“Pastors, appropriate self-care is not selfish”: Christian Mental Health Conference back for second year to equip church leaders
by Gracia Lee // June 14, 2022, 7:00 pm
The Christian Mental Health Conference will underscore the necessity for church leaders and staff to exercise appropriate self-care. Photo by Christopher Catbagan on Unsplash.
The Christian Mental Health Conference will be returning for its second run as church leaders and allied health professionals join hands to provide more support for mental health in churches.
To be held on July 7 and 8, the conference will be split into two segments: The first will equip pastors to care for their own mental health, while the second will equip churches to be more effective carers of those with mental health issues.
The conference, which had its inaugural run last July, is jointly organised by the Christian Mental Health Advocates (CMHA), the Association of Christian Counsellors (Singapore), and Promises Healthcare, a private psychiatric and psychology clinic.
A 2020 survey found that 85% of respondents felt their church needed to do more to address mental health issues.
The need for the Church to partner with mental health professionals was thrust into the spotlight after a survey of 451 church leaders, conducted by CMHA and Focus on the Family Singapore in 2020, found that 85% of respondents felt their church needed to do more to address mental health issues.
Pastor Chua Seng Lee, co-organiser of the conference, said: “It has always been our idea to provide resources to the Church and to pastors. Last year we couldn’t do many things as the conference was held online, but this year we can do more to connect the Church to the mental health resources that are available.”
This year’s keynote speaker is Dr Tan Siang Yang, who is well-positioned to share insights as he is both Senior Professor of Clinical Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor Emeritus of First Evangelical Church Glendale in Southern California.
Dr Tan is also a licensed psychologist and Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and serves as the Spiritual Director of the American Association of Christian Counsellors.
Self-care is not selfish
Reserved for pastors only, the morning sessions on both days will focus on educating and equipping church leaders to care for their own mental health and well-being.
These sessions will be held at One Farrer Park Hotel, and will be limited to 150 pastors and 50 mental health professionals, so that the environment can be kept “cosy and safe”, said Ps Seng Lee, who co-founded CMHA and currently serves as the Deputy Senior Pastor at Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Church (BBTC).
Pastors are often in danger of burnout and depression due to the demands and stressors of ministry.
A keynote address by Dr Tan on the importance of self-care and soul-care for pastors will kick off the first morning.
Speaking to Salt&Light via email ahead of the conference, Dr Tan said pastors are often in danger of burnout and depression due to the demands and stressors of pastoral ministry.
Taking care of their own mental health is thus important for them to serve their churches well.
“They need to practice appropriate self-care and soul-care – and that is not selfish care! It is not only for themselves but for the sake of others and for the glory of God,” he said.
During his keynote address on the second morning, Dr Tan will be providing insights on how members of the Church can better bear each other’s burdens.
Against the backdrop of growing mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, along with a limited number of mental health professionals, “the ministry of lay caring and lay counselling – including pastoral care and counselling – is crucial and much needed in the coming years”, he told Salt&Light.
“The Lord has called us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34-35), bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2) and help one another … The Church needs to be a helping and healing community of loving persons, or, as someone had said: ‘The church should be a hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints!’ “
“We want to tell pastors: Your mental health is important and we want to help you.”
Apart from the keynote speeches, there will be question-and-answer sessions and forums, along with testimonies by pastors who have struggled with their own mental health.
During tea breaks, pastors can visit booths that will be set up, which will link them up with various mental health resources like Christian retreat centres, psychologists, counsellors and other support networks.
Ps Seng Lee revealed that up to 25 pastors will also be able to sign up for a three-day, two-night spiritual retreat with Rere Retreat Planners, fully sponsored by the conference’s organisers.
He said: “We want to tell pastors: Your mental health is important and we want to help you.”
Addressing mental health needs
While the morning sessions will be geared toward supporting pastors, the evening sessions will focus on equipping the Church to address the mental health needs of its members and the community.
This is especially needful in light of the mental health survey by CMHA, which revealed that only 28% felt that their church has equipped them sufficiently to help a person who is facing a mental health issue.
Only 28% felt that their church has equipped them sufficiently to help a person who is facing a mental health issue.
The evening sessions will be at BBTC and able to accommodate up to 500 ministry leaders and mental health professionals. These talks will be live-streamed as well.
On the first evening, Dr Tan will speak on how we can be better people-helpers in the Church. He will cover the topic of families and mental health on the second evening.
There will also be opportunities onsite to explore booths and other mental health resources, which will help to equip churches to care for the mental health of its congregations.
Said Ps Seng Lee: “My hope is that every pastor or ministry leader who comes will connect with some mental health people and resources, be it to provide training for their church, find help for their members or just to check in on their own mental health.”
For more details on the Christian Mental Health Conference 2022 and how you can sign up, click here. Sign-ups are on a first-come-first-served basis.
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