Note: You’re reading Part Six 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, Part Four by Pastor Robert Cheong, and Part Five by Pastor Greg Cook. Today’s post is written by Pastor Joe Lee, who serves on the pastoral staff at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Our Mission at Covenant Life
We are a local church made up of redeemed sinners who have been purchased by the blood of Christ to be God’s people. We belong to Jesus. We exist to love Him, worship Him, obey Him, and proclaim His glorious gospel to the world. Therefore, our mission at Covenant Life Church is to build a community of gospel-centered people.
In order to fulfill our mission together, our biblical counseling training seeks to equip every member of the church to see themselves as ministers of the gospel and actively engaged in the lives of the people in their community.
Biblical Counseling Training = Theological Knowledge + Counseling Skill
Wouldn’t it be great if ministry to others could be one big counseling formula? We all like formulas. For example, 2 + 2 = 4 no matter what we think or feel about the numbers, it doesn’t change the answer. There is stability, predictability, safety, and comfort—exactly the things that we want when it comes to ministering to others. We want to know what are the 7 steps to highly effective biblical counseling.
Unfortunately, counseling is not so simple, neither are people or the problems and trials that people struggle with. This is why counseling cannot be reduced to a set of steps or a precise formula to follow. It is ministry where the variables include you, the person needing help, and life in a fallen world where things do not go as expected.
Where then, can we find some sense of stability and constancy as we seek to minister to others? We don’t find it in a perfect methodology of how to counsel others, but in God, His Word, and prayer.
This is why our biblical counseling training focuses on not just counseling skill (though this is important and we always need to be growing in our skill), but our theological understanding. We must start with God and see that life is not primarily about our story, but God’s story of redemption in and through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. We start with God and work our way to us.
We have three levels of training to help people in the church to grow in ministering to others and with each of the levels, there will be different opportunities to serve in the biblical counseling ministry.
Level 1: Foundations of Biblical Change
The analogy that we use when we think about our counseling training is to give people tools in their toolbox to use to minister to others. The first tool is to help the participants gain a deeper understanding of the gospel and learn how to make gospel connection in their every day life. As the participants make these gospel connections, they will be pursuing and experiencing biblical change. As the participants experience biblical change through the gospel, they gain a confidence not in their own ability or knowledge to minister to others, but a confidence in God, His Word, and prayer to bring about change in someone’s life.
We want as many members of the church to go through this course as possible and offer it 4-5 times a year on different days and times. We encourage our care groups to go through this class together to help encourage participation.
Each session is structured with a teaching from God’s Word, Q&A/Discussion, and homework review. We encourage each participant to choose an area of his or her life and work on a personal growth project during the course. Time is given during each session to review the personal growth projects and for the participants to ask questions. For homework, we assign various CCEF articles written by David Powlison and Paul Tripp for them to read for our discussion time.
As we go through the course, the teachers are on the lookout for people who seem to have a good grasp on the gospel and understand how to make personal application to invite to the Level 2 course.
Level 2: Counseling in Community
The name of this course and much of the content came from the syllabus that Mike Wilkerson from Mars Hill Church created.
One of my responsibilities as the pastor overseeing the biblical counseling ministry is to help create structures of care to assist the pastoral team in caring for the members. As I asked pastors about their counseling times, one of the things that emerged was how many of them were meeting with people who had similar issues. One of the solutions that we came up with was to group people together and care for them by going through a study together.
CCEF has developed many great small group resources: Crossroads (for addictions) by Ed Welch, When I am Afraid (for fear) by Ed Welch, and Change and Your Relationships (for marriage) by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. In order to run these groups, we needed to train people to lead them.
We started the Counseling in Community class to help us train people to lead the group studies because we realized that people needed more training and tools. We want to equip the participants to have a better understanding of God’s story of redemption, but at the same time learn the counseling paradigm of Love-Know-Speak-Do.
We utilize the same structure as our level 1 course, but add role-plays and case studies to help us further evaluate and observe the participants applying what they are learning in ministering to others. This has been one of the best means to help people to identify both their strengths and weaknesses.
We use Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp, and various CCEF articles by David Powlison, Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, and Mike Emlet.
We offer this class two times per year and invite people to participate in this course from the group of people who have already taken the Level 1 training.
After taking this course, we meet with the participants individually to determine the best place for them to serve. Some of the participants will go on to become small group leaders and lead the groups studies, others who seem to have a desire for more training and demonstrate gift and ability to minister to others will go on to assist on a biblical counseling case and be invited to attend the Level 3 training.
Level 3: Lead Counselors Training
This course is designed to train people to come alongside the pastors in caring for people who need long-term care and discipleship. We train the participants to know how to biblically care for the various trials and sins that people in our congregation are experiencing. The participants in this course will not only have class time to learn, but actually participate in a biblical counseling case as an observer.
After the course, each participant is evaluated and given a recommendation for further training and equipping or assigned to serve alongside a certain group of pastors to care for the people.
Join the Conversation
What can you apply to your equipping ministry from what Pastor Lee has shared from equipping in his congregation? What would be similar in your congregation? What would be different and unique in your setting?