Growing Godly Counselors
Good counseling training requires growth in both knowledge and grace. Many counselors expend a lot of time growing in their head knowledge—biblical knowledge and counseling knowledge (i.e., understanding counseling theory). But head knowledge can do more damage than good if it is not grounded in love, grace, and hope (1 Cor. 12:31). Christ-centered counselors must exemplify God’s grace to struggling believers. To grow in grace, counselors need to learn how to put that head knowledge into practice in real-time, real-life situations in the church, under the supervision of older, wiser, loving Christians. To that end, we’ve created three opportunities: (1) Co-counseling with an experienced counselors; (2) leading groups on difficult heart issues (worry, sorrow, anger, etc.); and (2) Counseling Case Conference (C3 for short).
Counseling Case Conference is a monthly meeting where counselors present real situations and sort through how best to administer the gospel and care for struggling believers. This equips the counselors doing the presentation; especially those counselors who are struggling to sort through difficult situations and need help in thinking through the situation. This equips counselors-in-training because it grows them in both knowledge but more importantly, it grows them in grace as they watch and learn how more experienced counselors lovingly sort through difficult situations.
The Write-up. One counselor will prepare a short write-up (2 pages max) using the following categories:
- Pseudonym for the counselee(s), so that we protect his or her identity.
- Brief description of the person and their problems. Start with basic facts about their profile, i.e. age, ethnicity, employment, and any other facts to round out their basic profile. After that, give a brief overview of their problems.
- Background factors. List any background factors that are relevant.
- Brief description of their significant relationships.
- Identity in Christ or Unbelief. What does their identity center on? Are you working with a believer or an unbeliever? What leads you to this conclusion?
- Functional Theology of God. In contrast to what the person is supposed to believe (i.e., confessional theology), tell us what his or her functional theology is (i.e., what they actually believe about God).
- Heart issues, thoughts, desires, hopes, idols. What does the person want, hope for, desire and think?
- The Person’s Response to Sin and Struggle. What does the person do in response to the problems?
- Critical incidents. Key moments that are useful to know about.
- Scripture. What does the Bible say about this person and their struggles? Don’t just cite verses, but if you can, think of biblical themes that relate to their life.
- Strategy/Action plan. What’s God’s agenda for change in this person’s life? What has been done? What should be done?
- The counselor’s own heart issues, sins, life factors. Where does the counselor’s life intersect with this struggling Christian’s life? What are the counselor’s heart issues or unhealthy desires that intersect with this person’s life? Can you (the counselor) relate to their sin?
- Questions for the group. What would you like to ask the group?
With twelve categories and only two pages, you must be brief. I’m making the write-up short to save you time. So, don’t do an exhaustive write-up. Additional relevant information can be discussed at the case conference meeting. Because of the confidential nature of these real-live situations, we will need to give the 2-page case descriptions back to the presenter at the end of our discussion time; so that the copies can be disposed of carefully.
I have found two types of case studies presented: those ministry situations that really have no relevance to the counselor’s junk/sin/desires/struggles or those that have a lot to do with the counselor’s struggles. If you pick the later, you will get a lot more out of the experience. How do you find ministry situations that overlap with your junk? Ask questions like, “Which people cause me the most anxiety or frustration?” or “What counselor situations do I struggle with most in my life?”
Discussion Time. We’ll meet for 1 ½ hours on the 4th or 5th Sunday of the month; from 4:30 to 6:00 PM. We’ll divide the time accordingly (and generally in this order):
- Start with giving the presenter a few minutes to add any additional details.
- Open up to the group to ask additional questions.
- Take time to think through Scripture’s relevance and biblical themes.
- Take time to think through strategy/agenda for the counselor and struggling person.
- Think with the counselor about their own heart issues.
- Pray for the counselor and struggling person.