Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Depression

Purechristianithink suggested the congregation might be depressed. I immediately thought, yes, that makes sense. I discussed it with a colleague at lunch and she agreed. So, now the question is, what does one do as pastor to a depressed congregation?

I know that with depressed people about the only thing you can do is pray. Until the person can understand what is going on and decide to get help, there is really little that can be done. So, I have decided to up my prayer time for them. And not try to push things or activities on them.

I know I can say to a depressed person, "get up, go outside and exercise and you will feel better." The person will say to me, "I just don't have the energy" and the person will know the truth of my statement and I know the truth of his/hers. I pray that God will help me find the words the say.

If any of y'all have suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

3 comments:

Songbird said...

Well, speaking as someone who had a severe period of depression ten years ago, I would say you don't tell them to walk, but you kindly invite them to walk with you. If they say no, walk anyway. (Literally or metaphorically!)
One thing that is true for systems as it is for individuals is that being in a tidy place helps, while being in a messy situation doesn't. For people with chronic depression, figuring out a way to help themselves by tidying or cleaning or organizing is advice that is hard to follow but invaluable to regaining health. Is there a particular place in the building that shows the depressed state more than another? See if it's possible to get it cleaned or sorted out. If that works, move on to the next place.
And if this is the final phase of accepting death, well, you'll see that in the inability to respond to the gentle invitation to live.

Purechristianithink said...

I think realizing that their low energy and generally crabbiness is not a sign of laziness or unfaithfulness is huge. Sometimes the opportunity for genuine lament is helpful. Instead of "Hey, this neighborhood has really changed. Let's start ten new programs to meet its' new needs!" a chance to share their grief at what they feel they lost when things changed. I think sometimes we ask congregations to suck it up and get with the program--but often they can't do that until they grieve for the past and all they loved about it. And the suppressed grief comes out as hostility and/or depression and resistance to change.

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