Learning & Resources

Shalem Mental Health Network

Why We Pay Outsiders to Counsel our Congregation Members

Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 2020 Rick Csiernik, M.S.W, Ph.D., R.S.W., David Knezevic, BSW, MSW, RSW, Marg Smit-Vandezande, M.S.W., R.S.W, and Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M.Ed, R.S.Wc ABSTRACT A Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) is a formalized mechanism of counseling, premised on the model developed offering support to workers, Employee Assistance Programming, except for members of a church community. This Canadian study involved 44 church leaders representing both urban and rural congregations. Participants reported that they used church funds to pay for CAP for both spiritual and pragmatic reasons. CAP is viewed as an extension of the church’s ministry while also recognizing it was an economically efficient manner to help members of the congregation with psychosocial issues they did not feel comfortable sharing with ministers and deacons and often issues deacons. Ministers did not have the ability or comfort with which to assist. INTRODUCTION What if there were a mechanism in place to provide congregation members with free professional, personal, family, and mental health counseling external to traditional church resources? What would lead congregation leaders to decide to spend their finite resources on such an endeavor? This article explores this concept: why church decision makers, from both urban and rural settings, in Ontario, Canada have chosen to use parish funds to finance free, external, and professional counseling for their congregations. Primarily provided by social workers, establishing the first Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) in Canada.