Reach out to people who are bipolar or have other mood disorders and their families by offering a faith-based support group—something that may be lacking in your city.
A humiliating public episode 17 years ago that he later learned was the result of bipolar disorder cost Pastor Brad Hoefs his ministry at a large and growing church in Nebraska. A mishap with his medication produced a relapse about seven years ago that led to a hospital stay and a search for a support group to help.
His own experience revealed to Hoefs that no Christ-centered, faith-based groups for people with mood disorders existed in his area. He ultimately started a new group called Fresh Hope in 2009 at the small church that formed and welcomed him as its pastor after his first manic episode—Community of Grace church in Elkhorn, Neb.
“We have tried for 15 years to not be a church that plays church, but to just be real people,” Hoefs says.
The support group attracted 17 people its first night, none of whom were from the church. But many of the group’s attendees in its first year made Community of Grace their church home as well. Sunday attendance grew from around 50 to about 80, Hoefs says.
“People don’t choose to be ill or choose to be bipolar,” says one man whose wife was diagnosed as bipolar. The couple found grace and hope at the group and the church. “But they are members of God’s family, and they need support. We’re all sinners … and we all need God’s support.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Outreach magazine.