When a church champions vulnerability and establishes safety within its walls, especially for those who are suffering, the power of God is healing. The following works offer hope that faith communities will be the first places people think of when they need a sense of safety and belonging.
In 2012, Steve Austin, then a pastor, nearly died by suicide. His experience launched him on a journey that opened his eyes to the widespread problem of mental illness and how those who live with it are often treated in congregations. He began to wonder: if church folks had talked openly about mental health, therapy, suicide prevention, recovery from abuse, and other difficult issues, would that have changed his story?
In Hiding in the Pews, people with mental illness—some of whom might be pastors themselves—will find comfort as they learn they are not alone. Those who know someone with mental illness will gain wisdom about how to be a safe presence. Those who hold the most power in church communities—pastors, board members, and lay leaders—will be challenged and equipped to transform their congregations into places of healing, where it is safe for people to be vulnerable about their suffering.
Austin draws on his own experience, as well as on interviews with eighty current and former church leaders and members. Each chapter covers a topic or theme about mental illness and the church and includes practical applications to guide leaders on a journey toward transforming church culture.
When a church champions vulnerability and establishes safety within its walls, especially for those who are suffering, the loving power of God heals. Austin offers hope that faith communities will be the first places people think of when they need a sense of safety and belonging.
Steve Austin was a writer, coach, podcaster, and former pastor. With sadness we report that Austin died by suicide in 2021 after a long struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Before his death, he became a leading voice at the intersection of faith and mental health and his legacy as an advocate lives on in Hiding in the Pews.
Clergy are more likely than ever to be called on to respond to community trauma, sitting alongside trauma survivors after natural disasters, racial violence, and difficult losses. In Trauma-Informed Pastoral Care: How to Respond When Things Fall Apart, pastoral psychologist Karen A. McClintock calls clergy to learn and practice "trauma-informed care" so they can respond with competence and confidence when life becomes overwhelming.
Weaving together the latest insights about trauma-informed care from the rapidly shifting disciplines of neuropsychology, counseling, and theology, she explains the body's instinctual stress patterns during and after trauma, guides readers through self-reflection and self-regulation in order to care for others and lower the risk of obtaining secondary trauma, and suggests culturally sensitive models for healing from overwhelming experiences.
McClintock particularly attends to the fact that across a lifetime in ministry, clergy accumulate and need to regularly heal multiple traumatic wounds. As a pastor and psychologist, she is perfectly positioned to help clergy recognize symptoms of trauma and commit to healing individual, community, and generational trauma with care and cultural sensitivity.
Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook and Karen B. Montagno
Pastoral care is often focused on individual problems, but much of what harms and impedes us stems from the larger social maladies at work in our lives. This unprecedented gathering of two dozen essays discusses the realities of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, and classism prevalent within the church and society in an effort to broaden and inform pastoral caregivers with the knowledge and the skills needed to respond effectively to oppressed and marginalized persons. The volumes also help pastors to reflect on the ways their own social location has an impact on their ministries and to gain familiarity with resources available to support pastoral caregivers in a variety of contexts.
Suzanne M. Coyle
All cultures use story as a way to make sense of life experiences. Yet for many, particularly in the western world, only a single story line is seen as the “real truth.” Using narrative therapy as a caregiving approach can help individuals uncover multilayered narratives that are far more complex and liberating. Coyle contends that not only are these more complex narratives more helpful in giving our lives meaning, they also critique the cultural discourses in which they arose.
Drawing on both theological approaches and real life experiences, Coyle creates a contextual pastoral theology that helps caregivers find the power of God in people’s stories.
Lynne M. Baab
Christian pastoral care has changed a great deal in the past few decades in response to many factors in our rapidly changing world. In part 1 of Nurturing Hope, Lynne Baab discusses seven trends in pastoral care—shifts in who delivers pastoral care, the attitudes and commitments that undergird pastoral care, and societal trends that are shaping pastoral care today. She illustrates them with stories from diverse congregations where Christian caregivers are meeting those challenges in creative and exciting ways.
In the second half of the book, Baab presents four practical, doable, energizing skills needed by pastoral carers in our time. Focusing on skills that help carers nurture connections between everyday life and Christian faith, she explores the need for carers to understand common stressors, listen, pray with others, and nurture their personal resilience.
Grounded in an understanding of God as the true caregiver and healer, the author offers tips for readers who are training other pastoral carers or developing their own understanding and skills. Each chapter ends with discussion and reflection questions, making the book helpful for groups.
Lynne Baab brings readers hope for their caring role and for their own spiritual journey.
Elizabeth L. Hinson-Hasty
Elizabeth L. Hinson-Hasty pursues places where care for people with serious mental illness and their families is unraveled in the United States. She picks up threads of empowerment from the Christian tradition to address the distinctive circumstances of individuals and families affected by mental illness, and draws upon her own experiences as the sibling of someone with serious mental illness (SMI). As a scholar of theology and Christian ethics, the author challenges the traditional theological explanations of disability and madness and the public policies that try to fit people with SMI into boxes and checklists made for those with minds and bodies society values as ideal.
Dutiful Love explores the distinctive relationship between self-sacrificial love and caregiving when that duty to care extends over the course of an entire lifetime because of social limitations placed upon people with mental illness. Hinson-Hasty investigates how the Christian theological tradition shapes our Western understanding of normal and abnormal minds and bodies. This approach to mental and physical impairment associates healing with curing but neglects the empowerment thread that is part of the gospel narrative. The author encourages caregivers (whether professionals, friends, or families) to think about the concept of self-giving as an alternative to self-sacrifice. In the context of families impacted by mental illness or degenerative disease, healing is more synonymous with presence. Intentional presence involves self-giving, listening, contemplation, prophetic truth-telling, and walking with another so that isolation, stigma, and shame no longer define the social realities of people with mental illness, their siblings, or their larger families.
The book includes discussion questions, making it an ideal resource for individual reflection, church study groups, and college, seminary, and university classrooms.
Find more Pastoral Care Resources here.