The show today is a flashback to one of the sessions in our 2022 church Mental health summit with Avrey Royal.
Avery has worked in ministry for over a decade but found that although many churches desire to serve their community and meet their needs, there is a gap in the support offered by the church. In response, Avrey developed Sacred Roots with the desire to educate and equip churches with the tools they need to provide the appropriate levels of care to their employees, communities, and congregations.
I was so honored to have Avrey join the Church Mental health Summit and speak about grief and loss.
Despite the holidays being an exciting time to gather and for parties, it can be a tough time for those who have lost a loved one. And churches are beginning to recognize this and I’m seeing more congregations have services on grief, and creating space for lamenting around the holidays.
Last year was the first time I heard of a blue Christmas service and in episode 11 we had Kari Bartkus share about the power of standing with people who are suffering. And she offered a free downloadable Blue Christmas planning guide. It’s super valuable your going to want to check it out at hopemadestrong.org/episode11.
So when I was looking at what summit session I wanted to share during December Avrey’s presentation on How to Create Sacred Spaces for your Church stood out.
For churches with limited resources, it can be difficult to tend to the needs of those suffering while at the same time celebrating the birth of Jesus. Plus there is often some sort of community outreach happening during the holidays.
You feel stretched beyond capacity or that you are wearing many different hats with each conversation you have. Announcements can be overwhelming, from encouraging people to come to the children’s concert, donating to the food bank, inviting your neighbor to the Christmas Eve service, and then acknowledging those who have lost a loved one.
It can be tricky to do all of those things however in Avery’s talk, she takes supporting grief as a loss outside of the box and encourages us to view supporting those who are suffering as part of the role of the church.
I love how she takes scripture to offer context in around grief and loss and shares her own experience of seeking support from her church when she was experiencing tremendous grief.
WHAT THE WORD SAYS ABOUT GRIEF
Avery mentions that the Bible highlights grief and she shares from Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men, and the living should take this to heart.”
The word is clear that death will happen to everyone however what is not certain is the time it will occur. Frustration comes along when Christians believe that death happens when one has lived a fulfilled life at a certain age. This is not the case and sometimes reconciling the reality of death with one’s thoughts can be difficult.
Also because we are now aware that death has to happen, we are implored to take this to heart meaning we should shape the way we live.
Understanding that we cannot run away from grief should lead us to inform our life for instance most times when we lose a loved one, we find ourselves being critical about how we take care of our bodies. This is what grief does to us, it alters our thought process and pushes us to make changes.
Much as the topic of death and grief happens around us we tend to be numb about it because of improved healthcare and technology that has given us hope of living longer.
As we set up protective barriers, to help us not feel so much that we are not shaped, our minds don’t gain wisdom and our lives are not changed because we miss out on the impact death can bring from a personal and world view.
Matthew 5:4 is another scripture that spotlights death and grief. It says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”
In Greek, this scripture is written as The Blessed mourn and are being comforted. This gives us more context into the English version as it means that you are not blessed because you mourn but rather the blessed ones are guaranteed to suffer however they are being comforted by God and the Body of Christ.
WHY DOES GOD ASK US TO BE PRESENT WITH OUR GRIEF AND WITH ONE ANOTHER?
The body of Christ undergoes suffering and we see during his crucifixion that Jesus was grieving for the suffering he was supposed to endure yet the disciples were a stone’s throw away.
This is proof that we need support when we are grieving. It is important to be with people in grief not failing to be present like the disciples.
God is confident in us offering comfort to one another like Jesus was for us.
The temptation of our human experience is that we can easily walk away from the pain yet we need support from the body of Christ.
Regardless of how far we run away from grief and suffering, they are part of God’s bigger story.
Therefore we should have a communal heart for one another because we are people of God and if one part suffers every other part suffers as well.
THREE THINGS WE CAN DO TO HELP PEOPLE GRIEVING
1. Create a shared language of grief and suffering
What you say to people who are grieving is very critical during times of loss. Avery says when she lost her son to a miscarriage, she went to the church hoping they would help comfort her but they did not know what to do.
These scenarios are common and the church should be able to acknowledge one’s grief and offer tools like journaling where people write and share their stories. This will gradually improve how they feel.
2. Create a community large enough to hold suffering
Build support groups and community partners who will come in handy when loss happens and a member of the community is in grief.
This is not limited to the care ministry and Pastors because the whole body of Christ has to participate in helping the each other grow in strength.
3. Create a team of fast responders
These are people who are trained and equipped to walk people through the first moments of grief and suffering.
Let us learn to educate and build ourselves so we can support one another for we are the body of Christ. Start by committing to one thing today and navigate grief.
CONNECT WITH AVERY ROYAL
CONNECT WITH HOPE MADE STRONG
Join the Church Mental Health Facebook Group! In the Facebook group, we chat about how to care for others, and what are your challenges as well as share tons of resources. This is a great community of pastors, clinicians, and those with lived experience and we want to get to know you.