The program is part of a national movement, first started at Warren's Saddleback Church. Some members are dealing with addiction, while others have depression or other mental illness. Some had been told that faith could solve their problems, said McKnight -- but it's not that easy.

"We would never tell someone who is nearsighted that it's because they don't have enough faith," he said. "We do that with people who deal with depression."

McKnight helped start Celebrate Recovery at his church because of a personal meltdown about 10 years ago. At first he was resistant, thinking his troubles weren't as bad as those of people dealing with drug addiction or other issues.

Then the light bulb came on, he said, and he realized that he, too, had struggles and it was OK to admit to them. McKnight said that growing up in church, he'd learned to keep up appearances, even when life was difficult.

"Too often in churches there is this belief that you have to be perfect -- that you have to keep a smile on your face when your world is falling apart," he said.

David Thomas, director of men's and boys' counseling for Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, hopes churches will discuss the issue in church services as well as support groups. He said many churches have started talking about finances in recent years because of the economic downturn. Thomas thinks churches need to do the same for mental illness.

"We have very defined resources for families that are struggling financially," he said. "We don't have defined resources for families who are struggling emotionally -- and we need them."

Bob Smietana writes for USA Today and The Tennessean.

c. 2013 Religion News Service. Used with permission.

Publication date: May 7, 2013