BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 1 of a multi-part BCC Grace & Truth blog series on Biblical Counseling in the Local Church. We asked a number of experienced biblical counselors who provide biblical counseling leadership and equipping in local churches to write on “a topic you consider important to local church biblical counseling.” We’re confident that their varied perspectives and topics will add greatly to your insight into biblical counseling in the local church.
Counseling in the Local Church
Every Saturday morning I (Pat Quinn) teach a counseling methods class which includes several people who do counseling in “secular” venues. I love having them in the class. They stimulate me to think and counsel better. I respect and admire their willingness to counsel in hard places, but I also often thank God that I get to counsel in a local church. Here are five reasons I love church-based counseling.
1.) I love the practical freedoms it affords me.
First of all, no one has to pay me anything! I’m so thankful that the church pays my salary so I can counsel for free. Congregants appreciate it too. It feels more in line with gospel ministry (“freely you have received; freely give”) and I think it promotes a less “professional” and more pastoral relationship.
I’ve often wondered in “pay for service” counseling how anyone knows whether the counselee got her money’s worth at a particular counseling session. How much do insights, practical suggestions, or encouragements cost? Some days I might feel the need to give them a refund! I’m also glad I don’t feel pressure to meet only for one hour or for only a certain number of weeks, etc. I like the flexibility to meet longer or shorter, depending on what’s happening and what the needs are.
2.) I love the fact that our preaching and counseling use the same categories and terminology.
Because our staff and elders are committed to biblical counseling, all ministry at our church shares a common understanding of how God brings change in peoples’ lives: God’s grace brings conversion to Christ and progressive change through his Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, if someone brings up something from Sunday’s sermon in a counseling session, I can explore how that relates to their issues without having to go from “spiritual” worldview and language to “psychological” ones. If explained well, biblical categories (i.e. suffering, sin, grace, repentance, faith, sanctification, etc.) carry the explanatory weight for all heart and lifestyle issues. I believe our people are better helped because the preaching and counseling ministries are on the same page.
3.) I love the opportunities to train up other people to share the discipling and counseling needs in our growing church.
Our church provides biblical counseling training for lay counselors, elders, growth group leaders, and others through classes and a counseling internship. Two positive results are, first, that everyone comes from the same understanding of heart and life change, and, second, there are many more people trained and available to do ministry. Already I am feeling a “loving pressure” from our elders to provide more trained counselors to help with the many and deep needs in our congregation.
As our church grows numerically (we have almost doubled in the last few years) and more and more people ask for help with hard issues, we will need more and more trained counselors to help them. Church-based counselor training provides both the vision and the means to help the church produce “disciple-making disciples.”
4.) I love the abundance of other resources available for counseling in a healthy local church.
I have the opportunity to work with a wonderful church staff to provide better care and training for people. Examples include working with Pastor Ben to train elders and growth group leaders, having our campus associate Jackie (who has a Master’s degree in biblical counseling) sit in with me for a counseling situation with young woman, and possibly sharing a counseling intern with our campus ministry next fall.
I am also able to connect counselees to various other people and ministries in the church to help with their particular needs (e.g. growth groups for fellowship and support, elders for oversight and discipline, Christianity Explored for evangelism, diaconate for practical needs, missions committee for ministry opportunities, international ministry for welcome and teaching, etc.). There is a double blessing here: these church resources enrich my counseling ministry and having a counseling ministry enriches the church. Everybody wins!
5.) I love that counselees come expecting to talk about God and the gospel.
The gospel has changed my life and it is my passion to help others see how the power of the gospel can impact every area of their life. In church-based counseling there is no need to “bait and switch.” People expect to be listened to compassionately and cared for wisely and they know that this means that we will use the Bible to point and lead them to Christ. They may not know what exactly biblical counsel will look like with their particular problem, but they do expect it will be Scripture-based and Christ-centered. This allows us to get to heart issues and gospel help more quickly. It also promotes greater joy for both counselor and counselee as together they see and enjoy “the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
Again, none of this implies any disrespect for those called to counsel in venues outside the church. They face unique challenges and I honor their courage, compassion, and sincere desire to help others who might not come to a church. However, I truly thank God for the many opportunities to live out and share the riches of Christ in a church-based counseling ministry.
Join the Conversation
What are you thankful for in your counseling ministry? What can you do to further a culture of biblical counseling at your church?