We found that there was and is a great need for Christian Counseling in not only our church but most all local churches. Herein are the counseling opportunities currently available in our church (for men, women, youth, children, singles, couples and pastors).
After the key leadership uncovered the invaluable blessing that comes out of a focus on the healing of self and others, they began to institute public teaching of helping one another through spiritual friendship versus worldly Friendship. We have Diamonds in the Rough for teen girls, One Christian Man for teen boys, Women INC (Women in the Name of Christ) for women, marriage enhancement which builds from the ground up, and pastor to pastor fellowship that enables pastors to cooperate in a spiritual friend to spiritual friend environment to assist and aid the pastor in his or her own healing. Now the latter seems to be a new concept as it appears there is little thought taken to the inner struggles of pastors and ministers alike. Please note, however, the church has yet to incorporate a specific counseling ministry geared to singles. Nevertheless, our church is gaining more and more strength through “trialogue” where we are careful to include self, our spiritual friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend, Christ in every help session. We have found that “only those who walk the spiritual friendship journey with Christ, the Ultimate Spiritual Friend, can offer spiritual friendship to others.” Moreover, we have realized that Christ must be in all of our counseling, exhorting, comforting, and encouraging. It is imperative that we know the Scriptures (God’s story) and the script (our friends stories). Knowing that the Holy Spirit is indeed the Great Comforter, and that we ourselves are empowered and commissioned to comfort (parakletos- comfort, encourage, console) one another, it is our desire to continue our duty in this service to the glory of God.
As stated there is a great need for Christian counseling. As such, let us consider that there may be a preponderance of lack as it relates to Christian counseling opportunities. According to the Journal of Psychology & Theology the Christians they surveyed expressed a desire to go to a friend, a minister, church member, professional Christian counselor, or relative before going to “secular mental health professionals.” This is a monumental discovery, and also helps us confirm the fact that God intended that we be equipped to take care of one another spiritually, always pointing out the scripture, relating, and pointing to Christ Jesus. Every Christian should received this teaching and or the scriptures on “one anothering.” We have learned that we must fight and strive to get back to where God intended for us to be in the first place; a place of caring for one another.
Realizing the possible lack of Christian counseling in our local communities, it is important to explore some facts about getting this started in the local church. First, it would be prudent to establish up front the effectiveness of lay Christian counselors. According to the results of 42 studies that compared the success of professional counselors versus lay counselors or spiritual friend types, the lay helpers equaled or excelled pass the work of the professionals. What these and subsequent reviews showed was that “maturity, love, genuine concern, empathy, humility, and vulnerability were more important than professional training.” This is certainly not to discredit professional Christian counselors, but rather to express the importance of spiritual friendship and collaboration amongst Christians. In a society that promotes, the "me myself and I" philosophy, we must be purposeful in getting back to the intended trust amongst true believers. It seems we have been divided so that we can be conquered. We know that God has not called us to be divided, but to be as one in the Kingdom of God. We are His church and He is only coming back for one church/one bride.
Thus our first objective was to open the door and or opportunity for spiritual friendship to the congregation. We brought the spiritual friendship concept to our congregation through several platforms and or ways (teaching, preaching, fellowshipping). For example, during a sermon, we asked the congregation to look at those closest to them and ask that person if they could be their spiritual friend. We pointed out that those that are truly in the Way of Christ should be equipped by the Holy Spirit to pray, to direct by the Word, and to lead to Christ. More over, we asked them to consider that the person they just spoke with could be that person with just enough faith to help them get through whatever it is that they might need to get through. Of course, we gave them a word of caution as you cannot trust everyone, and that we need to be discerning and open to trusting true believers. Another example that we pointed out was found in Acts 3:3-11 where we find a lame man healed from birth. It seems that one day the lame man met a person that would become his immediate spiritual friend (The Apostle Peter). The lame man had been placed at the gate of the temple called beautiful everyday hoping to collect from Jews on their way into the temple for worship. On this particular occasion, he met Peter and John. Peter did not have silver and gold to give the man, but he did give him something far more precious. He gave him his spiritual compassion and friendship. He directed the man to what he needed which was Christ. The man was healed by the name of Christ. This was quite a miracle considering he was lame from birth. Nevertheless, what’s even more astonishing is that it was not the man’s faith that healed him, it was his new spiritual friend’s faith. As Jesus healed by His own authority; Peter healed by the name of Christ, which was indeed by Christ’s authority at work through the Apostles. Just like God worked through Peter that blessed day, He can also work through us. If we would just have faith, be true to our Christian profession, and have that mindset that we are indeed our brother’s keeper.
Lastly, to make sure the ministry is effective, we gave it a set plan and outline. In other words, we wrote down, the who, the what, the when, the where and how. We made sure that we would not get too formal in our instructions to the ministers, officers, and lay personal, but would be need order. We created a train the teacher concept and created a set curriculum for each of our counseling ministry segments. The trained teacher will be far more effective in training the various aspects of the congregation if he or she has been trained and has a set curriculum to follow.
In summary, we have established that there is a great need for Christian counseling in our local churches. We have examined the God given credentialing of lay counselors/spiritual friends, provided direction and examples in scripture, and briefly reviewed how to implement essential elements. Hopefully, this has been enlightening to you as the reader as it has allowed us to refresh and reorganize our own plan of action as it relates to fulfilling the Christian counseling need in our church. We pray that we continue to see the success of God in our ministry, and that its parishioners become closer and closer; helping, aiding, relating, directing, lifting, exalting and loving one another. For more information on our Christian Counseling Ministry please contact LaMar Williams at .