Giving hope to broken people

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How can Elim churches be really good news in the area of mental health and well-being?

Intro
By Mark Greenwood

Over lockdown my colleague Andy Wopshott (Elim’s genius Communications Manager) and I were very excited as we developed the Really Good News online mission which involved social media, Easter digital content and online Alpha.

Since that time, I have been carrying the ‘ Really Good News’ message in my heart, as I believe that we as a movement can be, and bring, really good news in a world that is full of really bad news.

Welcome to this Really Good News series where I have asked friends of Elim to inspire us to see how we can be really good news in all sorts of spheres of life. We start with an amazing ministry co-founded by Patrick Regan, a member of the Elim Church in Chelmsford.

Kintsugi Hope is a ministry that wants to see a world where mental and emotional health is understood and accepted, with safe and supportive communities for everyone to grow.

AUTHENTICITY

How churches can promote a safe space for people to be their authentic selves is a question that Kintsugi Hope has been answering for over five years now, writes Patrick Regan.

It’s a question that is of great importance, especially after a global pandemic that has resulted in a mental health crisis unlike anything that has ever been seen before.

Bringing good news around mental health and well-being in our churches must start with acceptance and authenticity.

Tim Keller said, “There is a version of Christianity that many of us bought into that has trained us to be professional pretenders. As people, are we ready to shatter that veneer of polished Christianity and step into the vulnerability the gospel requires before the great work of grace can transpire in our lives?

“Perhaps if we were all honest about our issues, honesty wouldn’t feel so isolating. After all, Jesus didn’t die for the image we project. Jesus died for who we really are.”

I made the decision, through my own journey and struggle, to let go of my pretend smile and be honest about my journey.
Without honest and authentic discussions there will be no transformation.

My hope is that in our churches we let the mess show and walk alongside people through their journey as they accept what they are dealing with in partnership with the church. In our prayers let’s bring hope, so people feel loved, valued, and able to access safe spaces.

There is a difference in how we support people in their mental health as opposed to their physical health because so much to do with mental health is unseen. You can’t always tell what someone is going through. If we have a physical ailment, like a headache, there is no judgement for taking a pill. Why then is there a fuss when we take a pill for a mental illness?

How then can we help? Making it easy for someone to be honest starts with challenging stigma at every level and creating safe and understanding spaces. When we are suffering, we tell ourselves, “I should be able to handle this” or “I must pull myself together” or “I ought to be stronger”.

Why? Who is setting the standards we think we need to live by? If, as Christians, we think we are immune to a mental health condition and that by knowing Jesus we will never be depressed, we are creating shame where we should be promoting a message of hope.

The church can help by promoting connection or a feeling of belonging – as we say in Kintsugi Hope, holding space for people. This is being willing to walk alongside another person without judging them, making them feel inadequate, or trying to fix them. We just open our hearts and offer unconditional support.

We need to listen and come alongside people. Empathy is key to listening to people. Our response to a person’s struggle will not make it better; what makes it better is honest connection. Sometimes people just need to know they are not alone.

As the church, we are in an amazing position to offer community and help combat loneliness. Let’s help people rediscover what it is like to be in community, to have hope and to believe again.

To enable this to happen, churches all over the country are running Kintsugi Hope Well-being groups. These are safe and supportive spaces for those who feel overwhelmed, providing tools for self-management in a facilitated peer-mentoring setting.

It consists of a structured yet flexible series of content which includes group and individual activities designed to help participants accept themselves, understand their value and worth and grow towards a more resilient and hopeful future.

• To run a Kintsugi Hope group in your community please contact groups@kintsugihope.com

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