Let’s talk about expectations for a moment.
You know how hard it is. You followed this special call on your life faithfully and desire to glorify God by being obedient to the Great Commission. Yet, you live under many unreasonable expectations just because you hold the title and role of Pastor.
So often the pressure of feeling “on-call” to step into people’s lives and problems adds up. And, of course, many of your sheep may think you should be able to drop everything you are doing (even preparing your sermon, or day off for much needed rest and rejuvenation!) and attend to their crisis, big or small.
Maybe more of a burden is knowing that people whose soul health you feel responsible for are going down the street for help, to local counseling practices. This leads to questions like: What type of counsel are they receiving? Does it come from God’s Truth and Word or some other source that could even be in direct opposition to the Bible?
Maybe you also have a gut feeling that some are having serious problems in your congregation, but are not willing to tell you and the other elders about the problem, until it often is too late.
Many pastors recognize the need to not be the only person responsible for biblical counseling in the church, but it can be hard to know how to start that process. You likely envision a day when you have a church of biblical counselors obeying and practicing all the One-Another commands, but may feel stuck on how to create this culture.
We’ve seen churches who believe they have this culture, but really they just have a biblical counseling ministry (i.e. still sending people to the “professionals” for ministry), or are sending people down the street to receive care.
So today I want to share 3 myths and significant decisions you will need to address in order to shift the culture of your church:
Myth #1: I am the pastor and since they expect it of me, I should do all the counseling.
I wonder if you are stuck here. Or due to burnout risk, maybe you have at least limited the amount of time each week you will counsel or the amount of times you will meet with people. The problem is that people are bringing very complex problems to you and there is not a quick-fix like they expect. This adds up on your calendar, and the weight adds up on your soul.
The critical decision is deciding you are no longer going to be “The Counselor” for the church, but instead are going to counsel in community. Teaching the elders and then the congregation from the pulpit (and other places) what this means and why it is needed is really important, laying the foundation for a new culture biblically.
Myth #2: I will bring on an Associate Pastor and he can take on the counseling.
This is a path most churches take if they are big enough to afford it, but this strategy just builds on the “professional” model of going to the pastor/expert. To be frank, this model just ends up leading to a different pastor doing all the counseling, who is burned-out and not equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. It again does not build a culture of allowing space for others to grow and be trained in counseling one-another in the community of the church together.
The critical decision will be to have a Director of Biblical Counseling on staff, who is not a Pastor. It would be good if this person was either another elder, or minimally elder-qualified, but not hold the title of Pastor. This Director would be under the Lead Pastor’s oversight, but can singularly focus on their ministry and equipping of others to counsel, without being pulled into the day-to-day pastoral ministry demands.
Myth #3: Since God’s Word is sufficient, we do not need to emphasize specialized training and certification for our counselors.
Let me first state that God’s Word absolutely is sufficient. That is a core value for us here at BCM. But that doesn’t make training unnecessary.
The stress of people coming forward for help and not having a team yet of equipped lead counselors (trained from the congregation) is real and very difficult. The certification process is also challenging and, on top of the fear most lay people have about the certification process, can often take 3-5 years to complete.
The critical decision is to choose to value certification and expect people that are called to this ministry to pursue certification. Some churches have gone as far as asking all pastors to be certified as the truth is most seminaries do not provide much, if any, training for biblical counseling. The Director of Biblical Counseling is there to encourage, coach, and mentor people to become competent, confident, and certified counselors. This is very hands-on and much of this equipping happens in the counseling room. (Another advantage of committing to require certification is it builds a trust and respect from others in the church and your community. Credentials carry value and weight.)
Pastor, I want you to know that it is possible to empower your congregation, change your culture, and develop a church of biblical counselors. It takes time and effort, but it’s ultimately what God called us to do: equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
If you are interested in leading this change, this is why our team here at BCM exists. Learn more about our 7-step process here!