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How Do We Foster Mental Wellness Among Christian Leaders? Part 2

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People have been made to feel guilty about their illness Share on X

In talking to people at the various meetings and workshops that I have attended, I have heard that some people have left their church because of the way that they or a family member were treated after it was discovered that they had a mental or emotional disturbance. Also, people have been made to feel guilty about their illness in a way that would not be done if they had a physical ailment.

Some have turned away from the church

Some have turned away from the church because they have been told that their mental illness is a result of lack of faith, a sinful nature, or not enough prayer. Of course, not all churches respond this way when someone has a need of assistance with a mental or emotional struggle, but I am finding that it has happened often enough that all of us must come up with ways to help health providers and faith leaders rethink how we can work together to form a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual network that can support those who, for whatever reason, are not getting the assistance that they need from either sector.

To be successful in helping others, Christian Leaders should first examine themselves

To be successful in helping others, Christian Leaders should first examine themselves and uncover their true feelings about mental health, as it applies to themselves, and others. Any prejudices, stigmas, or misconceptions must be acknowledged, studied and weighed in an honest and nonjudgmental manner. This self-assessment could serve as a first step for each leader to determine what next steps should be taken to ensure that the mental health of his congregation is not dismissed, overlooked, or mishandled.

The Bible has well over thirty verses that refer specifically to the mind Share on X

The Bible has well over thirty verses that refer specifically to the mind. In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul uses an analogy of the physical body to get them to see how important each of them is to the formation of the body of Christ. [1] It would be presumptuous for a pastor to automatically deny that it might be possible that he has need of a “mental checkup.” The mind is a vital part of the body, and the care of it should not be treated any differently than the care of any other part of the body.

In The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Peter Scazzero devotes an entire chapter to “The Emotionally Unhealthy Leader.” Scazzero provides a checklist of statements with a rating scale entitled How Healthy Is Your Leadership?  The first statement on the list reads, “I take sufficient time to experience and process difficult emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness.” [2]

Why do we persist in unhealthy patterns? Share on X

Scazzero goes on to state, “If we can agree that the long-term consequences of unhealthy leadership are a threat to the health and effectiveness of the church, the question we have to ask ourselves is, Why do we persist in unhealthy patterns?[3] A healthy congregation requires healthy leadership, and the stigma of mental illness within the church community cannot be eliminated if it is not acknowledged, addressed, examined, and openly discussed.

Within the Church of God (Seventh Day), “Pastor” is not merely a title

Within the Church of God (Seventh Day), “Pastor” is not merely a title. It is an ordained calling that takes on the responsibility for an entire congregation of people, affecting not just those immediate members, but also the surrounding communities and the entire General Conference. Just as the charge that Jesus made was not solely for His original disciples, “…go and make disciples of all nations…” [4], the warnings of God that Jeremiah brought to the leaders in Judah can be applied to our leaders today, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!”…”I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing…”.[5]

Being good stewards of such an enormous trust can be gratifying. It can also be stressful, time-consuming, and at times, overwhelming. All of this is in addition to, for some, obligation to family, duty to an outside job, and continual education, seminars and conferences.

There is constant pressure on pastors to be strong in faith and “perfect” in conduct

There is constant pressure on pastors to be strong in faith and “perfect” in conduct. If not mindful, pastors can be subject to burnout. They can suffer from depression, and succumb to worldly temptations, including addictions and infidelity. The moods and behaviors of the pastor can influence other leaders and the entire congregation. A healthy church cannot thrive under unhealthy leadership.

It is not easy to admit to being weak, ill, or vulnerable. This is especially true for those who are in a leadership position. As stated earlier, to some, this is seen as a lack of faith. However, all of us within the conference are striving towards the goal of building the foundation for a Vibrant 21st-Century Church of God (Seventh Day). It is imperative that we end the stigma of “mental illness.” Let us take the necessary measures to ensure that our congregations are spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally healthy; it starts with the leaders.

Watch for Part 3 coming soon!

Still have questions about how you fit into Christian leadership? Check out these resources:

Want to dive even deeper into discovering your vocation? Download our free guide to Discovering Your Leadership Strengths and consider taking Artios Christian College’s five-week introductory course, Essentials of Vibrant Leadership (LEA 111).


[1] 1 Cor. 12:12-27 (NIV)

[2] Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 34-35.

[3] Ibid. 33

[4] Matt. 28:16-20 (NIV)

[5] Jer. 23:1-4 (NIV)


Boa, Kenneth. Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Spiritual Growth. Grand Rapids,

MI: Zondervan, 1997

Rose, Whaid. Dream in Progress: The Vision of a Vibrant 21st Church of God (Seventh Day).

General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day), 2011

Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Leader. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015

Smientana, Bob. “Mental Illness Remains Taboo Topic for Many Pastors”. LifeWay Research.

September 22, 2014. June 12, 2019.

Jacquelyn Scott

Jacquelyn E. Scott was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and now lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She attends the Church of God (7th day)/Lafayette Street, serving as a board member, treasurer, and legal representative. She has 3 grown children and 15 grandchildren, including 3 foreign-exchange students. She is recently retired from a receptionist job and is a volunteer with the American Cancer Society on the ‘Relay for Life’ leadership team, and as a Cancer Action Network area representative, advocating for legislation that will help those fighting cancer. She also volunteers as a certified, small-group facilitator for Living Free Recovery, sponsored by Connection Points Ministry. She received an Associate of Science in Human Services from Ivy Tech in 2011 and earned a certificate in Christian Leadership from Artios Christian College in 2017 and is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in that field. As a result of an online discussion during the ‘Church and Mental Health’ semester of her studies, Jacquelyn has started an initiative, Healthy Minds=Healthy Churches, to facilitate the coming together of mental-health providers and churches to work together to help end the stigma of mental illness, and to promote mental, emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual wellness in her local community.