BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 4 in a BCC blog mini-series on equipping counselors in the church. Read Part 1: Do You Offer a Lab with Your Instruction?, Part 2: Transformational Small Group Labs, and Part 3: A Proactive Plan.
Those familiar with the early history of biblical counseling will recognize the term “supper seminar.” Back in the olden days (and I am more qualified by the day to use that term with integrity), people like Jay Adams and John Bettler met together with their trainees to discuss cases and hammer out their infant counseling model. Someone would go get a “sack of hamburgers and fries” as Jay liked to say, and then their team would share a meal and sharpen their thinking on various issues.
John Bettler later moved to Chicago to work on his doctorate and during those days provided training for the founders of Faith’s biblical counseling center—Bill Goode and Bob Smith. Bettler introduced the supper seminar format to Goode and Smith and while many things have changed about our training and counseling over the years, our staff and trainees still get together each Monday to have supper together. There are several benefits to a counseling team regularly spending time together.
1. Praying with One Another
Few activities draw a group of men and women together like corporate prayer. We find something special happens as we cry out to God for wisdom and strength before our evening appointments. It feels like we are putting on the armor of God together. We ask the Lord to draw us closer to Him and provide insight and creativity as we counsel in His name. We express our utter dependence on Him and our humble desire to bring glory to His name.
2. Discussing Cases
Counseling is not the kind of discipline that is best learned through books and lectures. Those things have their place of course, but effective counselors are men and women who are developing case wisdom in the trenches of real life ministry. It is important to have a forum where our staff can ask questions about issues they have never faced before. It is reassuring to our counselees to hear a counselor say that while he has never thought about that issue, he will pose it confidentially to our staff and have a response the following week. Lessons learned in that fashion have a way of impacting a counselor for life because it moves beyond theory to real-life ministry.
3. Sharing Resources
No one has the time to read every new book, attend every seminar, or listen to every lecture. The supper seminar format allows opportunities both formally and informally for counseling staff to report on what the Lord is teaching them through new resources. It is not unusual to leave those discussions with a synthesis of a book or presentation that is solid gold. It is the picture of synergy where together we can accomplish more.
4. Developing Lectures
One frequent question during these kinds of discussions is “where do we address that topic in our counseling training curriculum?” Often the answer is some version of “we don’t, but we have to find a place to include it.” This helps us keep our training lectures fresh and relevant. At times we spend the majority of our supper hour reviewing a new presentation and improving it as a group before it is taught in one of our training programs.
5. Sharing Policy
In this litigious society in which we live, having carefully crafted policies and procedures can make all the difference in the world. Supper seminars provide a natural opportunity to communicate policy changes or updates to be sure that everyone on our staff is up to date on how we believe the Lord wants us to operate.
6. Building Friends for Life
Serving in a counseling ministry can be a rather lonely endeavor. You pass staff members in the hallway between cases but that does not mean friendships are occurring. Having a dedicated time for the staff to eat together provides a natural way to build relationships that can grow in depth and significance over time.
If your counseling staff is feeling fractured and isolated, it might be time to send someone out for a sack of hamburgers and fries. Enjoy some hang time, as the young-uns call it. I think you’ll find that the training value is well worth the effort.
Joining the Conversations
What additional benefits would you enumerate?
What other ways can we enhance the relational emphasis/connection of biblical counseling equipping?