Equipped to Counsel, Part Two: Equipping Counselors for Your Church

December 20, 2011

Bob Kellemen

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Bob Kellemen

Equipped to Counsel Series Part 2

Note: You’re reading Part Two in a multi-part series on how to equip biblical counselors in the local church. Read Part One by Pastor Deepak Reju. Today’s post is written by Dr. Bob Kellemen, who has equipped biblical counselors in all three churches he has pastored.

The Résumé of the Biblical Counselor: The 4Cs

In Equipping Counselors for Your Church, I ask readers to imagine that they are forwarding their résumé to the Holy Spirit, the Divine Counselor. If you did that, what qualifications would you highlight to demonstrate your eligibility to enter the ranks of biblical counselors? What do the Scriptures say? What qualifies a person for biblical counseling? What qualities make your trainees eligible to claim the mantle of soul physician and spiritual friend?

Fortunately, for those of us who train biblical counselors, the Apostle Paul already completed the résumé.

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14).

In this verse, the surrounding context, and other biblical passages, we discover the four résumé qualifications of an equipped biblical counselor. They supply the biblical counseling equipping goals and objectives that I have sought to meet in all three churches where I have equipped God’s people.

The Four Dimensions of Comprehensive Biblical Counseling Equipping

  • Christ-like Character:        “Full of Goodness”                Heart/Being
  • Biblical Content:                  “Complete in Knowledge”   Head/Knowing
  • Relational Competence:     “Competent to Instruct”        Hands/Doing
  • Christian Community:        “Brothers/One Another”       Home/Loving

In my consulting, both in churches and in seminary settings, the primary weakness we identify involves training that lacks one or more of the 4Cs: character, content, competence, or community. In fact, many training programs, whether in churches or schools, tend to highlight one dimension (one of the 4 Cs) to the detriment of the other components of comprehensive biblical counseling training. As I’ve equipped counselors for the local church, I’ve tried to address that imbalance through comprehensive equipping in the 4Cs.

Equipping in Christ-like Character

I always share with my counselors-in-training that “competence without character is like one corpse practicing cosmetic surgery on another corpse.” To avoid this “toolbox only” approach to counselor equipping, we have to understand that to become an effective biblical counselor, we have to receive effective biblical counseling.

So a hallmark of the counseling equipping in my three churches has been “small group labs.” These are not simply “skills labs” or only role-play labs, but a true small group community where we give and receive one-another care. As one of our pastors describes it, “we get real and raw” as we share with one another areas of suffering or struggles against besetting sins. In the context of a grace-oriented small group community, we then provide “live” counseling for one another. While our own Christ-like character is being nurtured, the entire group participates in and observes real life one-another ministry.

To accomplish this, a major focus of our training time together revolves around using the Spiritual Friends equipping manual as a guide (not a strait-jacket). The character-focused questions and the biblical counseling related content provides the framework for becoming a mature biblical counselor by receiving one-another soul care.

Equipping in Biblical Content

Our training time together also revolves around interactive, applicational teaching and discussion related to the book Soul Physicians. Soul Physicians addresses life’s six ultimate questions that every biblical counselor needs to understand:

Six Ultimate Life Questions That Every Biblical Counselor Must Address

  • God’s Word: “What is truth? Where do I find answers?”
  • The Trinity: “Who is God? How can I know Him personally?”
  • Creation: “Who am I? What makes people tick?”
  • Fall: “What went wrong? Why do we do the things we do?”
  • Redemption: “Can I change? How do people change?”
  • Consummation: “Where am I headed? How does our future destiny impact our present reality?”

Rather than “pure lecture,” every interaction focuses on applying truth to life—to our lives and to our one-another ministry. This avoids two unwise extremes:

  • A “brain-dump” where training focuses exclusively on academic content unrelated to life.
  • “Dumbing-down” where biblical content and theological precision is minimized.

Training in biblical counseling should involve a depth of robust theology related relevantly to daily life and ministry. Biblical counselors need to learn how to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth.

Equipping in Relational Competence

The Apostle Paul tells us that he is confident that God’s people are competent to counsel when they are full of goodness (Christ-like character) and complete in knowledge (biblical content). Biblical counselors need to be equipped to care like Christ by providing both parakaletic (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) soul care for suffering, and by providing nouthetic (Romans 15:14) care-fronting for victory over besetting sins, all moving toward progressive sanctification—growth in grace.

In my three churches, we have sought to develop biblical counseling relational competencies both through the aforementioned labs, and also through the time-tested three-fold relational pairings of Paul—Barnabas—Timothy. We pair each trainee with a Paul—a mentor who builds into their lives and helps them to develop biblical counseling competencies. We pair each trainee with a Barnabas—a peer (an encouragement partner, a spiritual friend) who is also going through the training, and they build into each other’s lives as together they develop one-another competence. About half-way through their training, we also pair each trainee with a Timothy—someone they are building into and to whom they provide (supervised) one-another ministry.

Whereas some training models focus on the excellent Love-Know-Speak-Do approach, we focus on a Sustain-Heal-Reconcile-Guide model. Sustaining and healing focus on parakaletic comfort for suffering, and reconciling and guiding focus on nouthetic care-fronting for besetting sins. With all four, the emphasis is upon relational competencies—offering, as Paul does in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, both Scripture and soul, speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

Four Core Relational Competencies That Every Biblical Counselor Must Develop

  • Sustaining Biblical Counseling Competencies: Empathize and Embrace
  • Healing Biblical Counseling Competencies: Encourage and Enlighten
  • Reconciling Biblical Counseling Competencies: Expose and Exhort
  • Guiding Relational Counseling Competencies: Empower and Equip

Equipping in the Context of Christian Community

You can’t learn to be a loving, caring, competent, biblical counselor as a “lone ranger.” You can’t learn to speak and live gospel truth in love outside the context of Christian community. That’s why Paul embeds his words in Romans 15:14 with phrases like “brothers” and “one another,” and it’s why Paul writes that verse within the broader one-another context of Romans 12-16.

One Japanese American trainee, Megumi, said it beautifully. “Community is the container for the other three Cs” (character, content, and competence). Well said! It is in the context of grace-oriented, gospel communities where people speak and live gospel conversations one to another that we best become equipped as biblical counselors. As equippers, it is our calling to nurture a group training environment where love abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (Phil. 1:9-11).

Join the Conversation

What can you apply to your equipping ministry from what Dr. Kellemen has shared from his equipping ministry in three congregations? What would be similar in your congregation? What would be different and unique in your setting?