Donna grew up going to church. It is the place she finds companionship when she is lonely and the place where she can be with friends on the weekends. But mostly Donna loves going to Sunday school because there she is reminded of God’s love and keeps learning about Jesus. However, finding a church where she feels comfortable has sometimes been a challenge. Because she deals with mental health difficulties, it has been hard to “fit in.” But at Cliff Temple Baptist Church she’s found just the right class, one specially tailored for members of The Well Community.
The class, which started years ago, is lead by Warren Thrasher, a member of the church. He began teaching the class last year. “We pick a book of the Bible and read through the book as a group. Everyone loves to participate,” Thrasher said. Attendance ranges from four to eight people each week.
Thrasher leads the class in Scripture reading, testimony sharing and sometimes topic discussion of the sermon. Since the class is small, everyone knows everyone fairly well. “I feel a part of their lives. I know them personally and they know they can call on me during the week for anything,” Thrasher said as he reflected on his relationships with the members who attend on Sundays. “From being in class with them and hearing them talk about what we’re reading in the Bible, I know they all want to hear and know the Word of God.”
Charles L., a member of the class and of The Well Community, says he loves how Thrasher “ties the Bible passage in with our daily lives.” Through the class, Charles says he has learned “to have patience and not expect things to happen instantly. We have to have faith that things will happen according to the Lord.”
Participants don’t usually have their own Bible, so the church provides them with large-print Bibles on Sundays. “They show up wanting to read and even the ones that can’t read follow along and ask to interpret after we read a passage,” said Thrasher.
One of the things Charles J. and his wife Connie (others from The Well who attend the class) appreciate is how class members share their thoughts about the passage. “It’s easier to understand when you listen to other people’s point of view,” Charles explains. For example, he says he has learned from the story of the Prodigal Son that, “the father welcomes him back, even though he made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”
When addressing each other, class members call each other “brother” and “sister” in the spirit of being in community with each other. “They call me ‘Brother Warren’ when they walk in,” Thrasher explains. “My favorite part of all my interactions with them is when they open in prayer. I will ask one of them to lead, and they never refuse. It could be the simplest of prayers, and they are glad to do it.”
Fellowship and a sense of belonging are critical elements of good mental health. Churches can play a huge part in helping those who struggle with mental health challenges by opening their doors to them. Brent McDougal, pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist, said, “Don’t underestimate the power of community. Often, it’s community that someone with mental illness is lacking. People think they don’t have the expertise to help those dealing with mental illnesses, but you can be a friend.”
To learn more about how your church can support The Well Community and its members, contact Alice Zaccarello, Executive Director, at (214) 393-5878 ext. 604, or [email protected].
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about The Well, mental illnesses and the role of faith in recovery, as well as how you can make a difference in the lives of those who live with these conditions.