Lilly Park
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Pursue Learning, Not Just Education

July 16, 2013

Pursue Learning, Not Just Education
Lilly Park

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Lilly Park

Pursue Learning, Not Just Education

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Five in a multi-part series written by biblical counseling educators. You’ll enjoy great diversity in this series, not only related to the authors, but also to the topics. We simply asked a number of biblical counseling educators to craft a blog post about anything they wanted to discuss related to biblical counseling and education. Some are focusing on their teaching ministry. Others are focusing on their personal educational journey. Still others are focusing on relating important theological issues to everyday life. Enjoy! You can read Part One by Heath Lambert at Mental Illness, Psychiatric Drugs, and Counseling Education and Part Two by Howard Eyrich at 5 Tools for Making Training Effective, and Part Three by Ernie Baker at Jeremiah 17:9—Is It True of the Believer?, and Part Four by Charles Ware at Biblical Higher Education: Spiritual Maturity Is Our Highest Priority.

Become a Good Counselor…

Is formal education necessary to become a good counselor?

I suppose it depends on how you define good, but, in general, I would say no. By “formal education,” I am referring to studies in college and graduate school. It is one way of learning, but not the only one.

I think of people who faithfully serve in different contexts but probably won’t complete a degree in biblical counseling anytime soon or ever. For instance, there’s that man at your church who used to live a life of addictions to drugs and alcohol. Since becoming a Christian, he is passionate about helping others with their addictions. Then, there’s that young woman who received counseling for anorexia and now wants to help teenage females. Last, there’s that woman who experienced a heartbreaking divorce several years ago and wants to help other women in similar situations.

None of the above persons have a counseling degree, but it would be a loss not to involve them in counseling. They inspire me because they are gifted in different ways and desire to use their stories to comfort and challenge the brokenhearted. (Before getting involved, they may have to complete certain training at church but not a degree per se.)

Learning is Multifaceted

Learning theorists define education differently, but a common view is that learning is more broad than education and education is more than completing a degree. Learning occurs in formal, academic settings, but it also occurs outside of the classroom. For instance, the disciples of Jesus, unlike Paul (Phil. 3:4-6), were not known for their formal education but received quality training by following Jesus.

Spending time with godly people is another form of learning. Their words carry weight because they live out God’s Word. I am so thankful for the godly people in my life. They show by example how to connect theology to life. They also show the importance of godliness and trusting God. They continue to pursue learning even though they have learned much (Prov 1:5).

Learning continues as we serve in church, disciple others, teach the Bible, volunteer for ministries, interact with children, and so forth. All of these experiences are educational in improving counseling skills, such as knowing how to handle a situation that a counseling book doesn’t cover or a conversation that lacks honesty and direction. During the process, we learn to be humble, patient, and flexible––again, valuable skills for counseling.

Consider the Circumstances and Options

What if I want to pursue a biblical counseling degree? It is a worthy desire, but first think about your goals and life situation. Depending on your goals, a degree may or may not be necessary. Consider your life situation. Do you have a lot of stressful concerns in your life? If you’re married with children, how will your school commitment affect your priorities to God and your family? It might be wise to wait but certainly seek godly counsel. Another huge decision regards finances. Consider ways to lower your debt to prevent accumulating thousands of dollars in student debt, which is one of the highest debts in the U.S.

What if I don’t need a degree but desire further training? Be creative! Compared to ten years ago, more churches, organizations, and schools offer biblical counseling. Here are a few ideas: audit classes or seminars, register for online courses, or attend conferences. I still remember a pastor’s wife who wanted to learn Greek, so she signed up for the class at her church. Also, why not read on your own or start a book discussion group? Is there a biblical counselor at your church or in your area to mentor you or periodically meet with you?

Learning is multifaceted. It is both formal and informal. Regardless of our degree status, may we seize the learning and ministry opportunities around us, remembering to place our confidence in God.

Join the Conversation

Is formal education necessary to become a good counselor?