Holding Space for Healing

While at the recent Missio Alliance Why Stay Retreat in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, our Director of Content & Resource Development Justin Heap sat down with Sean Palmer, one of our speakers, to discuss wellness and mental health.

Sean’s newest book, Speaking by the Numbers, offers a strategy that combines communication principles with Enneagram wisdom to help leaders, pastors, and teachers understand how to convey content in ways that both inspire and connect with their audiences.

Sean is the teaching pastor at Ecclesia Houston, as well as a speaker and an executive coach. He is the author of Unarmed Empire and a contributing writer to The Voice Bible.

You often speak about the importance of mental health or wellness, which is really important in the life of the church right now. What is a solid first step for people to consider as they orient themselves toward healing?

The first stages of wellness actually include orientation. When you receive bad news—for instance, relating to a new disease in your body—actually taking in that information creates disruption and disorientation. Until you get reoriented to your new reality, you can’t actually move forward.

We’ve all heard stories of people who have received a scary medical diagnosis, and their response was to either ignore it or gloss over it, which often makes illness root down deeper within your body.

The first stage to getting well is finding your sense of place once again. Reorientation is about a dual sense of place: knowing where you are and having a sense of who you are. In order to get well, it is important to begin with identity and a sense of what is actually going on. Just as you would if you were at the doctor’s office, getting oriented to reality is the first step in your healing.

Historically, the church at large has not done a great job of holding space for a community to experience anger, shame, and fear in a healthy manner. Can you speak to any shifts you are seeing in how the church is approaching mental health and wellness in this cultural moment?

This ebbs and flows through the course of the church’s history, but a lot of what we’re now struggling to internalize in 2022 is the reality that some crucial things we felt were foundational, as it turns out, are not actually as centrally important at all.

We all have beliefs and practices that have become ossified but aren’t necessarily core to our faith. Simultaneously, there has always been a stream of contemplative practices that speak to the health of the body of Christ. What is happening now is that people are wrestling with how can we do something tangible in a hurting world if we integrate these contemplative practices for the benefit of mental health and wellness.

This connects really well to your new book, Speaking by The Numbers, which is a helpful resource for leaders, teachers, and pastors. What’s the best way for folks to find the book and connect with you online?

You can find me online at Sean Palmer as well as on IVP.

Missio Alliance is pleased to offer an online book launch event for Speaking by the Numbers on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, at 2:30 pm ET. The first 50 people who register will receive a free copy of the book! Everyone who registers will receive a free chapter. Join Sean to discover how an awareness of the Enneagram will enable to you to be a better communicator in your ministry and relationships.