Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on Mental Health in Lockdown with Steve Midgley and Dan Steel.
1. We are living in a time of heightened anxiety. Anxiety for ourselves, our family, our loved ones, church and its future, our ministry, job security. The root of anxiety is that we are in a situation in which we are not in control and where there is a lack of certainty about the future.
2. Bible recognises that anxiety is part of life as a Christian in a fallen world. The answer to anxiety is faith. How do we deal with anxiety? Two comforting truth about God are that 1) His mighty hand and great power which raised Jesus from the dead can lift you up, maybe in this life but ultimately in eternity; 2) He cares for you and will carry your anxiety – we don’t need to take on burdens that are not ours to carry. Therefore, on a daily basis, we are to humble ourselves recognising our weakness and lack of power, and to cast our anxieties on Him.
3. It is not easy to know where the dividing line between mental health struggles and spiritual struggles is.
4. Why do we feel exhausted at the moment? It is not just screen fatigue. It is decision fatigue. We are having to make decisions in territory where we don’t have expertise and from an unstable foundation.
5. On Zoom we are more likely to make ‘declarations’ rather than ‘conversation’. We make statements but don’t do much asking. We need to ask and listen harder to people’s answers. Everyone’s experience of lockdown will be different.
6. One disadvantage of church meetings being online is that we’ve lost the conversations that would have happened with people who arrived early for or hang around after the physical gatherings. We need to find ways to do this.
7. Be alert to trouble. If there were issues or struggles in relationships between lockdown, they have probably got worse.
8. Some antidotes for anxiety from Luke 12:1-34: a) Don’t be functional orphans (v30); b) Recognise your inability (v26); c) Worry about some bigger problems (v20-21); d) Fear God first (v5). Put our concerns into different frames of reference.
9. Not everyone will thrive doing spiritual life without the structure of the church’s communal life.
10. Move towards those who have mental health diagnosis and ask how you can help and support them, like you would with others who have medical diagnosis.
11. “Heroism, servanthood and wisdom get muddled sometimes.”
12. Questions to ask yourself: “Where is your anxiety?” “Where is your trouble?” “What’s written between your lines?” “Who are you talking to?”
13. Survey of how we are doing as a pastoral community reveals that most people want to give up on ministry some of the time. This is a recognition that ministry is hard. The main reasons for this are the overbearing nature of the workload, criticism (sheep bite), family impact, issues with other leaders, difficult pastoral situations (or a combination of them).
14. Whilst a lot are coping with pressure of ministry in lockdown by opening up to others, through healthy habits (running, walking), increased prayer and seeking the Lord, there are some who are self-medicating (alcohol) or who are just keeping going!
15. Lots of people in ministry do not have sufficient support.
16. One thing to come out the survey was a recognised need for a change in culture among those in ministry. For more gracious, vulnerable, honest (mostly) local gatherings where we ‘support’ rather than ‘compete’.
17. Do something fun every day.