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Community’s Effect on Mental, Spiritual and Emotional Health

 Emily Gehman (’12)

Since the pandemic started, lockdowns and quarantines have kept many from normal human interaction, like going to workplaces, gathering with family and at times even going to church. Studies have shown it has taken a toll on mental, spiritual and emotional health. Why?

“Community is really in our DNA,” said Ted Boykin, Clarks Summit University’s vice president of student development. He says this time of isolation around the globe has led to “an explosion in all kinds of mental health issues…mental health struggles are being magnified.”

A Biblical Precedent

Humans were made for community; isolation has never been God’s plan for people. At Creation, God declared everything He’d made “good” and even “very good.” But there was one thing God said wasn’t good: “for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). So God created woman, and together, they walked with God in the Garden of Eden—the first community on Earth.

While Jesus occasionally retreated to the mountain to talk with God, the majority of His life on earth was spent with people. He was part of the Nazareth community, having grown up and worked there, and throughout His ministry, He traveled with the 12 apostles. Three of them became His closest friends.

Throughout the Bible we see that prolonged isolation leads to spiritual decline. Naomi, living in a foreign land, stripped of her closest family members and devoid of friends of her own faith, became bitter and asked people to call her so. King David’s infamous sin with Bathsheba began when he stayed home from battle, abandoning his community. John the Baptist sat alone in prison and became full of doubt and confusion. In prisons today, extreme isolation is wielded as a punishment. Too much seclusion leads to bouts of mental illness and delusional thinking.

“We were not made to do Christianity in isolation,” said Dr. Lynelle Buchanan, dean of the School of Behavioral Sciences at CSU. “And we are terrible when we do.”

A Biblical Solution

Hebrews 3:13 gives us the remedy to spiritual decline: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 10 teaches that when we meet together regularly, we’ll be encouraged and spurred on to “love and good works.”

“What comes out of community is both a protective factor from falling away, but it’s also a proactive factor that encourages us in positive directions,” Buchanan said. “This community that we have is so critical to us.”

Which is why, amid lockdowns and quarantines, many people felt a critical pull back to community. Being alone wasn’t good, so people got creative, using tools like video conferencing and social media to be together as best as they could.

A Biblical Joy

Humans are created to benefit from interaction and community; it’s one ingredient to mental, emotional and spiritual health. God gave Christians community to help one another, to know the fullness of Christ and share Him with the world.

How can the Church Help with Emotional and Mental Health?

Community-driven ministries are an essential part of church life. Some churches are stepping up to care for people in unique ways as they address the importance of emotional health. Leaders at Cocalico Community Church in Reinholds, Pennsylvania, created two courses, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” and “Emotionally Healthy Relationships.”

“We offer these classes because relationships are broken, and people seem to carry baggage from the past,” said Roddy Hannah (’07), a CSU alumnus who serves as associate pastor of adult ministries at CCC. “We have a desire to help those who are searching for something more to experience a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. [He’s] not just a pass to heaven.”

Read more about CCC’s emotional health resources.

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