BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Four in a four-part Grace & Truth blog series on Models of Care in the Biblical Counseling World. Read Part One by Brad Hambrick: Church, Counseling, and the Gospel at Work, Part Two by Mark Shaw: Serving the Community to Impact the World, and Part Three by John Applegate: Coordinating Counseling Care in the Church and Community.
Models of Care in the Biblical Counseling World: Series Introduction by Deepak Reju
While church-based counseling has often been the centerpiece of the biblical counseling movement, for many years we’ve seen a widening of potential models of care. What happens when Christians in local churches think creatively about how to meet the counseling needs of their community? Each day this week we’d like to showcase a different model and challenge you to think if you could do something similar to reach your community for Christ through the ministry of biblical counseling.
The New Life Center: Partnering for the Gospel
The small-town pastor can find himself face-to-face with a host of needs and struggles. In a close knit community, with little immediate access to good quality counseling services or resources, it is the local church pastor that is often looked to for advice and counsel during times of crisis and need. The pregnant teen, the couple struggling to trust one another, the mother dealing with her son’s behavior issues, the young man hooked on drugs, have all at some point knocked on my office door. I confess to often feeling ill-prepared and poorly-equipped to respond to such needs. Rarely did I have the time required to effectively counsel and mentor those that sought guidance.
In 2005, we were a young and small church plant in central Kentucky, just south of Louisville. We met in a storefront property in beautiful downtown Bardstown. Along with the multiple benefits that came from a visible location downtown was the reality that we were within walking distance of some of the most needy people in our community. We simply didn’t have the resources, time, or capacity to respond to every need. We couldn’t just ignore them though. Surely there have to be other churches dealing with these same issues, we thought.
Seeking to start a biblical counseling center in our community that would provide godly counsel and mentorship to those seeking help during a crisis, we initiated a conversation with other local church leaders. What developed over time has been the fruit of like-minded, gospel-centered churches partnering to reach out to some of our communities’ most needy and vulnerable.
In short, we developed what is today known as the New Life Center. It’s a non-profit organization that provides mentoring and support to families in crisis.
Our aim is clear: we want to connect our clients to the local church.
Our strategy is simple: we provide one-on-one mentorship to help equip our clients to make healthy life choices, we provide material help to our clients while they’re in an ongoing mentoring relationship, and we proclaim the gospel—for the gospel alone brings true freedom and lasting life change.
In short, the New Life Center seeks to provide biblical counsel and Christian mentorship to people in crisis and in need of support, encouragement, and guidance.
The New Life Center currently employs three staff members, has around ten regular volunteers, is governed by a board of directors, and is actively serving as many as sixty clients. It is funded, led, and staffed by a partnership of local churches. The board of directors comprises leaders from five local churches. The volunteers who work alongside each other represent a number of churches in our county. The work is funded in part by grants and fundraising events but primarily by our partner churches.
Mentors are recruited by our partner churches and trained to provide biblical guidance to their clients. They are also encouraged to share the gospel and to personally invite their clients to join them at their respective churches. We’ve seen this to be fruitful. One recent Sunday, I heard of one of our clients professing faith while attending church with his mentor. The church I pastor gets to rejoice and celebrate with our partner church in that profession.
While the New Life Center doesn’t meet every need, it does touch upon many—drug and alcohol addiction, abuse and neglect, financial planning, and relationship struggles. Our church couldn’t do this without associating with other churches. We couldn’t pay three staff members or provide sufficient volunteers to serve the number of clients the center serves. I don’t deny that some churches could have done this alone. However, even if we could have done so, I believe it is far better to do this work in partnership with other like-minded, gospel-preaching churches. There is something edifying, unifying, and God-exalting about believers working side by side to meet the needs of our community as we make Jesus known.
We can look at the needs in our community and bunker down, feeling too tiny and ill-equipped to respond. But the church that Christ is building is never small—and it’s a church always meeting people at their points of need and crisis.
Join the Conversation
How is your church responding to very real gospel needs in your community? True mercy is speaking the truth, in love, as we seek to make disciples—therefore bringing about real gospel transformation.
Could your church better respond to those in crisis and serious gospel need in your community by collaborating with other like-minded and healthy churches to develop a biblical counseling center in your town?