Note: You’re reading Part Three in a multi-part series on how to equip biblical counselors in the local church. Read Part One by Pastor Deepak Reju and Part Two by Dr. Bob Kellemen. Today’s post is written by Pastor John Henderson, Counseling Pastor at Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).
These words from Ephesians 4 served to motivate and shape our thinking about biblical counseling training at Denton Bible Church when we began to equip the members of our congregation for counseling ministry some 9 years ago. At the time, as one of the counseling pastors, I became deeply convinced that I was neglecting one of my primary functions in our church: to equip the saints for the work of service. That is, to help maturing believers learn and exercise the ministry of God’s Word through counseling.
The process I outline below has been evolving over the past 9 years and captures the bare bones of our equipping efforts at DBC. It still needs God’s grace and refining. Yet, I hope it gives you a picture of one way biblical counseling training can happen in the Body of Christ.
Phase 1: Equipped to Counsel Course (ETC)
The ETC training is our broad-based, entry-level training in biblical counseling. It is open to men and women who are professing believers, growing in grace and faith, and currently engaged in some form of ministry in the body of Christ. For example, small group leaders and church members actively serving in the church are given immediate consideration. Pastors, elders, and other leaders in the church are always invited to participate.
- Element 1: Equipped to Counsel is the 9-month curriculum we use to guide Phase 1 training. Actual classroom and group learning time comes to around 3 hours a week.
- Element 2: Journal of Biblical Counseling articles provide the supplemental reading for participants throughout the 9-month training process
- Element 3: A Counseling Mini-practicum during the second semester of training requires course participants to meet with a counselee for 6-8 weeks of counseling ministry in order to apply their learning from the equipped to counsel training
Many men and women complete the Phase 1 training and continue to serve in the ministry area to which they are already assigned and faithful. A small number will move on to Phase 2 of our equipping process.
Phase 2: Counseling Ministry Training
After the Equipped to Counsel course finishes, approximately 4-6 men and women tend to voice interest in additional training, display particular spiritual gifts well suited to counseling ministry, and express a desire to serve regularly in this area of ministry. Sometimes we will form these individuals into a 3-month training group, where they observe live counseling meetings with pastoral staff, can be observed by pastoral staff while facilitating counseling meetings, and continue reading in the area of biblical counseling.
- Element 1: Live observation of counseling meetings.
- Element 2: Readings–Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp as well as Counsel from the Cross by Fitzpatrick & Johnson, and often other books related to biblical counseling and face-to-face gospel ministry.
- Element 3: Monthly supervision and group meetings with pastoral counseling staff.
Level 3: Placement on a Ministry Team
After Phase 1 and Phase 2 have been completed, certain men and women stand out as specifically interested and gifted in serving the body of Christ through biblical counseling ministry. Right now we offer three avenues under our counseling ministry for expressing these interests and gifts.
- Counseling Ministry Team: Members of this team provide counseling ministry to individuals, couples, and families from our church and the surrounding area. They meet with counselees on a consistent basis and attend a monthly counseling ministry team meeting where we pray together, discuss cases, and continue training.
- Equipping Team: Members of this group are experienced, interested, and gifted in either administration, teaching, or leading. They compose a team to help make Phases 1 & 2 happen.
- Redemption Groups Team: This is our newest and still-developing expression of counseling ministry at Denton Bible Church. Members of this team have completed Phases 1 & 2 as well as the Redemption Group process (developed by Mike Wilkerson at Mars Hill Church, Seattle). Some will return to help administrate, encourage, and eventually co-lead Redemption Groups.
Join the Conversation
What can you apply to your equipping ministry from what Pastor Henderson has shared from equipping in his congregation? What would be similar in your congregation? What would be different and unique in your setting?