Choosing Happiness: Practicing Positive Psychology in the Church

Rev. Dr. Charles McNeil, Retired UM Clergy, Psychotheraphist, Licensed Marriage and FAmily Therapist, and Adjunct Professor
Time:  9:30 am – 12:00 noon
Location:  Seminary Hall, Room 210

So often psychology (either pastoral or secular) is used to diagnose and treat dysfunction and disorders, seeking to eliminate (or at least minimize) distress. The other side of the continuum is to shine the light on and encourage that which is good (ala Philippians 4:8 “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Positive psychology is a new branch of psychology that focuses on what is going right, rather than what is going wrong with people (including congregations). Positive psychology takes aim at happiness, optimism, and character strengths. A whole new body of information is being produced by researchers who investigate the dynamics of healthy relationships, the factors that lead to highly functioning groups, and what leads to lasting personal fulfillment.

Happiness is not the absence of sadness, nor is it the soaring emotional heights of ecstasy. It is not caused by a single thing, but is influenced by a variety of variables ranging from personal values to individual genetics, and in large part, a matter of good choices under the personal control of your congregation as individuals and yourself.Rather than wandering in the wilderness, more productive areas of work can be identified, including developinghealthy goals, maintaining good relationships, engaging in in positive thinking habits, practicing internalized and externalized emotional habits of happy people, and applying practical strategies of positive psychology principles to strengthen healthy emotional habits.

While many great guidelines are given through faith, theology, and belief; this class will look at some practical applications on personal, small group, and congregational perspectives to make these positive truths real: Now that you know these things, blessed are you when you do them! By finding the best in people and inspiring them to focus on their strengths and live out their potential as precious and beloved children of God (as opposed to “sinners in the hands of an angry God”), you can assist others, your church, and yourself to discover new ways, means, and opportunities to choose happiness and bear good fruit.


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