BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the third of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry. These posts help us to ponder the intersection of one-another ministry through biblical counseling and one-another ministry through small group community. You will also find posts in this series by Lee Lewis, Ken Long, and Mike Wilkerson. In today’s post, Pastor Garrett Higbee practical biblical principles related to competent one-another ministry.
Quantity or Quality?
Small group ministries sometimes seem to be more about the number of small groups in the church than the depth of the small group culture. While numbers can be an exciting sign of multiplying discipleship, sometimes I fear we are multiplying mediocrity. That is why I am passionate about equipping small group leaders, and, yes, even small group members, with soul care skills and tools. At this point you might be thinking, “Hey I am no biblical counselor, and I am not even sure I want to be.” Let me help you re-think that biblically; let’s take a short test:
- Do you care enough to ask when someone seems troubled?
- Are you wise enough to point to Christ and His Word, not your opinion?
- Are you humble enough to pray on the spot for their struggle or burden?
Competent to Counsel
How did you do? If you can say, “Sure I can do that,” then you are well on your way to be qualified to give hope and help through God’s Word. Romans 15:14 states, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers,that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” While not everyone fits Paul’s description, I believe every Christian could and should be a counselor. The only thing that may be standing in your way is getting equipped…
Imagine knowing how to ask heart revealing questions, knowing where to go to give conviction and hope, and knowing how to pray in a way that burns with fervency and flows from a heart of compassion. At our church, we just trained over 1,500 leaders in the last 3 months with just such a focus. Even more exciting to me is that we developed a curriculum on the one-another verses in Scripture that more than 20,000 people around the country have now gone through as small group members.
I’m not saying we have arrived but we are on the journey to uncommon community! It is our goal to help our small groups to move from superficial to authentic, then to transparent, and, finally, to being more vulnerable with each other. Even with the right skills and tools that is a two year process for most small groups.
Are You on the Journey?
So, what about you? Are you on the journey? Are you getting equipped? As a leader, are you saying to yourself, “I won’t let people fall into unbelief and I am committed to a teaching time where we are applying God’s Word to our lives. I won’t leave the rebellious person in my group to hide in their sin and I will facilitate loving accountability whenever we meet.”
See, the Bible uses words like, “See to it…” and “Take care brothers…” (Colossians 2:8; Hebrews 3:12-13; Hebrews 12:15). You may be tempted to think it is God’s or the pastor’s job to urge people in that way, but that is a failure to understand your role in the priesthood of believers (1Peter 2:9). It is also a failure to understand the role of lay leaders in the ecclesiastical structure of the local church. If you are a small group leader, you are on the front lines of soul care. Moreover, if we leave someone to struggle alone, it is essentially a failure to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2)…that law is about loving others (John 13:34-35).
Most of us would never say, “I want to be a mediocre lover of people. I will bear burdens as long as they are light and convenient.” So why would we settle for being less than well equipped and ready to love and serve our people biblically? I think you get the point.
So, if we are motivated, the questions are, “Where do I go? How do I get equipped?” Actually, there are so many opportunities compared to years ago. These days, you could attend an ACBC weekend training in your area. You could go to Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries’ annual conference, you could take basic counseling courses at ABC or CCEF…or you could go online and purchase our small group training materials at Harvest…and this isn’t close to an exhaustive list. However you chose to get equipped, your next move is to sign up, get things on the calendar, buy the resources, and get started.
As you begin the process, remember this: the best training is first applied personally. In small group training more is caught than taught. In other words, make equipping a time of personal ministry for you. The best small group leaders are tour guides, not travel agents. They don’t “phone in” the discipleship plan; they walk alongside having been down the path of sanctification themselves and are with the struggler in their struggles.
Roles and Callings
What’s also important to understand is the difference between formal counselors and the small group leader role—they’re not the same and we’re not asking small group leaders to be formal counselors or vice versa (though some of us are both). Formal biblical soul care counselors are more equipped and have experience untying tighter knots. They support and consult with the small group leader and, at times, take on the small group member whose issue is complex or enduring.
The neat thing is small groups can now see their role in supporting formal counseling too. Often a small group member will go with the person in need to the counseling sessions as an advocate. We train them further in the one anothers of Scriptures and have them pray, do the homework alongside their friend(s) in counseling, and they are available to them throughout the week.
Think about the bridge the advocate provides to and from the small group. Their friend who is in formal counseling is now applying what they have learned and also doing life and participating in authentic fellowship in small group! While discretion is always paramount the advocate can prompt their friend to tell their “God at work story” to the small group. This often propels the group to deeper transparency.
I hope you can see this is no ordinary way to do community. That is why we call it “uncommon community.” It has revolutionized our discipleship culture. The Word is held in higher regard, the focus on practical manifestations of good works is life giving, and the sweetness of the counsel of a friend is increased by the day (Proverbs 27:6+9).
How about you? Are you getting equipped? How about your church? Is there a model of equipping and care being built? Would your leaders be open to learning? If you would like to learn more about our resources to equip your small group member of leaders please check out our resources.
Join the Conversation
What next step will you take to be an equipped one-another minister?