Will Counseling Make a Church Turn Inward?

What do counseling and evangelism have in common? What do counseling and community have in common? Have you ever put them together? At first glance, it would seem that the two pairings are awkward at best. But stop for a minute and consider how a local church that takes counseling seriously actually does a better job of reaching non-believers as well as build community.

Counseling and Evangelism

How has the church historically persuaded the surrounding culture of the truth of the Scriptures? If you know your church history, it has largely happened when people’s lives were changed so much by the grace of God that others could not dismiss those who were changed. Nor could they as easily dismiss the truth claims that transformed them. There has been much discussion about modernity, post-modernity and the apologetic challenge this raises for the church. In a post-modern climate, modern notions of rational categories of truth and error, right and wrong, good and bad have been abandoned. Those belong to the day when the majority culture imposed its meta-narrative on the minority culture. Since this led to oppression, it was necessary to rule out any claims to absolute truth. This is the context in which we live. It is going to take much more than logical arguments to convince people of the truth of the Christian faith.

When a church counsels, it is saying more than the Bible is true; it is saying that the God of the Bible is real. He comes to change lives, families, communities, cultures and the entire cosmos. You can actually see those changes! When a church counsels, it is engaging in one of the most important apologetic tasks it can engage in. It is saying, “We will not simply proclaim the truth, we will demonstrate the truth in the way we live and in the visible proof of lives changed.”

Talk to any church that takes counseling seriously and they will attest to the fact that they reach non-believers naturally because they are addressing the problems they struggle with in their daily lives. The truth changes them and they come to embrace the truth!

Counseling and Community

We don’t often think of the word community when we hear the word “counseling”. The word “counseling” evokes images of conversations between two people behind closed doors where no one else can listen. We think “confidentiality”. While we would not want to diminish the need to handle personal information and conversations with great care and wisdom, a church that counsels is actually a vibrant community. 

Paul, in Colossians 3:16 says, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” This passage is speaking of a vibrant congregation where brothers and sisters in Christ are counseling one another in the context of daily life as they grow as a community. This does not preclude more personal, confidential contexts for counsel. It does emphasize the communal nature of “one-anothering” ministry.

When a church counsels, it becomes the first place, not the last place that people think about when they need help. How biblical and yet how radical for people to think of the church in that way!

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Small Group Strategy for Long Term Care

Small groups are typically a well established entity within the church. They become even more critical when a crisis/long-term care situation arises. With this in mind, there is a place for a unique small group which will provide simple, yet strategic care for a longer term need.

1. Identify a Group Leader For the Care Group

The point person not only provides leadership but also serves as a buffer and communication channel between the family and the broader body of Christ. The family is helped and protected by the small group. Based upon the length of time that care will be needed, it may be good to have two people working in tandem with one another as co-leaders. This will insure leadership when one leader is needed elsewhere.

Long Term Pastoral Care.jpg

2. Invite Outside Expertise to Advise the Group
The care group should invite a trained person to help them understand the issue and
provide basic information and perspective on how the situation or crisis will affect the
person and family. The more information you gather at this level, the better. Depending on the nature of the problem, this could mean consulting a social worker, a medical professional, a counselor or any other specialist who may bring helpful perspective to the care needs.

3. Regular Meetings of the Care Group
It is imperative to evaluate on a regular basis. Have the point person bring concerns to the group and communicate information and questions back to the family. Good communication is crucial. This is why the relationships described in the concentric circle diagram (see previous post) are so important. The meetings can be reduced as the situation becomes less acute. 

4. Promote Healthy Communication

With the small group formed, it is vital that they communicate clearly with the
broader church about ongoing needs. They can also protect the family
from being overwhelmed during the early stages when everyone will want to help.
Many churches now have access to helpful electronic means where new information can be regularly posted. If there is no access, information in a bulletin insert may suffice. Another suggestion is to have a designated phone line with updates and the ability to receive information for those offering help. 

Designate a point person in the small group on a weekly basis. Make sure
everyone in the church knows how things are going to be handled and encourage participation in the way that has been outlined. Only emergencies should
bypass this process.

 

Copyright © 2013 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

A Transformed Community

In the post “What Are You Seeking to Produce,” I stated that individual growth was a goal in shepherding/equipping. In addition to this, the second goal is a transformed community.

Corporate Maturity

You can’t think of the Christian life in purely individualistic terms. We are part of a new family and that family is to nurture one another as we all grow up into the likeness of our elder brother, Jesus. Hebrews states explicitly that this kind of growth happens in the context of redemptive, mutually edifying friendships.

Hebrews 3:12-13

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24-25

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

It is important to stress that this does not happen automatically, nor without a lot of work, and sometimes it can possibly not happen at all.

One final passage that provides a picture of life in the body of Christ is Colossians 3:12-17:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Here are a few practical questions for reflection:

  • Do I have friends like this in my life?
  •  Am I that kind of friend?
  • Is the church I am part of functioning like this?
  • Does our pastoral staff and leadership resemble this kind of redemptive, mutually-edifying friendship?
  • How can I grow in this way over the coming year?

In Ephesians 4:15-16, the apostle Paul says that when we are living in these kinds of relationships, we will all grow in maturity.

 

Copyright © 2013 Tim Lane. All rights reserved.

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.