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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Pastors face more counseling demands

By Katy Attanasi (6/20/04)

As awareness over mental health issues grows, many churches and pastors are working together with mental health professionals to address a growing demand among people in the pews.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 18 million Americans suffer from depression, nearly one in 10 adults. The number of people reporting depression tripled in a 10-year span ending in 1997.

In addressing mental health concerns, pastors are often on the first line of defense.

“The majority of people are much more likely to talk with their pastor than with a psychologist,” says Lee Wetherbee, director of clinical services at EMERGE, a mental health ministry in Akron, Ohio, affiliated with the Assemblies of God. “Pastors are expected to fulfill many more roles than what they used to.”

The demands can be draining. “I recommend for their own spiritual and mental health that pastors have a network of counseling professionals they can count on either to seek support from or to refer people who have more severe clinical needs than they are equipped to handle,” Wetherbee says.

As a result of one such referral network, after 25 years of pastoral ministry, David Welle, pastor at Calvary Assembly in Willoughby Hills, Ohio, does less counseling now than he did when he first started ministry. “My job is to do crisis intervention and initial counseling,” he says. “People feel free to come to me to get them started on counseling, but I explain to them that I am not a professional counselor but a pastor. They can access long-term counseling with a Christian counselor or find personal support and encouragement through developing ongoing accountable relationships with mature Christians.”

Welle frequently refers individuals to the private practices of Christian counselors, one of whom holds office hours at the church. Calvary Assembly subsidizes part of the cost of counseling sessions when necessary.

Praise Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo., has confronted the growing demand for pastoral care and counseling by founding Safe Harbor Counseling Center. Started three years ago, the center now facilitates 250 patient hours a month. The ratio of unchurched to churched patients is four to one.

David W. Johns, director of Safe Harbor Counseling Center, sees a spirit of teamwork growing among pastors and counselors.

“The demand on pastors is overwhelming,” he says. “We need to develop a feeling of cooperation rather than competition. When we do that, we realize that helping and restoring people is our common purpose.”

Melody Palm, assistant professor of psychology and counseling at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo., says the restoration takes time.

“God does instantaneously heal and we rejoice in those miracles, but more often than not it’s a process of healing and working through the issues that may be contributing to or actually causing the depression,” she says. “Prayer is one avenue by which to fight depression, just as we would use that avenue to fight any disease or sickness. However, as God has called us to be stewards of our bodies and minds, we are to pursue all avenues that can help us get well, spiritually, biologically and psychologically.”


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