In the event that a person or couple needs more skilled help and intensive intervention from resources outside of the local church, they will still need the supporting and nurturing involvement of wise brothers and sisters in Christ to walk with them on a daily basis.
• Don’t Outsource By Default:
There is nothing unbiblical about seeking outside assistance. Just because you feel overwhelmed by a counseling opportunity, don’t immediately think you must outsource your care. When a church immediately out-sources counseling it misses the opportunity to grow both individually and as a community. When I was a pastor, I remember facing a very challenging counseling case. I immediately got on the phone and called a respected professional counselor who recognized and emphasized the importance of the local church. Why did I do this? Because he had more experience than I did. After describing the situation, he said that this would be a very challenging but rewarding person to counsel. He was right! I grew as a pastor, my family grew as we reached out to her and the church grew as this person was welcomed into meaningful, redemptive relationships with other Christians. Had we immediately outsourced the care of this individual to a professional, we would have missed the opportunity to grow in love for other people and she would have potentially missed receiving care from the body of Christ.
• Recognize the Power of the Normal Means of Grace
Remember that even if you send someone for outside help, the person still spends very little time with a professional counselor; usually 1-2 hours a week. While those hours can be very helpful, they are hardly enough to give the person the complete help that they need for the other 166 hours of the week. I recently spoke to a pastor who frequently out-sources his counseling to a professional in his area. I asked him a few questions that revealed a typical pattern. He said that nearly half of the people he refers never follow through and of the half that do, very few go consistently. Why do we have a tendency to minimize the power of the normal means of grace in a person’s life? The Word of God, prayer, being in the company of other believers, corporate worship, the sacraments, and service to others? While I don’t want to minimize the need for more skilled help, a person will always need daily exposure to the means of grace. If you do refer someone, make sure they are following through and don’t assume that is all they need.
• Seek Outside Help When You are Over Your Head
While you don’t want to out-source counseling by default, you do want to recognize your own limitations of time, wisdom, and experience. Thankfully, the body of Christ is not limited to you or your own local church. While you may be committed to counseling in your local church, it doesn’t mean that your counseling has to be limited to the resources in your particular church. There are resources within the broader body of Christ which include services like counseling, crisis pregnancy assistance, food and clothing assistance to name a few. Sometimes seeking outside help means picking up the phone and calling a skilled, wise counselor who has a lot of experience and case wisdom. You may want to tag-team with someone. You may seek the help and services of a good physician or psychiatrist. In order to do this well, you have to do your homework and ask some basic questions about the approach.
Here are some questions to ask as you determine with whom you will work:
- Will they work with your church to provide the best help possible which will include the resources within your local church?
- What model of counseling is foundational to the way this person provides care? Is it compatible with your church's view of how people grow and change? If not, to what degree?
- Do they see the benefits and necessity of the normal means of grace in a person’s life?
- How much, if any, does Scripture inform their view of the person, their problems and the change process?
- Do they give proper emphasis to a person’s physiological, sociological and historical influences without overlooking the central importance of the spiritual/theological motivations?
As you seek to help people when the problems are more acute and challenge your own experience, it is a mark of wisdom and love to seek outside counsel from trusted people.
Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.