Note from the BCC Staff: This is the second in a series of periodic posts by biblical counselors regarding the practical intersection of small group ministry and biblical counseling. Read Part 1: At the Corner of Small Groups and Biblical Counseling. Today we learn from Pastor Jonathan Holmes of Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Help and Hope Groups
At Parkside Church we have benefited greatly from an overarching vision statement that would “see unbelieving people become committed followers of Jesus Christ.” As we have structured our Help & Hope Group Ministry and Biblical Counseling, that vision has always been our guide. Whether at an individual or corporate level, we want to see God transform lives.
Underneath the banner of our Help & Hope ministry, we offer two sets of care options: Help & Hope care groups and Help & Hope workshops. Our care groups (Marriage Matters, Cancer Support, Dealing with Divorce, Grieving with Hope, Single Moms, Finding Freedom, Healing Families, and Embracing Family Adoption) are offered on a semester by semester basis. Each group’s meeting time varies, but a typical group will meet weekly for a 6-8 week period of time. The care groups are led by trained individuals or a team from the church, but membership or attendance at Parkside is not a requirement for attendance. At Parkside we believe many of the areas which are touched by our Help & Hope ministry are wonderful opportunities for us to build gospel relationships for gospel growth.
Our Help & Hope workshops are offered on more of an annual or semi-annual basis, typically on a weekend. Topics such as Passion for Purity, Managing Your Money, Caring for Aging Parents, Career Connections, and Biblical Parenting offer us yet another opportunity to attract both the hurting and struggling and those caring for the hurting and struggling.
Person-to-Person Ministry: Biblical Counseling Ministry
On the other end of the spectrum, we offer individual and marriage counseling throughout the year to regular attendees and members. Meeting with a trained counselor from the church, the individual or couple will receive wise, godly counsel to help them see their issues biblically. At every level of our care and counseling ministries we want people to see that through the person and work of Jesus Christ, true change is fully possible.
The interaction between our Help & Hope groups and our individual counseling ministries is a shared purpose and paradigm. We realize though that for some, the community and corporate context of being with other fellow pilgrims on the journey has inherent benefits: accountability, shared sense of struggle, growth together as they are built up in Christ.
Others need a more intensive and private form of care which is offered through our individual counseling. Many people thrive in this environment when, for the first time, they are able to be truly vulnerable and learn that God’s Word speaks to the core of their issues.
A Helpful Synergy
At Parkside, people can make the choice based on availability of Help & Hope groups to attend the more corporate offering of a small group or the individual counseling context. Oftentimes individuals in personal counseling will transition to the Help & Hope groups to allow themselves to build relationships which are a key goal for us in the counseling process.
On other occasions, we have seen people attend both the small group and individual context for the simple fact that they are craving Christlike change and biblical relationships. On still other occasions, an issue will be raised in the small group context where the small group leader is alerted to the fact that perhaps individual counseling might be a better fit given an individual’s struggle.
Change in Community
Whether a person chooses our small group care ministry or pursues an individual counselor, the goal for that individual is the same—Christ-like change. The method is the same as well—change being discussed, worked out, and applied in a corporate context.
Paul writes the Philippian church in Philippians 2:12-13:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
So often we read the New Testament epistles to ourselves as individuals without first realizing the historical context of the letter. Almost all of Paul’s letters are written to churches. Note that all of the 2nd person pronouns are plural in these verses. Here in Philippians 2:12-13, after calling the church to a Christlike unity, he now commands them to, in community, work out their salvation with fear and trembling. What better place to do this redemptive work of sanctification than in the loving care of other fellow pilgrims?
Parkside Church, like every other church, readily realizes that our congregations are full of imperfect and in-process people. The process of change for many people is aided and supported when the individual can place himself in a loving and biblically based small group where he realizes he is not alone in his struggle. For others, the problems are so deeply entrenched that one-on-one counseling is what is needed. Whatever path our people choose, it is our hope that they will by God’s grace become committed followers of Jesus Christ.
Join the Conversation
What can you apply to your ministry from the way Parkside Church pursues change in community?