Note from the BCC Staff: This is the third 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 and Part 2: Change in Community. Today we learn from Pastors Pat Quinn and Ben Falconer of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.
Biblical Counseling and Growth Group Leading
By God’s grace the pastoral staff of University Reformed Church envisions biblical counseling as an important part of our overall discipling ministry. One of my goals as Director of Counseling Ministries is to help create a culture of biblical counseling at URC. This includes training elders and growth group leaders in the basics of biblical counseling. Over a year ago, Associate Pastor Ben Falconer and I teamed up to plan biblical counseling training for the URC “shepherds.” We have done several training sessions to help them incorporate a biblical counseling model into the discipling they do as elders and Growth Group leaders. One session in particular was to help growth group leaders use biblical counseling questions in leading a Bible study.
URC’s Vision for Discipling and Growth Groups
URC’s vision has been well-captured in the words of Associate Pastor, Ben Falconer:
University Reformed Church is… a Bible-teaching and praying church, ministering to our neighbors, the campus, the nations, and the unreached peoples of the world. We attempt to accomplish this mission in large part through our two principal ministries: our Sunday services and our Growth Groups. At URC, Growth Groups are the primary place where Biblical Community is fostered. This means that Growth Groups are thoroughly biblical in content (the Bible is the regular source of study), nature (believers pray for, honor, serve, teach, encourage, meet with, and love one another), and purpose (our primary goal is that disciples of Jesus Christ are raised up for the glory of God).
In the summer of 2010, I was able to do a ministry project for my CCEF Introduction to Biblical Counseling Certificate on URC shepherd training. Here is how Ben and I sought to align biblical counseling and Growth Group ministry. The purpose of this training is “to equip URC shepherds to glorify God by making lifelong disciples through the gospel.” This includes:
- Knowing and caring for each individual member by watching over their welfare.
- Intentionally leading people into Christian maturity (discipling).
- Being available to pray for and help people work through sins and struggles (counseling).
Components of Our Training
The components of the training include:
1. Scripture Study:
- Jeremiah 17: 5-15—God’s model of change
- Hebrews: the ministry of parakaleo
2. Training and Practice in Biblical Counseling:
- Learning what biblical counseling is and is not
- Learning a vision for effective small groups
- Learning the Three Trees model and the questions that go along with it
- Learning the Love-Know-Speak-Do model of counseling
- Doing case studies, self and peer counseling, role plays, and group leading exercise
3. Various Biblical Counseling Readings:
- Five Advantages of Church-Based Counseling by Deepak Reju
- Counseling and Discipleship by Deepak Reju
- Some Thoughts on How to Provide Long-Term Pastoral Care by Tim Lane
- Why Small Groups? by C. J. Mahaney and others
- Leadership Training: Shepherding Leaders to Shepherd the Flock by Tony Giles
Several of the questions/concerns we received after our first session related to getting practice in using biblical counseling preventatively (discipling) and not just correctively (counseling). This made a lot of sense because most ministry (especially by Growth Group leaders) will be preventative discipling rather than corrective counseling. So we designed one of the sessions to directly teach/model how to use biblical counseling questions in leading a Growth Group where you are studying Scripture and sharing together as a group. Ben already teaches growth group leaders how to lead an inductive Bible study. We added biblical counseling questions to supplement this and help bring the Bible study into the trenches of real life for people in the group. We chose to do a study on 1 Thessalonians 5: 12-18 incorporating both inductive study questions and biblical counseling questions. An outline of our study is provided below:
The passage we’re looking at comes from the section on Christian community: how do we live with one another in such a way that the body is built up and God is glorified? What hinders community? How can we overcome these hindrances? The passage contains several commands that give us specific directions for living in community.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5: 12-18 and ask:
- What do you notice about these verses?
- What are the main commands?
- What does it mean to respect our spiritual leaders? Esteem them in love?
- What do you see in verses 14-15?
- Can you think of examples of admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, and helping the weak? Are you involved in these kinds of activities?
- How would you summarize verses 16-18? What would it look like to do these things in real life?
- Which one of these commands is most challenging for you? Why? Have several people share and discuss as a group what makes it hard to obey the commands. The purpose here is to get people talking and to see which command(s) get the most attention.
- Choose a command that several people thought was hard to obey. Ask: Can anyone think of a specific time when you struggled to obey this command? What was going on in your life/day at that time? What stresses or blessings were you experiencing? How did your circumstances influence your obedience or disobedience? How did you respond? What do you think motivated your response (desires, fears, beliefs)? Ask another person the same set of questions and discuss. Point out how our shortsightedness and wandering desires get in the way of building community.
- In 1 Thessalonians 5: 9-11 Paul gives us great motivation to build strong Christian community. How would you summarize Paul’s encouraging words? How would keeping these words in mind help us overcome our resistance to community building?
- Let’s go to God in prayer right now and confess the ways we have hindered community. Confess not only actions but also underlying heart issues.
- What is one way you could build community this week? How will the truth of 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 encourage and motivate you?
The Way Forward
While we have sought to provide good training to Growth Group leaders, this is still in its infancy. There is much work to do to ensure that biblical counseling and Growth Group leading are aligned and that they reinforce each other. This year we plan to do more training, especially for Growth Group leaders, in leading inductive/biblical counseling type Bible studies.
Join the Conversation
What can you apply to your ministry from the way University Reformed Church relates their small group ministry and biblical counseling?