Article by Sarah Thompson, Director of Communications & Volunteer Mobilization
At some point in their lives, most people will experience a situation that is so distressing that they will struggle to effectively cope. In fact, research suggests that nearly 90% of the population will experience a trauma at some point in their life. And, many others harbor feelings of shame and are lacking the tools to process their emotions and heal in a healthy and powerful way.
Churches and ministry organizations are places where many seek refuge during times of crisis or trauma, or when they are facing other emotional, mental or relational struggles. Because they play an instrumental role in communicating messages of comfort and hope, and mobilizing and equipping people to offer support to others who are struggling, Christian leaders are in a position to help people cope with life’s challenges and heal from painful experiences.
And, Urban Alliance’s Charis initiative is working to do just that, by providing the tools and support needed for churches and ministry organizations to reach and serve people who are facing mental, emotional or relational struggles.
After participating in a recent Charis quarterly meeting and training facilitated by Urban Alliance on offering comfort, support and hope through times of crisis and trauma, Natalie Messerschmidt, director at Kainos Life Ministries, jumped at the chance to provide a workshop about healthy guidelines for ministry leaders and lay counselors in the areas of crisis and trauma, and another about healthy vulnerability.
During May and June of this year, backed by grant support, training and printed materials from Urban Alliance, Kainos provided two workshops, reaching 30 people.
The first focused on equipping ministry leaders.
“We are a networking, equipping ministry that provides services to leaders. We saw that leaders and pastors were not well equipped to handle situations of crisis and trauma, and recognized that many do not have training in the area of mental health,” explained Messerschmidt. “When leaders are properly equipped, they in turn provide healthy counsel to people who are struggling with a crisis or trauma. This helps those in crisis who come to them find the help they need. They find healing, breakthrough, safety and progress in their healing journey.”
During the three-hour workshop, leaders met and provided support to one another, and learned what each offered in terms of care, in order to provide sound referrals for people who are hurting. They increased their knowledge about crisis and trauma, and how to respond sensitively and effectively. Attendees were also provided with a reference book.
One leader shared that it was the best workshop they had attended, and many requested a follow up workshop.
Another shared, “The most valuable parts for me were the interactive parts, clear handouts and definitions, and a tool kit of practical steps to help others.”
The second workshop focused on helping people who were dealing with feelings of shame to experience vulnerability in a healthy, powerful manner.
“It was a safe environment to explore sensitive topics in a non-threatening manner,” shared Messerschmidt. “We adapted material that we gleaned from Charis and interwove it. We provided exercises that helped people with their unique situations. It helped others see that they are not alone and that we all deal with shame to some degree.”
The six-hour workshop helped attendees learn about healthy vulnerability, safe people, boundaries, and why vulnerability is beneficial to life and relationships. Those who attended also left with a book for digging deeper into the topic.
One workshop participant summarized their experience and echoed the feelings of many others who attended. “Everything was great. It was informative and healing.”
Kainos staff and volunteers regularly minister to people who are struggling with mental, emotional or relational issues, and the workshops were a steppingstone for healing and helping others to find hope, as Messerchmidt described. “The exercises brought awareness and healing. There were breakthroughs, understanding, normalizing the process, identifying and knowing how to proceed with issues, and opportunities to be a bridge to professional counseling.”
If your church or ministry organization would like more information about participating in Urban Alliance’s Charis initiative, contact Angela Colantonio at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.986.7328.
If you or someone you know is struggling, the Charis website (www.charisnetworkct.org) provides a simple way to connect with a variety of Christian emotional support service providers in Connecticut.
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