Note: You’re reading Part Five in a multi-part series on how to equip biblical counselors in the local church. Read Part One by Pastor Deepak Reju, Part Two by Dr. Bob Kellemen, Part Three by Pastor John Henderson, and Part Four by Pastor Robert Cheong. Today’s post is written by Pastor Greg Cook, Soul Care Pastor at Christ’s Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
A Teaching Hospital
A common metaphor for our ministry is that of a teaching hospital. The care a teaching hospital offers is real and legitimate (and often specialized and advanced), but it also necessarily exists as a tangible training center for the equipping of future care-givers.
Both the caring process and the training process of biblical counseling, called Soul Care at Christ Community Bible Church (CCBC) happen in a variety of ways and sizes: individually, through small groups, and in large groups. This is reflected in the Soul Care Mission Statement for CCBC:
“Soul Care exists to glorify God by comforting sufferers (most often in individual care settings), restoring sinners (most often in a small group context), and equipping the saints (includes large classroom settings).” We summarize our mission into three phases or movements: CARE. RESTORE. EQUIP.
We seek to care for people through a formal counseling process. This is often one-on-one or one-on-two (not counting observers). Though Care is the place we start with those seeking help in Soul Care, it is toward the end of a person’s training process that our trainees engage directly with counselees. It is especially true of the staff (and experienced Lay Counselors) that we do not do counseling by ourselves. We have people observing so counseling is rarely actually one-on-one. For the counselee who will eventually become a counselor, this is the first phase of the training process: learning to receive care offers an understanding of how to offer care (2 Cor. 1:3-11).
Care is often given to those who do not have a strong biblical community support system. As a person is cared for, we want them to move into community. As people experience God’s care and comfort, and come to a deeper realization of His sovereignty, goodness, grace, and the power of the Cross to restore and overcome sin, they can become restored to God and to others.
Our preliminary training process of offering How People Change, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (along with a host of other small groups or classes) is one of the ways we offer a meaningful community to be a part of as well as further reinforcement of Christ as central to all of life. These materials point the participants to the necessity of a heart change emphasis that permeates the broader Soul Care ministry. Individual counseling is ideally followed with a meaningful small group experience as part of the disciple-making process. Restore also refers to the small groups that we offer sometimes referred to as support or recovery groups. Through the apprenticeship process of learning to lead a small group, there are many dynamics of training happening in these groups.
If the counseling process goes from small to large, the training process goes from the large group to the counseling room. Our training process mirrors our approach to the Soul Care ministry as a whole but from the opposite direction. The training process supports and utilizes each of the three areas of Care, Restore, and Equip, but initially centers around large groups and formal classes. The most general form of training offer is CCEF’s Church Transformation Series. The series of three courses* are offered on a constant rotation and occasionally two at a time. These serve as loose pre-requisites for an eventual involvement in the formal training process.
Using the teaching hospital analog, which begins with formal classroom training, we make the centerpiece of the formal training process John Henderson’s Equipped to Counsel (ETC). We offer it through the year in three parts (semesters). The first semester (for us, usually offered in the fall) focuses on the foundations and theological basis for biblical counseling. The second semester (spring) focuses on methodology, and the third (summer) on application to marriage and family. ETC is presented in a three hour block each week. Participants are expected to read certain JBC articles prior to the class in order to expand and enhance the principles covered in class sessions. Though the students are in a classroom for nearly 3 hours each week, one of the reasons we chose ETC was because of the interactive approach that includes role plays, discussions, and interaction of the students in the learning process.
As the participants of ETC show interest in becoming formal Lay Counselors (LCs), we evaluate their faithfulness to the class and application process that includes a number of small steps through a packet of info offered to the class members. Upon successful completion of the packet, participants transition to an observer role, and are invited to observe live sessions watching an experienced LC or staff member do counseling (Lk. 16:10). This serves to transition them from the large group to smaller groups for the observers to learn about the observation process and an opportunity to watch and discuss taped counseling sessions as a group.
Through the formal training process, practical experience of observations, and role plays, a trainee is allowed to meet with an individual in the role of the lead counselor. Training is a never ending process for those who consider themselves disciples.
Our goal is that where care is being given, training is also being given. It may be (pragmatically) easier to do ministry by yourself, but not as effective. Christ’s model was to do ministry with an audience of disciples he was training. The disciples listened, watched, learned, did, and eventually trained others to do likewise. We seek to do likewise (2 Tim. 2:2).
Join the Conversation
What can you apply to your equipping ministry from what Pastor Cook has shared from equipping in his congregation? What would be similar in your congregation? What would be different and unique in your setting?
*The three courses in the series authored by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane are called How People Change, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (formerly Helping Others Change), and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. Ideally, these are offered in a small group setting but we have offered them as Sunday School Classes to the congregation at large as well as to our volunteers.