By Carl Stagner
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from—anxiety and depression are real issues that affect real people all around you—perhaps including you. As a trusted partner to the Bellingham, Washington, community, Cornwall Church has long been in a position of influence to address the weighty matters that really matter to society, including mental health. Recognizing the massive need and the responsibility they have as salt and light, Cornwall Church recently welcomed a panel of three mental health professionals to their campus. During a seminar designed especially to inform and resource parents, Cornwall Church demonstrated once again that, among a cacophony of voices in the culture clamoring for attention and allegiance, they will not remain silent.
“We must address the difficult subjects because it is where people live,” Scott Moon, Next Gen pastor explains. If we are to care for our people well, we must help them grow in Christ and understand what Scripture says, in a loving way. If we refuse to talk about these realities of our world today, we declare that God doesn’t care about them or that he has nothing to say regarding them, which is a way of communicating that Christianity is an old-time, outdated religion of irrelevance to our world today.”
Scott adds that Cornwall Church strives to be a church like this and acknowledges that they have plenty to learn about how to do this more effectively. But they’re at least taking the first step, if not the first several steps, toward living out the timeless love of Christ in practical, tangible, and honest ways. Scripture does, after all, speak to these tough topics, and many more.
“In the last year or so, we became increasingly aware of how common anxiety and depression are becoming among young people,” Scott explains. “As parents are the primary influencers in their children’s lives, we wanted to offer an event where they could learn about the reality of young people’s experience, indicators of anxiety and depression, and some very practical skills for how to work with their children in and through these difficult realities.”
Scott further explains that, while the event was designed for parents of high school and middle school students, the material covered could benefit a wider audience. Following a brief introduction, each mental health professional spoke for roughly a half hour while approximately a hundred listeners gleaned helpful insights and jotted down on note cards any questions that came to mind. The question-and-answer time that followed turned out to be one of the most valuable parts of the program, which was well attended by not only parents, but also grandparents. Without question, the topic of anxiety and depression really hit a nerve.
“This is an extremely real and scary reality that effects more middle school and high school students than we know,” Scott reflects. “Anxiety and depression can cripple our young people and can lead them to isolate themselves from family and friends, believing they are the only ones experiencing what they are and, in turn, fear that others will not be sympathetic or understanding. In the church it can unfortunately be more common for people to put on a happy, ‘God-is-always-faithful’ face than risk by sharing their real struggles. If adults do that, how much more will teens fall prey?”
A few of Pastor Scott’s personal takeaways from the seminar are as follows:
• Acknowledge the hope we have in Jesus;
• Remember what your middle school/high school experience was like, including the joys, stressors, and struggles;
• Engage with your children regularly to enhance your relationship with them, as they will, in turn, be more likely to share vulnerable thoughts and feelings;
• Celebrate their successes;
• Let them know they can openly share what’s really going on in their lives;
• Seek to understand and love more than lecture; and
• When unsure what to do, admit this reality and seek outside help.
How might your church take steps this year to address anxiety and depression, or other tough topics? If you have an idea, or your church is already involved in similar ministry, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an e-mail to email@example.com.