We live in a completely disconnected world. Sarah Braun

Working with youth and young kids is a huge privilege as well as an increasingly challenging task. Pastors and children’s ministry leaders have a lot on their plates these days, and many feel ill-equipped to effectively address the needs of the young people they minister to, particularly in the area of mental health.

Mental health challenges affect everyone, and young people are hardly exempt. According to Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

  • 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.1
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.2

“There are so many issues that we are facing in the church,” says Sarah Braun, the Children’s and Junior Youth Director at The Rock Church in Saskatoon. “Division, pride, greed, secret sin… but one of the biggest issues that we see today is the issue of mental health. The children and youth that I work with are growing up in a world full of pressure to be something or someone opposite of who they are. They lack human connection and live their lives out as a false identity on the internet. Children and youth are losing their innocence from the pressure of the world around them. The world sells us false hope and promises that if you have the right things or look the right way, you mean something.”

“We live in a world that is extremely connected through the power of social media, yet we are completely disconnected.”

– Sarah Braun, Children’s and Junior Youth Director, The Rock Church, Saskatoon, SK

Photo by Zika Radosavljevic on Unsplash
“These are the pressures that our kids face,” says Braun, “but also most people in the church. The church needs to be a place of vulnerability where people can come in their brokenness and build authentic relationships with others. We need to embrace each other with love and understanding, no matter where people are at. We must get rid of the stigma around mental illness. We need to break the silence that has kept this problem in the dark. The church needs to take action in this critical time.”

In meeting with pastors and Christian leaders, Dr. Jeromey Martini, president at Horizon, says that “they repeatedly share the burden that they are more and more often called on to give mental health counsel, but they just don’t feel confident or prepared to do it well. We deeply feel this burden.”

Horizon’s mission is to prepare competent Christian leaders. A new seminary degree program aims to do just that: to prepare pastors and Christian leaders to give confident, competent mental health counsel to those in their care. This is not a burden they ought to bear alone.

Curated by Heather Tomes, M.Ed., R. Psych. (APE) #772, The Master of Arts in Pastoral Counselling offers counselling courses and practicums alongside biblical and theological studies. The degree equips ministry leaders to serve as counsellors in different ministry-based settings: local church, chaplaincy, or non-profit organizations.

More About the Program

This program is designed for pastors, church leaders, or for people who want to make a difference in the field of Christian counselling or chaplaincy.

More About the Program

“We need to embrace each other with love and understanding, no matter where people are at. We must get rid of the stigma around mental illness.”

Jayna Snider

Jayna is the Communications Coordinator for Horizon College & Seminary

1 Government of Canada (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

2 Pearson, Janz and Ali (2013). Health at a glance: Mental and substance use disorders in Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.

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