Last night, we had our family portrait taken for our church’s directory. As we sat on the stools in our color-coordinated attire, surrounded by photos of other families in their sweaters and suit coats, I realized how deceiving this directory might be. I think it can be all too easy to hide real-life issues behind things like smiles and glamour shots, our talents and knowing the words to worship songs. I am grateful for my pastors, who are not afraid to talk about abuse, anxiety, sex trafficking, and other real-life issues from the pulpit, but I know there is room for more of these conversations in every congregation. We can spend so much time pouring energy into looking the way a church directory family should look that we miss out on checking our hearts and keeping them oriented toward Him. I’m not suggesting that we scrap church directories (they are very helpful for learning about the congregation, learning names of new folks, and finding out where to deliver casseroles). But I do feel like there should be a disclaimer– “Every single family pictured in this directory is imperfect. They might yell at each other, drive aggressively, deal with an illness you can’t see, or have a struggle you don’t know about. Each person pictured needs the same amount of Jesus and His grace.”
And then I was reminded that I’m not alone in that desire for authenticity.
Earlier this month, North Park Church graciously invited me to serve as the keynote speaker for their 2015 Women’s Retreat. I treasured spending part of the day with the scores of women who are eager to experience trust, transparency, and truth. The topic they had planned was “Staying Safe in the Storms of Life,” and I love how beautifully they started some mental health conversations, especially in their small groups. I’d like to highlight a few things that I think we can all take away from their retreat:
So what’s next? I hope to see similar conversations pop up in churches all over our area: women’s retreats, men’s retreats, youth retreats, Sunday schools, sermons, seminars. My goal is that we start these conversations and that they never end. May our churches be so filled with love and grace that people do not feel shunned or marginalized for not being “normal” enough. Perhaps we will create mental health prayer walls and ministries to meet the emotional needs of our congregations. Ultimately, I hope people will receive the quality mental health care they need and deserve without fear of stigma or rejection, especially in their churches.
If you would like to meet with me and discuss how I could bring similar discussions to your church, you can start now by contacting me here.