The Ministry Care Line

Mental health overdraft protection that could preserve your family and your ministry.

Carole Kilcher is assistant professor of communication at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

I pride myself on being on top of things most of the time. One particular time, though, things kind of got away from me. I was sure there was enough money in my bank account. Nevertheless, the check bounced. Be fore I became aware that there was a problem, the bouncing of one little check turned into a real financial fiasco.

Now I have check overdraft protection. If I overdraw on my checking ac count, money from my savings account is automatically transferred to checking. Since having the added protection, I have never needed it—although it's always there if I do.

The Ministry Care Line and my check protection system are, in my opinion, very similar. No pastors or teachers ever intend to be emotionally overdrawn, but for them, mental and emotional strain are among the hazards of their job. One small problem can, like the ripple effect of my one bounced check, become a temporary major crisis.

Let me tell you about a service now available in North America to employees and their families of the Seventh-day Adventist denominational system. I like to think of it as mental health overdraft protection, which, like my savings ac count, is a backup if ever needed.

Toll-free help

The Ministry Care Line is an 800 number that connects callers to professionals at the Kettering Clergy Care Center, an affiliate of Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. The purpose of this toll-free number is to give church professionals and their immediate family members confidential, anonymous support and consultation when the unique problems and stresses of Christian leadership emerge.

The Ministry Care Line is staffed by trained Christian mental health workers. Dr. Bob Peach, an ordained minister with an M.S. degree in marriage and family counseling and a D.Min. degree in pastoral counseling and family minis tries, coordinates the Ministry Care Line and its consultants. Consultants are avail able Monday through Friday from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, making it possible for all regions of the United States and Canada to make con tact during some part of each of the five workweek days.

In addition to being trained in crisis intervention for personal need, the consultants can assist teachers and pastors who do not have access to Christian mental health professionals in their local area. The 800 number links church leaders with mental health personnel and allows for consultation regarding difficult situations within the church or school setting. Using the Ministry Care Line in this way can help the pastor or teacher avoid mistakes. It's like having a mental health professional on the staff all the time!

Ministry Care Line consultants can also provide referrals to local area Christian mental health-care providers. Using a national database, a consultant can match the caller with a nearby service provider having the relevant expertise needed.

Designed to function as part of an organization's employee assistance pro gram, the Ministry Care Line is not a substitute for but a complement to conference-approved counseling. The Ministry Care Line can relieve the need for long-term counseling or crises intervention by being an available resource when problems first surface. In conferences with limited resources for counseling, the Ministry Care Line can be an added resource.

Help without repercussions

Whether or not conferences provide counseling for employees, many employees still report to researchers that they are reluctant to seek counseling within their local conference or union conference for fear of repercussion. They also fear they will have a blemished record should the need for a recommendation arise within the Adventist system. Having mental health protection like the Ministry Care Line provides can make a significant difference in the quality of a person's life by alleviating this anxiety.

The Ministry Care Line service is currently available on a subscription basis. There is no cost to the employee or his/her family if the employer is the subscriber. The subscriber pays an annual fee based on the number of employees within its organization. The current annual subscription rate is $16.50 per employee.

Plans are under way to expand the Ministry Care Line to include individual subscriptions. This would enable pas tors, teachers, and administrators in areas where their employer does not sub scribe to the service to pay an annual individual fee linking them to the 800 service.

Relief in troubled times

Anonymous records track statistical categories. No record is kept of those who call; however, the types of requests being made are logged. Eight percent of the calls received have asked for referrals to local counselors, 11 percent have called for consultation regarding a parishioner or student, 20 percent for a marriage or family concern, 12 percent for a personal problem, 10 percent for follow-up on a previous call, and 39 percent for information about the Ministry Care Line and its operation.

The Ministry Care Line opened its phone bank on February 17,1992. Since then it has served more than 1,580 eligible employee participants plus family members. It's hard to place a dollar value on what such mental heath over draft protection is really worth. Men and women who wrestle for hours in prayer seeking God's will for their lives have also benefited from human listening ears. The 800 number linking employees to the Ministry Care Line provides the added protection they need for Christian service during the troubled final hours of earth's existence.

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Carole Kilcher is assistant professor of communication at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

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