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Pamphlet series on tough issues completed

   

Mennonite Church Canada/MennoMedia joint release
March 28, 2012
-Cynthia Linscheid

WATERLOO, Ont. and HARRISONBURG, Va. — Most Christians, including Mennonites, would probably rather not talk about issues like child abuse, alcoholism, or pornography—especially at church.

Yet Close to Home pamphlets, published by MennoMedia, have brought these difficult topics and many more right into congregations’ front entries, foyers, hallways and even the privacy of washroom stalls. The church, some people feel, is where such issues need to be addressed most of all.

The Close to Home series was developed by MennoMedia, a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. The resource is designed to help congregational caregivers reach out to people struggling with personal issues that are hard to talk about. Each 12-page pamphlet includes a true story of someone facing the issue, an introduction to the issue, exploration of how the Bible and the Christian story can offer hope, and practical steps toward healing—including how to find professional help. Also included is a list of resources for further information and help.

Twenty-one themes have been addressed in the Close to Home pamphlets since 2007, with copies sold for the whole series currently exceeding 72,000 units. The last two pamphlets planned, Dealing with Teenage Pregnancy and Dealing with Self-Harm, became available from MennoMedia in March. Top sellers for the series are Dealing with Pornography, with over 9,700 copies sold, and Dealing with Depression, with just over 7,500 sold.

Many Mennonite congregations order new titles as they are published, and make the pamphlets available for free pick-up by members and visitors.

Byron Rempel-Burkholder, a MennoMedia editor who helped develop the series and has edited many of the pamphlets, found it rewarding to work with the group that conceived the Close to Home project back in November 2006.

“I was amazed at the level of good will and interest shown by them and by all the people we asked to help as writers and consultants,” said Burkholder. “Everyone seemed happy that we were facilitating conversations about ‘elephants in the room’ that church people find hard to talk about. They also affirmed the way we were trying to bring congregational care together with professional help and biblical reflection.”

Rempel-Burkholder has been especially touched by the individuals who have shared the personal stories of struggle and healing that open each pamphlet.

“Several people even asked that their real names be used,” he said. “Opening themselves in this way was therapeutic for them, and they recognized that doing so would help others share their stories, too. I was also gratified when I would see the pamphlets on literature racks of churches I visited, or when I’d hear pastors and counsellors express appreciation for the pamphlets.”

Another project of MennoMedia that deals with tough issues is Shaping Families, a 15-minute weekly radio program. The program always offers something to its listeners, and the offers have included—or will include—the Close to Home pamphlets on topics that Shaping Families covers, like electronic addiction, drug addiction, bipolar disorder, child abuse, elder abuse, alcoholism, depression, and dementia.

Pastors have found the series a welcome addition to resources. One pastor used the pornography pamphlet in a series of sermons about sexuality. Another ordered enough copies of Dealing with Depression to hand out to everyone in their congregation as they addressed the issue of depression together. The pamphlets may also be used for group study, with free study guides available at www.MennoMedia.org/CloseToHome.

“The response to the series has confirmed in my mind that the church is most authentic when we face difficult issues of brokenness in our midst,” said Rempel-Burkholder. “We need to get them on the table, seek the healing that God offers, and reach out to others who need healing.”

Close to Home pamphlets may be ordered at www.MennoMedia.org or by calling 800-631-6535 (Canada).

MennoMedia is a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.