How can a church become a sanctuary—a place where individuals living with mental health challenges feel safe, supported, and a sense of belonging? The Sanctuary Course was created to inspire and equip communities of faith that are asking this important question. Developed in consultation with mental health professionals, theologians, and people with lived experience, this eight-session study guide explores key mental health topics and examines meaningful ways to offer companionship, support recovery, and promote wellbeing.

Who is it for?

The Sanctuary Course is a study guide for small groups, designed to raise awareness and start conversations in local churches regarding mental health. Your group might include:

  • People with questions about mental health
  • Mental health professionals with a wealth of knowledge to share
  • Leaders who want to engage their community in mental health conversations
  • People supporting loved ones with mental health challenges
  • People living with mental health challenges

The Sanctuary Course is for anyone who wants to learn about faith and mental health. It requires no previous training or expertise—just a willingness to engage in dialogue with other believers. This course and films address difficult and sensitive topics, and may not be appropriate for a young audience. It is not recommended for people ages 17 and younger.

The Sanctuary Course is also available in German! You can find The Sanctuary Course (Deutsch) on our resource portal for free. 


How do I access it?

You can access The Sanctuary Course for free on our resource portal. Simply create an account or login, then get started exploring the course and our other resources.


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    What is The Sanctuary Course?


    The coursebook defines key terms, presents relevant research, addresses common questions, and explores important concepts from three perspectives: the psychological, the social, and the theological. This reading, done in advance of group meetings, helps participants connect around the session’s topic using a shared framework and language.


    The films elevate the voice of lived experience, emphasizing various aspects of the realities of living with mental health challenges. Mental health professionals, theologians, and church leaders contribute insights, helpful biblical integration, and ideas for community support. Participants watch the films together during group meetings. Note that films include content warnings; some participants may choose not to view certain films.

    Discussion Guide

    The discussion guides contain questions for your community to ponder together, along with opportunities for deeper reflection through art, poetry, prayers, and spiritual practices. These guides make facilitating The Sanctuary Course simple, as they provide a step-by-step process for group meetings and opportunity to engage more deeply with the content that is most meaningful for each group.

    Also Includes:



    Art Reflections
    Group Guidelines

    FaciLITATION Guide

    Participant's Guide
    Film Transcripts


    Rev. Monica Coleman, PhD, MDiv


    Malcolm Guite, PhD


    Ed Ng, PhD, R Psych


    Mental Health Professionals

    Licensed counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, registered nurses, and other clinicians share their expertise on mental health, mental illnesses, and recovery. These voices teach us about the scientific realities of mental health and the role medical services can play in diagnosis and recovery.

    Pastors and Theologians

    Christian leaders in the Church and in the academy thoughtfully connect faith and mental health using a biblical foundation. These voices encourage us to engage our Christian faith with our understanding of mental health and think creatively about self-care and how communities can offer support.

    People with Lived Experience

    People with lived experiences of mental health issues share their stories of diagnosis, recovery, ongoing challenges, and how their faith connects to it all. These voices give us the opportunity to hear real experiences, reduce stigma, and share our own challenges.


    In the film below, Rev. Anne Baxter Smith shares about her loved ones who live with mental health challenges and their experiences in the Church. She also discusses the impact that The Sanctuary Course had on her church.

    Hear from others who have used The Sanctuary Course

    Thank you for providing this course. I think it’s greatest value has been "normalizing" mental health as well as giving participants permission to share their own mental health struggles—things we may never have known about otherwise.


    The excellent quality of the course materials made facilitation of the course easy. The videos alone elicited rich discussions amongst our group. Without exception, the participants praised the experience and asked "what next?!"


    Our group participants range in age from mid twenties to late sixties, and from students to retirees. Everyone is finding the material relevant and helpful. Small churches like ours often don’t have the financial or personnel resources to offer such high quality programming. Your gift to us is so generous.

    Janet Young, Cross Roads BIC Church

    I’m loving the range of lived experience that we have been introduced to, the sensitive way that people have been invited to tell their stories, and the way their stories have been framed by information from other sources. I find it really rich, very engaging, meaningful, and I’m going away each week with a spiral of thoughts continuing on, influencing my conversations later in the week, or how I hear those conversations, particularly with people I see in my practice as a massage therapist. It has been a gift.


      Sanctuary’s resources integrate theological, psychological, and lived experience perspectives. They are developed with the conviction that informed and empathetic conversations about mental health challenges can transform communities of faith.



      Our resources are developed in consultation with mental health professionals, theologians, and people with lived experience—all from diverse denominational, racial, and cultural backgrounds. This allows us to place clinical and pastoral perspectives in dialogue with personal experience and community practices.


      Listening to someone’s story can broaden your perspective, reframe your understanding, and awaken your empathy. For this reason, the stories of people of faith with lived experience feature prominently in our resources. At Sanctuary, we believe it is important for individuals with mental health challenges to speak for themselves, and it is equally important for church communities to listen.




      Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Psychological perspectives primarily focus on the emotional and relational experiences of people living with mental health challenges. Our content is not intended to produce experts or mental health professionals; instead, it is designed to help you grow in awareness and empathy.


      The social perspective focuses on the ways that mental health challenges affect both individuals and communities of faith. Research suggests that meaningful relationships and supportive communities play a key role in recovery. This perspective gives the opportunity to examine unique ways that the Church can support mental health and wellbeing.


      The theological perspective considers the ways that faith can help us understand and respond to the realities of mental health challenges. In particular, we examine how Christians read and interpret the Bible in light of lived experience, and how the Church responds to the call to be a redemptive community where everyone is welcome.


      The Sanctuary Course is available for free on our resource portal. Creating an account is simple, and then you can explore the materials of The Sanctuary Course and see how the course can benefit your community.

      Getting started with talking about mental health or facilitating The Sanctuary Course in your community can feel intimidating, which is why we designed a Facilitator’s Guide specifically for facilitators of The Sanctuary Course. This PDF can be found in the downloadable materials for the course on our resource portal. We have also created a quick start page for facilitators on our resource portal.



      Have any questions? See answers to our frequently asked questions.


      We'd love to hear about your experience! We have a brief, five-minute survey for those who have participated in The Sanctuary Course. The feedback you provide helps us improve the course and better serve the needs of churches. Additionally, it helps us demonstrate impact to our donors and community. Facilitators and participants alike are invited to share their feedback. You can find the survey here