BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 8 of a multi-part BCC Grace & Truth blog series on Biblical Counseling in the Local Church. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7. 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.
3 Major Roles
As the Pastor of Counseling Ministries in a large church, my functional job description contains numerous roles in the life of the church. However, there are three major roles that will be the focus of this blog. They are crisis intervention, marriage and family counseling and defiant counselee management.
Role 1: Crisis Intervention
Crisis intervention has many shapes. For example, some years ago my senior pastor called me about 8:30 one evening and said, “Howard, I need you to go to the home of _____________ with me. His wife has gone ballistic and he cannot get her calmed down.” We spent the next 90 minutes talking her down. Her irrationality was wrapped in theological error, salted with intense anger, and washed over with profuse weeping. Utilizing the Scriptures we assured her of the love and promises of God.
On another occasion a woman called from her car. She was crying intensely. She had just discovered that her husband had an affair. She was pleading with me to meet with her. I was at home recovering from minor surgery and my wife was away. Her adult children were in the car so I told her to come to my home. There were three hearts suffering extreme anguish. In their frenzied discussions they had been feeding the disappointment and despair in each other. Again, it took an extended time to talk them down and in this case come up with a plan of action that included the full orbed involvement of the church.
Role 2: Marriage and Family Counseling
Marriage and family counseling makes up likely 60% of my counseling load. These cases involve the whole gamut of marriage and family issues. Some of the more frequent ones include communication, role distortions, and a lack of appreciation for the biblical understanding of love and respect. Any pastor reading this blog has experienced such marital situations. But, for the Pastor of Counseling, these are daily encounters.
Role 3: Defiant Counselee Management
The secular community often labels teenagers with an Oppositional Defiant Disorder diagnosis. Well, the third category of counselees for me is what I sometimes call the defiant counselee. These are cases in which the counselee has a rebellious spirit and refuses to engage in the counseling process and to cease and desist such activities as the conduct of an affair(s), using drugs, or other such behavior. This category may also include a husband who refuses to support the family or attend services. For example, I recently worked with a man who refused to engage with his wife in caring for a disabled child and to cease using family funds for expensive hobbies to the point of depriving the family of the basics of life.
Working with the Support of the Whole Church
Ok, so you now know my functional job description. It does not sound much different than what any pastor may deal with on occasion or for that matter what the counselor in a standalone agency handles. So what makes things different for me? Sitting in my chair, here is how I see it.
As the Pastor of Counseling Ministry working as crisis interventionist, I work with an extensive in-house support system. For example, with the case cited above we put a congregational team in place. This team included a counselor, an accountability team of three women to meet with her weekly, and an accountability team of two elders to meet with him weekly. The responsibilities of each were clearly defined, the period of time for the accountability teams was defined and the counseling process continued for the necessary duration.
With respect to marriage and family counseling, I work with discipleship teams that take on various roles. For example several years ago a woman showed up in my office to declare that she had had it with her husband. After listening to her story it was easy to understand her conclusion that her marriage was not a marriage. She finished the session with, “I know the church will kick me out, but at this point I don’t care!” Using the Word of God to teach, reprove, and correct her, I was able to convince her to put any action on hold until I talked with her husband. He agreed to come to counseling so she postponed divorce action. Within about six weeks he made a profession of faith.
Subsequently, she came to counseling. One of my assignments was for them to start coming to a special Wednesday night program that our church was running utilizing the Love and Respect video seminar. They protested, “What do we do with our teenage sons? We can’t leave them at home alone.” At that point I recruited our Youth Pastor and connected him with this family. They came to the seminar and the boys came to the youth program. Next, we engaged them in an appropriate Sunday School class and the boys in the youth Sunday School. So, you see, with marriage and family counseling I have a great support system in terms of multiple discipleship involvements.
When it comes to the Defiant Counselee, there is yet another support system to which I have access counseling in the context of the church. Our church has a very active Discipline Committee populated by ten elders. These men sometimes act as investigators, sometimes as encouragers, sometimes as referees and sometimes as counselors. Together as a committee they function as judges. When all else fails they will recommend to the Session (ruling body in Presbyterian Church) that the individual be indicted. Without going into all the detail, this may lead to one of the three forms of church discipline for the sake of reclaiming the individual and the peace and purity of the church.
So, you can see my job as Pastor of Counseling integrates the Body of Christ into the process of rectifying all kinds of counseling issues. This is one of the many reasons I have always chosen to work within the context of the church. My job description actually looks like I desire it to look.
Join the Conversation
How does counseling in the local church integrate the entire Body of Christ into the process of one-another ministry?