CAVEAT: I continue to hear of tired, often frustrated church leaders these days. Just in case you’re a weary church leader this Monday, here are two posts to encourage you as you start this week:
I pastored 14 years in Ohio before I became a seminary professor, and I’ve done many interim pastorates since then. In my early days of ministry, I did A LOT of pastoral counseling—and I probably learned a lot about the process. In fact, below are some ways I’d do counseling differently today as a pastor. I’d love to hear from other pastors to see what you’ve learned, even if you disagree with my direction.
- I would, I hope, have gotten over myself. By that, I mean that I hope I’ve realized by now that I can’t be the answer to everyone’s problem, nor am I obligated by my pastoral role to have all the answers. I thought otherwise as a young pastor.
- In general, I would do less counseling. In essence, my door was always open to my congregation—and it was not uncommon for someone to unexpectedly walk through it. I gave so much time to counseling that I sometimes failed to protect adequate time for sermon preparation and prayer.
- I would limit the number of sessions I have with a counselee. I’m not sure what that limit would be, but I suspect I’d limit it to three sessions—at which point I’d refer the person to another counselor. Thus, knowing Christian counselors in the area would be a must.
- I would spend much more time in the Word in a counseling session. I’m sure I referred folks to the Bible in those days, but I didn’t always start there. Making this change, of course, means knowing Scripture passages that speak to the common woes of humanity.
- I would spend some time with a couple in pre-marital counseling, but I’d refer the majority of their counseling to someone more trained than I. As long as I know counselors I can trust, I’d use their services. They often have more experience and more access to tools (and greater knowledge in how to use them) than I do.
- I would lead the church to adopt a budget line item to help defray counseling costs for needy church members. Especially for those whose insurance won’t cover counseling, I would want the church to assist them.
- I doubt I’d call what I do “counseling.” It is that, but it’s more than that—it’s discipleship. I would want to emphasize that our time together is to help both of us grow in Christ.
Pastors, what are your thoughts?