events. In fact, in times of crisis, many will turn to trusted leaders in their communities before they turn to mental health professionals.

Compiling a referral list is a good starting point. Several churches and networks are doing more together. Here’s some great examples from around the country:

Lighthouse Counseling Network – provides accessible Christian counseling services to the greater Northern New Jersey region, supported through a network of local churches. Learn more about Lighthouse on the episode of Erasing Shame podcast.

Pastors and Counselors Together (PACT) – in the Chicago area, this group of pastors and Christian counselors meets together quarterly to collaboratively discuss topics related to spirituality and mental health. A key ingredient that makes this effective is growing relationships around a meal, sometimes called table fellowship. A future episode of the Erasing Shame podcast will give an inside look.

For examples of churches that have developed their own counseling and/or mental health ministries, see this list of Asian American churches with a mental health ministry.

Know of others? Please contact us and we’ll add more examples to this article so we can learn collectively.

Another thought: something that Christian counselors can bring to churches is seminars and support groups. Churches bring together more Asian American every week and that’s a valuable opportunity to help us understand our full humanity and caring for our complete health and wellness—spiritually, relationally, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Churches are the perfect venue with the space to host seminars to educate and equip people in the church and in its neighborhood with practical skills for healthy living, addressing basic life issues like stress, anxiety, worry, grief, and so on. And, support groups make care and support available and affordable to so many more, whether peer-led or clinicial-led.

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