We had a wonderful counseling consultation with a teleconference group of 13 Indian Christian community leaders from 9 cities on Jan 15, 2009. During the first part of the teleconference group discussed the issues around the major common challenges facing the Indian Christian community with the objective of: Identifying major problems and systemic issues; the second part focused on how we address these issues and what can we do collectively.

Major Issues Identified (Participants) and the Root Causes:
-Mental health issues:  Ignorance, stigma, over spiritualization etc have led to the Indian Christian Community not seeking help adequately. Explosive Disorders, Adjustment Disorders, Depression etc that need professional intervention are often neglected by the families and churches.

· Marriage related issues - Epidemic of failed marriages in the community during the past decade

· Lack of sufficient preparation for marriage - Preparing the children is more of the parents’ responsibility than church responsibility. However it is not taking place from either side effectively

· There is no emphasis for premarital counseling in our community. Post marital counseling is sought only after the crisis gets totally out of control.

· There is a growing number of marriage conflicts, separation and divorces in the Indian community, Co-habitation of couples before marriage; and an increase in bi-racial, multi-cultural, and interfaith  marriages

· We are subject to an ‘honor shame culture’ that often leads to breed people who are hypocritical; Lack of confidence in others causes people to hide their problems

· There is a prevalence of ‘shallow spirituality’ often translating to lack of personal intimacy in relationship with God resulting in many people falling prey to the increased and unlimited freedom.

Challenges facing the churches

·   Leadership issues-Preaching often is not practical; Lack of training among pastors to deal with practical issues
·   Generational differences and preferences in worship and church programs
·   The ritualistic, program oriented, mundane format ‘tune’ young people ‘out’
·   The shepherd does not ‘feed the flock’ but ‘visiting missionaries’ creating a lack of consistency from the pulpit
·   ‘The more you emphasize an area the better they get at it’ – It is often neglected by our churches. We specialize in moving from crisis to crisis
·   We do not make ‘disciples’.
·   There is no follow up at home what happened in church

Next Steps (What Can We Do?)
·   Need pre-marriage counseling and marriage counseling
·   Need trained mentors in local churches.
·   Conduct Marriage retreats and workshops to encourage and reinvigorate couples. Intimacy with God should be an emphasis as we work towards that goal through practical terrains
·   Continue the conference calls; emails and encourage more people to participate to share information, learn from each other and be more effective in the areas that God has placed us in - Identify one issue or problem for each conference call- analysis of the problem  and possible solution
·   Emphasize the need for discipling through available resources; assist in training and mentoring
·   Training pastors in the areas of counseling (local churches must sponsor leaders if needed for short term courses)
·   Continue to spread the word through Newsletters, publications, web site etc
·   Conduct city wide consultations - New York (scheduled January 18), Chicago, Tulsa, Tampa, Atlanta

Summary:
· There are critical issues and challenges for the Indian Christian Community
· Pastors, Lay Leaders, Professionals – God has placed each of us in these positions for a reason
· This is not the time to be idle; There are areas we need to be proactive and areas we need to be reactive

Participants:
Dr. Tony Joseph -Tulsa (OK)
Selin Philip -Boston (MA)
Robin Puthernparambil- Boston (MA)
Leslie Verghese -Bethpage (NY)
Liza Isaac -Atlanta (GA)
Dr. Varghese Mathai-Chicago (IL)
Baiju Mathew -Chicago (IL)
Sam George -Chicago (IL)
Elizabeth Robins -Boston (MA)
Presley Paul -Saratoga (FL)
Dr. George Kurian -Baltimore (MD)
Dr. Thomson K Mathew- Tulsa (OK)
Dr. Thomas Idiculla -Boston (MA)


Participants:
Sam George (Chicago, IL)
Executive director of Parivar International, a non-profit initiative to address the needs of youth and families of Asian Indian origin in North America. George is the author of the book "Understanding the Coconut eneration" (www.CoconutGeneration.com). Sam did his seminary studies at Fuller and Princeton with specialization in the area of youth and family ministry. Email: sam@coconutgeneration.com

Thomas Idiculla, PhD (Boston, MA)
Director of Mental Health Services Evaluation Department at McLean Hospital, one of the largest psychiatric hospitals of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Founder and President of Agape Partners International, Boston, MA.

Liza Isaac (Atlanta, GA)
Liza holds an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College (1997). She counsels/mentors young girls and women from various ages and backgrounds within the church body which she considers an enormous privilege.  Liza is married to Dr. John Isaac.  LizaJohn97@gmail.com

George Kurian (Baltimore, MD)
A Psychologist working at the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents, Baltimore. He has two Master’s degrees from Howard University and a Doctoral degree from George Washington University. He is the founder and president of Crossroads Counseling Ministries, Inc. in Silver Spring, Maryland. Through professional counseling services, skills development seminars and consulting, CCMI seeks to strength the Christian community in their individual, family and corporate lives. He is certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors and the State of Maryland Board of Examiners for Professional Counselors. He is a Charter Member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Varghese Mathai, PhD  (Chicago, IL)
Teaches Writing and Literature at Judson University in Elgin, IL, a suburb of Chicago.  He has been working US in higher education for the last thirty years. Varghese  is also a licensed minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  He has strong ministry interests, particularly among the international people groups; Phone: 847-628-1065; email: vmathai@judsonu.edu

Thomson K. Mathew, PhD (Tulsa, OK)
Thomsoson is a third-generation minister in the Pentecostal/charismatic tradition. A graduate of Kerala University, India, Dr. Mathew received his Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Yale University Divinity School. He holds two doctorates: a Doctor of Ministry from Oral Roberts University and a Doctor of Education from Oklahoma State University. Dr. Mathew is a Board Certified Chaplain and a Clinical Member of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. He now serves as Professor of Pastoral Care and Dean of the ORU School of Theology and Missions. Dr. Mathew is active in ministry as a speaker and seminar leader at Pentecostal/charismatic conferences and local churches. His seminar, "Church Growth through Caring," has impacted many congregations.

Rev. George Mathew (Philadelphia, PA)
Rev Mathew is the Associate Pastor of Philadelphia Full Gospel Assembly, Philadelphia, PA. He was the National Convener of the 21st PCNAK (Pentecostal Conference of North AMerican Keralites) held Philadelphia in 2003.

Selin Oommen (Boston, MA)
Selin has two Bachelors degree, one in Theology and other in Sociology from New Theological College, Dehradun, India. She did her Masters of Education (M.Ed) in counseling from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, AK.  She is specialized in providing counseling services for adults, children, couples, and families, who have experienced trauma (physical, emotional or sexual abuse) in their lives and does focus on improving family relationships in her therapy with clients.

Robin Puthernparambil, (Boston, MA)
MBA graduate, working as Business Manager with Navionics Inc, Boston; and currently pursuing M.Div. from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston. He is also a Ministry Associate at India Pentecostal Assembly of Boston, supporting the teaching/preaching ministry for English Services.Born and brought up in North India, primarily Bombay. Living in the USA for last 3 years. Wife: Elizabeth, MCA graduate, born and brought up in Dubai, involved in leading Bible studies on college campus, Sunday School and music ministries.

Leslie Verghese, LCSW (Bethpage, NY)
Director of Lifespire Clinic Services, a premier Social Service and Rehabilitation agency in New York; Executive Director of Agape Partners International; Rev. Verghese is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in New York. He is also a minister at the First Church of God in Elmont, NY.  lverghese@agapepartners.org.