Why Start a Counseling Ministry in Your Church?
God never intended for pastors and church staff to shoulder the burden of ministry alone. He designed the church to minister to itself (Eph. 4:16).
One of the duties of leadership is to equip Believers to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). Individuals are gifted in different ways (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12:6) and God has designed the Body of Christ to provide encouragement, support, and loving confrontation so that the church “grows up” and matures into Christ (Eph. 4:15).
Galatians 6:1 instructs mature Believers to “restore” the person who is “overtaken” by sin with gentleness and humility. Even the most sincere Believer needs to be taught how to accomplish this needed and loving act. Many Believers are intimidated by the struggles others face and feel unequipped to help. This need not be the case. The Bible is sufficient to guide us through even the most challenging circumstances we face in life.
The best thing a pastor can do for the church he shepherds and himself is to help equip and assimilate those who desire to serve others.
The Workers are Few
Across the country, pastors and congregations are more aware now than ever of the growing need for more focused and effective ministry. The divorce rate within the church community is higher than at any other time in history. It is easy to see the dilemma facing families. The solution, however, is not so clear. We know that the ultimate answer is Jesus Christ. But, how to incorporate this knowledge becomes clouded as the pressure and challenges of life envelope us and threaten to tear away the very fabric of our lives, families, and churches.
Jesus said, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).
Leaders must not ignore these simple but profound instructions. If we, the church, are to rise to the challenges before us, we will need many more workers than we currently have. We should pray for God to send workers. Yes! We should also seek to prepare these workers for their work in the harvest.
We can help.
The Gospel is the Hope of the World
Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation (freedom) for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The Gospel offers complete hope! Hope for the past; hope for the future; but also hope for the present. Both Believers and non-believers alike need the Gospel. It is God’s Power for and pathway to freedom! Human solutions to life’s problems can bring some relief. But only God can change the heart and thereby change a life.
All Believers are Commissioned to Teach
Matthew 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.
Proverbs 24:10-12 – 10 If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. 11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. 12 If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?
2 Timothy 2:24-26 – And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Biblical Counseling is Evangelistic
Biblical Counseling is a great method of sharing the hope of the Gospel in the Public Arena.
Proverbs 9:1-6 – Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; 2 She has slaughtered her meat, She has mixed her wine, She has also furnished her table. 3 She has sent out her maidens, She cries out from the highest places of the city, 4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, 5 Come, eat of my bread And drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.
Biblical counseling offers hope to the world and the church.
Proverbs 11:14 – Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
We need a lot of counselors! (Luke 10:2).
Isaiah 58:5-6 – Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD? 6 Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?”
These passages reveal a church that is proactive and assertive in bringing the gospel to those who are without God and in need of Him!
Points to Consider
Gaps that Need to be Filled
- Most local churches do not provided Biblical counseling in a structured manner.
- Most that do (usually larger churches) provided counseling only to their membership.
- There is a present need in the general population for Biblical counseling
- Biblical counseling has a unique role to play in evangelism
Churches are at Different Places
- Churches are on different levels in regard to biblical counseling. They can be categorized as follows:
LEVEL 1 – Pastor has never thought about counseling and does none (all counseling is outsourced).
A common response from pastors when asked about counseling is: “I don’t do counseling.” or “I’m not a good counselor.” Many times, members are referred to secular counselors.
LEVEL 2 – Pastor does occasional counseling out of obligation (1 or 2 visits with no real plan)
Although he counsels, he may not see the role of counseling in pastoral work.This pastor would benefit greatly from a lay counseling ministry. However, he cannot fit another thing on his plate.
LEVEL 3 – Pastor realizes the potential benefits of counseling but does not have time and desires a change. He needs help.
This pastor probably has not communicated his desire and/or vision to the leadership and congregation. He needs help developing a clear mission statement, a practical strategy, and someone to come alongside him throughout this process.
LEVEL 4 – Pastor realizes the benefits of counseling and spends too many hours counseling alone (no team) and is neglecting other areas of ministry.
Like the Level 3 pastor, this pastor needs assistance. He is working hard and following his heart, but he has no plan and will eventually burn out from carrying the burden for ministry alone. He needs a team!
LEVEL 5 – Pastor realizes the benefits of counseling and has developed a ministry team of counselors in the church.
In the above paragraphs, the LEVEL 5 church has a thriving Biblical counseling ministry and has no need for Winning Families. The other four church categories have different needs at different levels.
For the LEVEL 4 church, the need may be simply to help the pastor define his passion and burden for counseling and help him organize a plan to develop a lay counseling ministry that is aligned with his existing counseling ministry. This would involve getting his staff and lay leaders (and whomever he thinks may be a good fit) into the training and certification process and walking with him through the process of integrating these counselors into his counseling ministry.
The Relational Impact Group Can Help
The pastor of the LEVEL 3 church is spread too thin to place yet another demand on his time. We can help him assess his strengths and develop a long-term plan to establish a lay counseling ministry with counselors who will counsel under his supervision.
The pastor of the LEVEL 2 church needs to be educated and challenged about the importance of Biblical counseling in the life of the church body. He needs to see how training lay counselors can benefit him in ministering to his church members.
He may choose to refer counseling to the Relational Impact Group as a bridge until he is convinced that God has provided for the needs of His body within the local church. Our hope is that this pastor will take advantage of the available opportunities for developing a counseling ministry in their church.
The pastor of the LEVEL 1 church also needs to be challenged about the importance of Biblical counseling in the life of the church body. It is likely that he (as well as the LEVEL 2 pastor) has never heard of ACBC, IABC, or Biblical counseling for that matter. He will need to be introduced to the concepts of Biblical counseling in the life of the church and embrace the truth that every Believer is a counselor. This may be the beginning of a long relationship of personal growth and ministry enlargement.