Reaching Out to Faith Communities

Reaching Out to Faith Communities is a four-part, self-study training to equip NAMI members who want more instruction on how to engage with, educate and share and promote mental health awareness with faith groups in their community. The four sections of Reaching Out to Faith Communities are designed to be used consecutively, in order and as a whole.

Reaching Out to Faith Communities may be studied by individuals or small groups. Though some of the information may be familiar to NAMI members, it is included because of its relevance to building relationships with faith communities. Much of the content was written in response to commonly-asked questions, such as “Why should our Affiliate reach out to faith communities? How do we handle differing views about mental illness or stigmatizing remarks? How do I get started?”

What is the goal of Reaching out to Faith Communities?

The long-range goal of all NAMI FaithNet educational outreach to religious groups is to promote faith communities where awareness, welcome, inclusion, support and spiritual care for individuals and families facing mental illness is provided. The immediate purpose of the training tool Reaching out to Faith Communities is to equip and empower NAMI members and leaders to become catalysts for raising awareness in faith local groups, for breaking the silence surrounding mental illness, for sharing the NAMI story and for creating caring congregations.

What topics are covered in Reaching out to Faith Communities?

The following summaries highlight the main themes of each unit.

I. Laying the Foundation provides basic instruction about NAMI, NAMI FaithNet, interfaith dialogue and effective attitudinal approaches to engagement with religious leaders and bodies. It highlights the need for and advantages of outreach to congregations—advantages to both NAMI Affiliates and faith groups. The last section of this unit offers study tips and resources.

II. Opening the Door to Understanding and Dialogue about Mental Health emphasizes the social, spiritual and practical impact of mental illnesses on individuals and family members. We then explore the basics of practical and spiritual care to all involved. Approaches for opening dialogue and build awareness within a congregation are described. The unit closes with the preparation of a “lead-in” statement, a resource notebook and a contact form.

III. Sharing Your Story emphasizes the value of storytelling, and provides training and practice to more effectively tell your story about mental illness, the role of faith and NAMI in your journey.

IV. Looking Ahead and Following Up we discuss how to handle problematic views about mental illness, and which outreach methods work best for building relationships with clergy and congregational leaders. Follow-up suggestions for your own continuing education and that of the clergy and congregations you touch are offered. Finally, read about and catch a vision for the future.

Thank you for taking the time to study Reaching out to Faith Communities. We trust it will give you more confidence and practical tools for becoming a stronger advocate and educator within your local congregations.


For NAMI members and leaders who are already familiar with the materials covered in Reaching out to Faith Communities and are comfortable speaking to community organizations, a second power point presentation, Bridges of Hope, is available. It is written to educate people in congregations. NAMI members can use Bridges of Hope to address three important topics: What is mental illness and what is its impact? What role can faith communities play in supporting and caring for people with mental health conditions? Who is NAMI and what does it offer faith communities?

Four-Part Training Curriculum:

There are also additional NAMI FaithNet resources available to help you plan and carry out events in your local community.

After Your Presentation. Please take a few minutes to give NAMI FaithNet your feedback. You will find the link to a Survey Monkey questionnaire on the last slide of each PowerPoint presentation.

Thank you for helping to reach out to faith communities in your area. If you have questions, suggestions or need assistance, please contact the NAMI HelpLine 800-950-NAMI.