Church Life Skills Project

Introduction

We have run the ‘Church Life Skills Project’ since 2012 generously supported by The Jerusalem Trust. The aim is to improve the health and well-being of clergy. As such CPT have developed a programme of support for ordained clergy, youth workers, family and marriage ministers.

 

Project Overview

With the backing of The Jerusalem Trust, we are able to provide the following:

  • Accredited training courses

CPT offers pastoral training that adheres to rigorous standards of excellence, including education and clinical training, professional certification and licensure.

This includes the well-received “Church Life Skills” workshop.

  • A specialist counselling care programme

We provide specialised counselling to ordained clergy, ordained ministers, church leaders and their families. This is to help reduce the risk of burn-out, anxiety, depression and stresses that arise from the emotional demand that is often placed on clergy.

We recognise how important it is to have the family unit working well as it can be a major source of support. Therefore, we provide both couple and family counselling to church leaders, giving them the opportunity to address issues and change unhelpful and potentially destructive behaviour patterns in a professional setting with boundaries and confidentiality.

  • A centre of clinical excellence for referrals

In liaison with churches, we manage ‘hard-to-treat’ cases alongside spearheading training for pastoral teams to adopt effective treatment for church members with recurrent issues of anxiety, depression, addiction and relationship issues.

  • Ongoing Supervision

Supervision supports the capability and integrity of pastoral work in churches. It provides a forum to consider and hold the tensions that emerge in helping relationships. It is invaluable to church leaders as it helps creates watchfulness and confidence while allowing them to measure the impact of their work on their own lives.

  • A local support site in the City of London

CPT has setup a central London site with opening times and a venue to serve the City of London and the surrounding clergy and churches. This is in addition to its site in Fulham Palace.

 

Outcomes

The project has been very successful. Not only have we been able to provide ongoing professional support and consultation to enable clergy to become more skilful in helping people and reducing the risk of burnout, we have also seen a reduction in depression and anxiety in the leaders we support.

More than 120 church leaders have received specialized counselling support and a further 280 have attended workshops and trainings.

 

Reduction in depression within 6 months

Where depression was treated, measurements of the severity of depression in 82% of clergy were reduced from moderate or severe to ‘mild’ in six months. Five church leaders who had been unable to work because of depression are recovering and engaged in ministry one again. The Becks Depression Inventory was used to evaluate those suffering symptoms which include irritability, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate and make decisions, disinterest in activities and persistent low mood.

 

Reduction in anxiety within 6 weeks

We found that almost all of the church leaders were also suffering from anxiety when applying the Burns Anxiety Inventory. These feelings included for example, ‘a sense of impending doom’, fear of being left or humiliated, sudden panic, weakness and muscle constriction.

We noted that a number of the church leaders reported feeling very isolated. The therapeutic support and work we have been able to offer them has interrupted entrenched avoidance and over compensating behaviour and enabled them to start healthier connection-seeking behaviour.

 

Testimonials from Clergy who have received counselling or training at CPT:

“…I am responsible for Pastoral Care at ____ Church in London with a congregation of 10000 people. The training I have had at CPT in the past 3 years…has been both rewarding and challenging. I have been able to pass on to my Pastoral Care team the skills I have learnt, which has equipped them to support many people in our congregation. The high level of training has been invaluable for me as a Pastor in understanding why people think and act the way they do.”

 

“…we talk more openly (at home) and I am increasingly able to listen to a challenge from my daughters without reacting with fierceness. I am becoming less critical of people and am more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to others in leadership. … I have found CPT to be the best means of renewing my mind which Scripture teaches.”

 

“As a leader in a large evangelical church, I am frequently faced with complex pastoral issues. I have been able to walk through to the other side of impulsivity, low self-worth and loneliness because of your friendship, delivered through a safe and professional, therapeutic environment at CPT.”

 

“CPT has helped our family to be able to see what is spiritual and what is emotional; to understand how our behaviour is affected by the way we think and what we are feeling; …to be honest as well as ‘truthful’ it has saved my marriage… and kept us from falling apart as a family.”

 

“I wanted to write to acknowledge my immense gratitude for the gift of a bursary for counselling support by which I was able to see Dr. Agnes Sullivan at the Counselling Pastoral Trust. The therapy and counsel were a great support at a very difficult time in my life. I am grateful to Dr. Sullivan for all her insight and care. Please pass on my thanks to the trustees of the Jerusalem Trust who made this possible. I am very grateful for such kindness.”