LAKE FOREST, Calif. (Christian Examiner)—Saddleback Church says next week's second annual Gathering on Mental Health and the Church held on its Lake Forest, Calif., campus will provide practical training and take-away resources for church leaders and laymen who want to minister to mental health needs in their communities.
More than 50 leaders in medical, religious and governmental fields will share at the Oct. 7-9 conference, including the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, author Sheila Walsh and former congressman Patrick Kennedy.
"Studies show that many go when they're in a mental health crisis is to their priest or to their pastor because the heart of Jesus and the church has always been for those who suffer," said Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback pastor Rick Warren, in a video released prior to the gathering. "The gathering will provide intensive training for any faith community interested in forming a mental health ministry."
Saddleback has developed what the church calls "a sustainable Church-Initiated Mental Health Strategy" that can be built over time. To further aid churches in developing this ministry, Saddleback Resources will release a new resource, "Hope for Mental Health Starter Kit", at the conference.
The starter kit, priced at $69.99, will include training DVDs for pastors, sermons on the topic, testimonies, student ministry material, among other items. The kit is available for pre-order prior to the conference. Using the kit, Saddleback says churches can start a small mental health ministry and expand it through "crawl," "walk" and "run" steps.
The church also offers a free PDF resource guide to help individuals and families dealing with mental health issues. The resource guide includes a mental health overview, descriptions of a variety of mental health disorders, frequently asked questions and a listing of mental health resources such as important phone numbers, web links and Bible verses for encouragement.
"It's time to break the silence surrounding mental illness," said Kay, in a pre-conference press release. "It's time to embrace the millions of people who are suffering every day, and it's time to join together and create a pathway for hope."
Workshops during the next week's gathering will address topics like post-traumatic stress disorder, helping kids with mental health challenges, eating disorders, the role of faith communities in suicide prevention, among others.
The Warrens began The Gathering on Mental Health following the 2013 death of their youngest son, Matthew, who had struggled through mental illness for years prior to his suicide.
"I truly believe that God never wastes a hurt, and that one's greatest ministry often comes out of one's deepest pain," said Rick, in the press release. "When Kay and I began ministering to people with HIV and AIDS about a dozen years ago, I thought being HIV positive was the greatest taboo. But actually, I think mental illness is, and we want to remove the stigma."
For more information on the gathering, visit www.hope4mentalhealth.com. The starter kit can be pre-ordered at www.saddlebackresources.com/products/hope-for-mental-health-starter-kit.