The Mental Health Ministry of the Local Church

by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr.

Howard J. Clinebell, Jr. Is Professor of Pastoral Counseling at the School of Theology at Claremont, California (1977). He is a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He is a licensed marriage, child and family counselor in the State of California. His personal website is, and his email address is

Originally published as Mental Health Through Christian Community Copyright © 1965,1972 by Abingdon Press Apex Edition published 1972. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) Mental health is a central and inescapable concern for any local church that is a healing-redemptive fellowship. A local church today has an unprecedented opportunity to multiply its contributions to both the prevention and the therapeutic dimensions of mental health. A church can seize this opportunity most effectively by allowing mental health to become a leavening concern, permeating all areas of its life.


  • Introduction by James A. Knight, M.D.

    The contemporary mental health thrust in the churches, while having the advantage of new insights from the sciences of man and new helping techniques from the psychotherapeutic disciplines, is essentially the same concern for the healing and growth of persons as was found in the ministry of Jesus and throughout the church’s history.

  • Chapter 1: The Mental Health Mission of the Local Church

    The inspiration, fellowship, and sense of belonging which come from involvement in the life of a church where people are “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5) is an important source of psychological nourishment.

  • Chapter 2: The Christian Message and Mental Health

    A particular form of religious belief and practice enhances mental health when it builds bridges between people, strengthens the sense of trust, stimulates inner freedom, encourages the acceptance of reality, builds respect for both the emotional and intellectual levels of life, increases the enjoyment of life, handles sex and aggressiveness constructively, is concerned for the health of personality (rather than surface symptoms), provides effective means of handling guilt, emphasizes growth and love, provides an adequate frame of reference and object of devotion, relates persons with their unconscious minds, endeavors to change the neurotic patterns of society, and enhances self-esteem.

  • Chapter 3: The Worship Service and Mental Health

    It has been shown that corporate worship contributes to positive mental health to the degree that it helps the individual experience a sense of belonging, personal integration, diminishing of his guilt and narcissism, re-establishment of a sense of trust, worthy self-investment, and strength for handling his problems constructively. Clinebell recommends that those who are responsible for planning worship services, test their services against these potential contributions to personality growth and health.

  • Chapter 4: Preaching and Mental Health

    It is imperative that a congregation feel that their minister is highly approachable for individual counseling. His availability for counseling should be publicized regularly in the church bulletin. In addition, he should let it be known that he welcomes the opportunity to talk individually with anyone who wishes to discuss any issue raised by his sermons.

  • Chapter 5: The Prophetic Ministry and Mental Health

    There are at least four channels through which the prophetic ministry can be implemented: (a) prophetic preaching, (b) study-discussion groups (and other educational programs), (c) social action groups, and (d) action by individual members through community social action projects. These four methods can be applied effectively to the many social problems which plague local, national, and world communities.

  • Chapter 6: The Church School’s Contribution to Mental Health

    The primary responsibility for transmitting the religious and ethical dimension of this heritage rests with the parents of these children and with the education programs of churches and synagogues.

  • Chapter 7: Mental Health and the Group Life of the Church

    The possibilities of using modified therapy groups constructively in the church program are almost unlimited. Such groups are particularly helpful for those facing a common crisis or period of stress.

  • Chapter 8: Creative Church Administration and Mental Health

    The renewal and growth which occurs within its fabric of relationships is clear evidence that that church is, in fact, a part of the Body of Christ, ministering to lonely, troubled persons at their point of greatest need. Creative church administration by ministers and laymen can help to provide such an organism through which the Spirit can be expressed in the world.

  • Chapter 9: Fostering Mental Health by Strengthening Family Life

    The awareness that a family, in all its creative experiences, is organically related to the creative forces of the universe is a moving religious experience. There is a security which comes to a person with this awareness of the way in which the person-regarding values in the family are supported by values in the universe, giving ultimate meaning to family life.

  • Chapter 10: Pastoral Counseling and Mental Health

    An oft-quoted study of a cross-section of the American adult population revealed that one out of every seven Americans has sought professional help with a personal problem. Of these, forty-two percent went to clergymen, twenty-nine percent went to family doctors, eighteen percent to psychiatrists and psychologists, and ten percent to a special agency or clinic. Ministers are on the front lines in the efforts to help the burdened and the troubled.

  • Chapter 11: Helping the Mentally Ill and Their Families

    The minister will draw on all of his resources of empathy, interpersonal sensitivity, and compassion for those caught in the tentacles of an excruciating problem, but he should not attempt to diagnose the specific nature of the difficulty. This is the psychiatrist’s area of competence and responsibility.

  • Chapter 12: Minister and Laymen Work Together for Mental Health

    A deep-level cure for the "spectator-itis" of laymen and the one-man-show orientation of ministers seems to be emerging in the "lay renaissance" — a contemporary movement of profound significance for the mental health mission of our churches. This grassroots movement is growing spontaneously, on many fronts, with the rediscovery of the New Testament truth that every Christian has a ministry simply because he is a Christian.