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Proactive Care: The Rest Initiative

by Evan Norfleet



What does it look like to bridge the gap between organizations and care? For Neal Salzman, the answer manifested itself into a unique resource for churches and non-profit organizations alike: The Rest Initiative (TRI). As Executive Director and Founder, Salzman, who holds an M.Div. and M.A. in Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary, as well as a background in counseling in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, recognized the need to equip staff with mental and psychological care through relationships he had previously cultivated with pastors across the country.



Answering the Call

What began as an educational conversation soon grew into partnerships with organizations such as International Justice Mission, Reformed University Fellowship, World Outreach, and InterVarsity. “At TRI, we take a proactive and preventative posture towards counseling,” Salzman explained. “We seek to anticipate an organization’s needs and in doing so, focus on emotional wellness and wholeness for its staff.”


The approach has proven effective. “We continue to develop partnerships with Christian organizations who want to add another layer of care for their people” he added. Through an emphasis on holistic care, with scripture as the central narrative and plans tailored to each organization’s needs, TRI empowers churches and organizations to reach their potential by supporting their staff in a way that strengthens and rejuvenates each individual.



TRI, Meet The Fellows Initiative

It didn’t take long before TRI formed a relationship with Fellows programs, where recent college graduates seeking to learn and serve at the intersection of faith and work repeatedly encountered crucial questions about God, self, and their role in the world. As Salzman recalled, “we saw a number of the distinctives in the Fellows programs, including the holistic nature of programs, and felt a desire to offer TRI’s services to create rhythms of care for each individual.”


In its work with the Atlanta City Fellows, for example, each fellow is connected with a TRI counselor to walk through a topical guide that addresses elements such as personal identity, family of origin, and sexuality. TRI works directly with Fellows directors in The Fellows Initiative network who have a window into the mental and emotional health needs of their Fellows class. By introducing rhythms of care into the life of a fellow throughout the year, TRI’s hope is that these individuals would have the space to think intentionally about their emotional and psychological health in conjunction with all that is offered in the Fellows year.


Just as TRI has nurtured and walked with Fellows, Fellows serve in integral roles in TRI’s outreach. Kim Mascher is a Fellows alumna from 2009-2010, who also served as an assistant director of a Fellows program. After earning a graduate degree in counseling, she connected with Neal Salzman about working with TRI. “Meeting Neal and learning that there was a desire to see proactive care offered to Fellows across the country,” Mascher recalled, “I mean, it was an extremely easy yes for me and honestly a spiritual moment to see God weave Fellows back into my life.”


For Mascher, the Fellows year provided a strong foundation that has proved fruitful in her work with TRI, where she has served Fellows and interns at Reformed University Fellowship. “The Fellows program helped cultivate in me a love of learning that integrates faith and the world, and ultimately led me to pursue a graduate program that valued this integration as well," she said. "My experience both as a Fellow and as a Fellows staff member has also influenced the way I counsel, specifically in the way I conceptualize career counseling and stress management.”



Growing the Vision

For Salzman and his staff at TRI, it has become more and more clear that the future of many churches and organizations holds an increased need for mental healthcare and psychological and emotional wellness. TRI has found the unique niche of proactive care, working to form partnerships, like the one with The Fellows Initiative, that meet an organization where they are, while anticipating and addressing their future needs along the way. With scripture as the central narrative, combined with intentional partnerships that meet the needs of the organization and its staff, TRI continues to grow as a ministry that empowers, equips, and walks alongside those in need of care.