A New Breed: Pastors Who Love Counseling?

June 11, 2012

Deepak Reju

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Deepak Reju

Biblical Counseling in the Local Church--Part 5

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 5 of a multi-part BCC Grace & Truth blog series on Biblical Counseling in the Local Church. Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. 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.

A Pastor-Counselor

I (Deepak Reju) am a pastor, and my fundamental calling in life is to work as an elder and teacher in my local congregation.  I teach; I lead; and I shepherd the sheep.

But, I am also a counselor. I’ve studied counseling. I’ve been affirmed for my gifts as a counselor. And, as you might expect, I do lot and lots of counseling in my role as a pastor. Yet, I’m different than most pastors. I love counseling. I really like helping people who have difficult problems, and I like sorting through other people’s messed up lives.

You might think I’ve got a split identity. Is he really a pastor, a counselor, or maybe both? You might say that I’m a part of a new breed of pastors who are uniquely called out to work on staff and to focus much of my energy on counseling.

A Growing “Trend”

Have you noticed that a lot of churches have taken to hiring a pastor of biblical counseling?

  • Reformed University Church (Kevin DeYoung) hired Pat Quinn.
  • Village Church (Matt Chandler) hired Lee Lewis and Michael Snetzer.
  • Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper) hired Jack Delk.
  • Harvest Bible Church (James MacDonald) hired Garrett Higbee.
  • Parkside Church (Alister Begg) hired Jonathan Holmes.
  • Highpointe Baptist Church (Juan Sanchez) hired Josh Hayward.
  • Mars Hill (Mark Driscoll) hired Mike Wilkerson and James Noriega.
  • Clifton Baptist Church (Tom Schreiner) hired Jeremy Pierre.
  • Sojourn Community Church (Daniel Montgomery) hired Robert Cheong.
  • Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Mark Dever) hired me—Deepak Reju.

And the list could go on and on.

Why Hire a Pastor of Counseling and Equipping?

After an associate pastor, a church secretary, or a youth minister, the typical hire for a church staff is typically not a pastoral counselor. But many senior pastors who are committed to the Word have seen the value of hiring someone on staff who will pour into the discipling and counseling ministries of the church. Why? Why not just stick with a more “traditional” hire?

Pastors obviously like having someone on staff who can handle the really hard stuff—the suicides, eating disorders, the bad marriages, and many other seemingly hopeless situations. But more than just “doing” counseling, pastoral counselors also equip the church to learn how to counsel one another with the Word. They help build a culture of counseling and discipling in their church.

So, what say you, senior pastor? Might you consider hiring a pastoral counselor in your church today?

Join the Conversation

What priority would you give in the hiring process to a pastor of counseling and equipping?


11 thoughts on “A New Breed: Pastors Who Love Counseling?

  1. Deepak,

    Thanks for the article. I agree 100%. Though I too enjoy counseling, I think hiring a counseling pastor is an excellent idea if a church can afford to do so, because it can take up a lot of time in a week. In fact, other than sermon preparation, counseling is easily the thing I do most.  
    Of course, I wish I had more training than the two classes I took in seminary. While they were helpful, I’ve honestly learned more by doing. Nonetheless, I don’t feel qualified to call myself a counselor, so I often tell people I’m more of a coach, than a counselor. 

    That being said, my only question concerning hiring a counselor would be whether people would go to them. I think part of the reason people come to the pastor is because even if they don’t know him well, they’ve listened to him talk so much, they feel like they do. Consequently, without being on the preaching roster, I wonder if a counseling pastor would be as effective. Just a thought.

    Grace and peace
    Darden Caylor
    Pastor- Mercy Road Fellowship
    http://www.mercy-road.org

  2. Hi Dee! 

    I am pastoring a smaller church in Nashville, Tn, and I am the only full-time staff person.  Unfortunately, our limited budget does not allow for us to hire an on-site counselor.  I do all I can to employ the skills I learned through chaplaincy & keeping up to date w/ a healthy diet of Paul Tripp, David Powlison, and other CCEF materials.  God has been faithful, and while I know having paid staff would be great, it is just not feasible at this time.

    God Bless, Bo

  3. Thanks, Deepak! I for one am thrilled to see the Lord bringing us back to the biblical understanding of shepherding/pastoring/counseling as including the personal ministry of the Word to one another. The Puritans had this understanding of pastoral care and I thank the Lord for this “trend” that will hopefully be a long-lasting return to pastoral care. 

  4. You know, a counseling ministry is a great place for wise, skilled and godly women to use their gifts in the church too. Pastoral teams, have you ever considered hiring a female Counselor / Director of Counseling Ministries to serve the women and men of your church?

  5. Eve, Good question.  We actually have female biblical counselors who have been hired by the church to help our staff also.  

  6. [email protected] on said:

    Darden, 

    Good thought.  That’s why I think that better way to go is to hire someone as a pastor-counselor, i.e., someone you would trust to teach in your pulpit, not just someone who hides away in a counseling room.  General principle: authority comes to those who teach the Word.   While I’m not the main teaching pastor in our church, I do get plenty of opportunities to teach in congregational settings (Sunday school, PM services, etc.).   And authority and influence in the congregation comes not just through teaching, but doing 1000 different things that a pastor has to do as he shepherds the congregation (funerals, weddings, hospital visits, etc.).   I’d encourage pastor-counselors to do all these things plus more! 

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  8. Bo,

    You raise a very important issue regarding the ability of many churches to hire a full-time pastoral counselor. Knowing Pastor Deepak well, I know that he shares my commitment to training the Body of Christ for one-another ministry.

    Bob

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