Praying through All the Seasons of Life | Influence Podcast

The Book of Psalms is the prayer book of the Church. It shows Christians all the ways to pray through all the seasons of life, the good and the bad, the high and the low. No wonder the New Testament quotes it more than any other Old Testament book!

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, Dr. George O. Wood–aka, Dad–explains how to read the Book of Psalms for preaching and pastoral ministry. Dr. Wood is chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, former general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA), and author of A Psalm in Your Heart.

P.S. This episode of the Influence Podcast is cross-posted from with permission.


Helping the Hurting During the Holidays | Influence Podcast

For most people, the Christmas holiday is a wonderful time of the year. Families come together to celebrate Christ’s birth and exchange gifts. Churches welcome one and all to worship Christ, the real Reason for the season. The words “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Holidays!” seem to be on everyone’s lips.

Not everyone is having a good time, though. It’s a myth that suicides increase at Christmastime. But it’s a very real fact that some people are sad and lonely during this season. As Christian leaders, how do we help the hurting during the holidays?

That’s the question I’m talking about with Dr. Don Lichi in Episode 162 of the Influence Podcast. Dr. Lichi is a licensed psychologist and interim president of Emerge Counseling Services in Akron, Ohio.


A Mental Health Inclusion Strategy for the Church | Influence Podcast

May is Mental Health Month. In today’s episode, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Dr. Stephen Grcevich about a mental health inclusion strategy for the local church.

Dr. Grcevich is founder and president of Key Ministry. He is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with over thirty years of clinical experience and extensive research experience evaluating medication prescribed to children and teens for mental health disorders. A past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, he is the author of Mental Health and the Church, published this year by Zondervan. (The link takes you to my review of the book.)

Mental Health and the Church | Book Review

In the spring of 1996, I entered an extended season of sadness. Not the kind of sadness where you wistfully wipe a tear from your eye with a Kleenex, by the way. It was the kind where you wake up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably for hours. The sadness lasted for months.

A licensed Christian counselor diagnosed me with clinical depression. Through prayer, Scripture, counseling and the help of family and friends, I made it through that awful season, one of the worst I have experienced in my life. One I don’t ever want to enter again.

The first time I mentioned this episode in a sermon, I was surprised by the grateful response I received from a few members of the congregation. Though their words varied, their responses repeated a theme: “I’m glad to know that I’m not the only Christian who struggles with this.” After that sermon, I began to reference my depression if it was appropriate to the content and context of my message. I want people in the Church who struggle with mental health to know they are not alone.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. Summarizing statistics about the incidence of mental illness among U.S. children and adults, Dr. Stephen Grcevich writes, “more than fifty million Americans today experience at least one diagnosable mental health disorder on any given day” (emphasis in original). These disorders can be episodic or persistent, and they can vary in intensity and effect. Many churches have begun excellent “special needs” and “disability” ministries, but these ministries tend to focus on obvious, physical problems. By contrast, mental health disorders are a “hidden disability.”

Mental health disorders keep people away from church, unfortunately. Grcevich writes: “Whether we realize it or not, our expectations at church for social interaction and conduct, when combined with the physical properties and functional demands of our ministry environments, represent significant barriers to church involvement for children and adults with common mental health conditions and for their families. Church can feel like hostile territory for families impacted by mental illness.” The twin goals of Mental Health and the Church are to identify those barriers and to outline a “mental health inclusion strategy” for overcoming them.

The barriers include stigma, anxiety, executive functioning, sensory processing, social communication, social isolation and negative experiences of church. Stigma arises because churches mistakenly interpret mental health disorders as moral disorders. A child with ADHD lacks self-control in certain environments, for example. Self-control is a moral virtue. Ergo, the child has a moral problem. Right?

It’s not that simple. An ADHD child can exercise some degree of self-control, but certain environments stimulate the child’s hyperactivity and inability to focus. Too often, churches blame the child, not realizing that the way the environment of the Sunday school classroom (brightly colored walls with lots of decorations) or the nature of the activities (hyperkinetic worship followed immediately by sitting and listening for long periods) can work against ADHD children’s ability to control themselves.

The next three barriers — anxiety and other mood disorders, executive functioning weaknesses, and sensory processing disorders — describe how mental illness itself creates barriers to participation in church activities. Consider sensory processing disorders. Today, many churches darken the auditorium and light up the stage for the song component of their Sunday service. They crank up the volume and often use flashing lights in a well-produced, high-energy set of worship music. Many people love this. People with sensory processing disorders don’t. It’s overstimulating and distracting. Indeed, it literally can be painful to them.

The final three barriers pertain to the barriers that result from the clash between the first four barriers and church participation. People with mental health disorders find it difficult to communicate in what most of us take to be a normal church situation. They became socially isolated. And because churches don’t always treat people with mental health disorders well — including children — they and their families develop a bank of negative church experiences.

Grcevich believes churches can and must do better at ministry to people with mental health disorders. For each of the seven barriers just identified, he proposes a strategy for overcoming it. “Mental health inclusion is best understood as a mind-set for doing ministry rather than a ‘program’ for ministry,” he writes. He uses the acronym TEACHER to outline that strategy:

T: Assemble your inclusion TEAM.
E: Create welcoming ministry ENVIRONMENTS.
A: Focus on ministry ACTIVITIES most essential for spiritual growth.
C: COMMUNICATE effectively.
H: HELP families with their most heartfelt needs.
E: Offer EDUCATION and support.
R: Empower your people to assume RESPONSIBILITY for ministry.

Grcevich provides helpful suggestions and examples under each of these seven headings, but for purposes of this review, I think it will suffice simply to name the elements of the strategy.

Too many people in America suffer mental illness silently and alone. The church, an institution founded on the good news of Jesus Christ, should be a place of hope and help for them. Mental Health and the Church is an excellent resource for pastors and other church leaders, showing them how to do this. It is based on sound conservative theology, but it also is attuned to the best in contemporary, evidence-based psychology. I recommend it enthusiastically.

Book Reviewed
Stephen Grcevich, M.D., Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).

P.S. This review is cross-posted with permission from

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

Monday’s Influence Magazine Articles

Today, over at

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

#InfluencePodcast with George O. Wood about Mental Health and Ministry

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so to kick off this month’s Influence Podcast episodes, I interviewed Dr. George O. Wood–aka, “Dad”–general superintendent of the Assemblies of God and chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship. He has an interesting personal story to tell about depression, which he also shared in an article for “Crossing a Deep River.” Listen to the podcast, and read the article! Good stuff.