BCC Introduction: This week Robert Jones has shared his passion for counseling done within the church, counseling which is done as part of the normal day to day activities of a congregation. On Monday, he focused on how counseling can be supported by the other “formal” elements of congregational life—worship and discipline. Today, Bob focuses on how church-based counseling can be augmented by the informal fellowship within the congregation.
Connecting Counseling to Ongoing Fellowship
I love church-based counseling. Having done it for thirty years now—nineteen as a lead pastor and the past eleven as an associate—I can assure you that there is nothing better than counseling in the context of a healthy local church. Church-based counseling is Christ-centered, biblical counseling provided for the members and visitors of a local church, done by the trained leaders and members of that church, with the goal of helping those members and visitors follow Christ and function as growing members of that congregation.
On Monday I shared five benefits of church-based counseling. Let’s consider eight more benefits today. A church-based setting provides. . .
6. The fellowship, encouragement, and example of mature fellow believers. My pastoral role lets me connect counselees to specific small group leaders and to mature Christian individuals—people that both the counselee and I know personally—for mentoring and support. At times this might include (with appropriate permissions), people we have successfully counseled for the same problem area.
7. Existing facilities and office space. How many thousands of rental dollars do parachurch and professional Christian counselors spend each week? Meanwhile, countless church classrooms and offices remain unused during the week.
8. Immediate opportunities to serve others. Counselees can be self-focused and self-absorbed. As a church-based counselor, I can link my church counselees directly to ministry leaders in our church who can deploy them for self-giving, other-oriented forms of service.
9. Resource people for auxiliary help. Counselees often have problems that are more than “spiritual” and need more than the biblical counsel we provide. While being careful not to abuse the pro bono generosity of our church’s professionals, we can link needy counselees to willing members who can provide financial advice (e.g., those trained by Crown Ministries or Financial Peace University), medical advice, legal advice, etc. This not only helps the counselee, it also helps our members use their expertise to serve their church and experience the joy of ministry.
10. Benevolence assistance, including financial help or physical labor. There are occasions when our counselees need financial assistance for utility bills, rent, or mortgage. Or they need to relocate out of a dangerous housing location. In counseling people from other churches, I can only suggest these needs to their pastor. With my own congregation, I can make it happen.
11. Members’ homes for counseling, discipleship, and small group life. In addition to the formal counseling sessions, church-based counseling encourages the involvement of other mature members in wise, confidential ways. This might involve small group or one-on-one mentor meetings in the homes of mature believers. Our Lord and his apostles modeled and encouraged life-on-life ministry involvement.
12. Greater legal protection. While anyone can sue anyone in litigious America, the closer a biblical counseling ministry stays to the center of the church, the safer that ministry remains. We lessen the likelihood of lawsuits when we use informed consent agreements that stipulate that our counseling ministry is a church-based ministry of God’s Word—an extension of our normal evangelistic and discipleship ministries—and that our counselors are not state-licensed, professional, psychologically oriented counselors.
13. And we all offer all of the above free of charge!
Truly, given this baker’s dozen of benefits, the local church remains God’s ideal counseling center. May our Lord help his church gain this vision, equip its leaders and members to counsel others biblically and skillfully, and reach its members and their community with the life-changing hope found in Jesus Christ, the Wonderful Counselor.
Join the Conversation
Which of the above benefits have you seen in the ministry of church-based biblical counseling? What additional ones might you add to the list?