Starting a Support Group Ministry for Difficult Emotions at Your Church

Thank you for your interest in creating a safe place for individuals whose lives are being significantly disrupted by their emotions. That is no easy task. You cannot promise anyone freedom, but you can provide a context for people to honest with themselves, God, and others familiar with their struggle as they learn to apply the gospel to their greatest needs.

There are two levels which you can implement the curriculums on emotions: (1) you can lead an individual group on a particular subject, or (2) you can catalyze a larger group ministry that addresses a variety of subjects. In many churches, it is by starting an initial group that more needs come to light and larger group ministry emerges.

1. Individual Group Leader

Level of Training: No advanced training is needed. You choose a subject in the emotion series [provide link] and study it with individuals you have come to know with that struggle. The larger certificate training is advised, especially if your group gets larger than 3-4 people or has people join who are at different stages in their recovery journey.

Style of Interaction: You study the material – which is available in a written, audio, or video format – as the group members study the material. ChurchSoundTips is a great resource for church audio recommendations. Each meeting consists of reporting where each person is on their 9-step journey, areas of growth, areas of struggle, and need for prayer. The level of honesty and authenticity is the best marker of whether the group will be effective.

2. Group Ministry Catalyzer

Level of Training: If you move to this second level, the main difference is that you are now recruiting and training “level one: group leaders” in other subjects. It is now strongly advised that you complete the biblical counseling certificate program through Southeastern Seminary.

Style of Interaction: Your time commitment will be spent between leading your group and recruiting-developing other leaders. Make sure this is a good fit for your passion and gifting. If not, begin early to pray and look for a leader with administrative and leadership development gifts to step into the catalyzer role. In a ministry as taxing as wrestling with disruptive emotions, the ministry will only flourish when the mentors in the ministry are flourishing.

There are five curriculum in the 9-step addiction series.

  1. Grief (Suffering Paradigm): addresses the personal, emotional, and relational challenges related to losing a loved one, experiencing the limitations of a major disability, or transitioning out of a role that has been a significant part of your identity (i.e., retirement or divorce)
  2. Anger (Responsibility Paradigm): provides a gospel-based path to experiencing and expressing anger in a way that this constructive towards the prompting problem and honoring of the people involved
  3. Anxiety-Depression (Suffering Paradigm): in these two studies, depression and anxiety are addressed as “two sides of the same coin” because their co-occurrence rate is so high; in the suffering paradigm study we examine how to address depression-anxiety that when its cause is primarily in situational hardships or our body
  4. Anxiety-Depression (Responsibility Paradigm): as a complementing study to the previous one, this seminar examines how to reduce our experience of depression-anxiety when these emotions emanate from our beliefs, behaviors, and values
  5. Trauma (Suffering Paradigm): addresses the personal, emotional, and relational challenges related to the experience of acute-overwhelming circumstances such as (but not limited to) rape, EMT’s or police officer’s exposure to horrific accidents, exposure to terrorist event or natural disaster, exposure to war combat, etc…

Below is a summary of the 9-step curriculum for both sin and suffering topics. The responsibility paradigm is for those struggles rooted in our choices, beliefs, and values, while the suffering paradigm is for struggles having their primary origin in the hardships that are imposed upon us.

Responsibility Paradigm

Suffering Paradigm
ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.STEP 2.
ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.STEP 3.
UNDERSTAND the origin, motive, and history of my sin.STEP 4.
REPENT TO GOD for how my sin replaced and misrepresented Him.STEP 5.
CONFESS TO THOSE AFFECTED for harm done and seek to make amends.STEP 6.
RESTRUCTURE MY LIFE to rely on God’s grace and Word to transform my life.STEP 7.
IMPLEMENT the new structure pervasively with humility and flexibility.STEP 8.
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory.

PREPARE yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to face your suffering.

ACKNOWLEDGE the specific history and realness of my suffering.

UNDERSTAND the impact of my suffering.

LEARN MY SUFFERING STORY which I use to make sense of my experience.

MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort.

LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience.

IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering.

PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory