This is the second interview, by Ellen Castillo, in a series of posts featuring women who are biblical counselors. Each post will feature one or more counselors who have agreed to an interview to tell us about their ministries, their experience and expertise, and the history of their involvement in biblical counseling.
We trust that you will find this series informative and insightful. Many women have asked what opportunities might be open to them upon obtaining either a degree or certification in biblical counseling. As the biblical counseling movement expands, so do the opportunities for women to serve in a variety of ways as biblical counselors. Over the course of this series, you will hear from women who serve vocationally, as volunteers, in their churches, in a parachurch organization, in colleges, and a variety of other areas where they are serving around the globe.
Today we interview Sherry Allchin, M.A.B.C. She is certified by both ACBC and IABC as a Biblical Counselor.
A: Ron and I have been married 46 years, have 3 adult children all walking with the Lord, and 7 wonderful grandchildren, ages 7 to 14 years, 3 were adopted from Ethiopia. After 26 years of counseling ministry in the Chicago area, Ron and I now live in Charleston SC and are loving the warmer climate. We love to travel and garden when we have time!
I’m currently the senior female counselor at Low Country Biblical Counseling Center, North Charleston SC, and also do some training seminars for LCBCC. But I also still work remotely and part-time for Biblical Counseling Center in Arlington Heights IL, the center my husband began in 1989 and that our youngest son now directs. I’m the Online Training Director for BCC, and continue to do some Skype counseling.
Q: Do you work in vocational ministry, or volunteer ministry?
A: I’ve been counseling vocationally since 1994, and training others to counsel for many years now.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the ministries you work for?
A: Low Country Biblical Counseling Center is a 501(3)c counseling ministry serving churches in the Charleston area. Biblical Counseling Center is a 501(3)c counseling ministry serving churches in the Chicago area.
Q: How long have you been a biblical counselor?
A: I began working as a certified Biblical counselor in 1994.
Q: How did you get interested in becoming a biblical counselor? What drew you in to the ministry?
A: My husband was a youth pastor who wanted to help not only the youth, but also their families. As he learned more and more about how to counsel and help, I gleaned from him ways to help others. Soon I wanted more, so I began working on toward a degree in order to help women who desired counseling.
Q: Could you please give us a history of your experience as a Biblical Counselor?
A: My first introduction to Biblical counseling was in 1973 when Ron and I trained under Dr. John Bettler of CCEF and the late Dr. Bill Goode. After my husband got his doctorate in Biblical counseling, we moved to the Chicago area in 1989 to start a counseling center there. I worked as the secretary/receptionist, and continued to receive many calls from women who wanted a female counselor, so I began to work on a master’s degree in Biblical counseling and was certified by NANC.
In 1994 I began working as a certified Biblical counselor at Biblical Counseling Center in Arlington Heights IL and continued there until we moved to Charleston SC last fall to work at the Low Country Biblical Counseling Center. In 2015, our son Tim took the position of Executive Director of the counseling ministry his dad had started in 1989. Ron and I continue to Skype counsel for BCC, Ron is still on the board of directors and acts as the International Training Director, and I continue to work for our son as the Online Training Director.
Ron and I were tired of cold and snow, so we moved to the balmy South! But we haven’t slowed down, as we continue to work for two counseling ministries. (Ron helped Tim Bryant to start LCBCC about 13 years ago and has been on that board since the beginning, so for us it was a very easy and comfortable transition as both centers operate by the same counseling model and training with Ron mentoring Tim Bryant since 2000.)
Q: Do you have a particular area of expertise?
A: I write blogs for several counseling ministries. I teach on counseling topics both at the center and in my local church.
Q: Is there anything particularly unique or unusual about how you serve in ministry?
A: I do Skype counseling as well as counseling at the office.
Q: Do you partner with male counselors or pastors in your ministry? In what ways and what advantages does male partnership bring to your ministry?
A: My husband and I often team counsel with couples. I believe there is an advantage in having a couple counsel a couple, modeling both the male and female roles to them.
Q: Do you partner with other female counselors, and in what ways?
A: I act as senior counselor at LCBCC, so the younger female counselors often call me with questions or ask for resources in their counseling.
Q: What unique strengths and advantages do you believe that women bring to a counseling ministry?
A: Women counseling women and women mentoring women are Biblical concepts (Titus 2). I believe women understand the issues of other women and can communicate helpful solutions in more gracious and practical ways than men in general.
Q: Please describe any hardship or challenges that you have faced as a woman in ministry.
A: The pay for women in ministry is often less than it would be for a man.
Q: What women have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: Elyse Fitzpatrick, Martha Peace, and Mary Somerville have been the most influential in my personal life and counseling.
Q: What men have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: Dr. Jay Adams and my husband (Dr. Ron Allchin) have most heavily influenced me as a Biblical counselor.
Q: What counseling or ministry resources specific to women do you find most helpful?
A: I find the books by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Elizabeth George to be very helpful.
Also helpful is the book Women Counseling Women. Some of my very dear friends have chapters in this book. One with a Shepherd by Mary Somerville has been a most helpful book in counseling ministry wives.
Q: How do you stay current as a counselor?
A: I read articles from the Biblical Counseling Coalition and try to keep up with new books coming out. My son Tim is very helpful in this as he often sends me pertinent articles to read and keeps me abreast of what is going on in the world of Biblical counseling.
Q: When you first became a biblical counselor, what do you wish you had known then that you know now?
A: My worry back then was whether I knew enough to help, but over the years I’ve come to realize how little most of our counselees really understand about life, the change process, who God is, etc., and that even minimal training in discipleship and biblical counseling allows me/others to truly help counselees and to point them vertically to the God Who cares and can help! I’ve been so amazed at how God continues to use me to help others, even with my deficits! More and more I understand HE is truly the Master Counselor! I am just His instrument, flawed as I am! The power is the Word and the Holy Spirit!
Q: What would you like to say to any women considering becoming a Biblical Counselor?
A: Know that God uses humble servants that point others to Himself. Remember that you have no authority over your counselees to control or force change, so work with them in love and humility and through their local church (which does have authority over them).
Q: We all must count the cost of ministry. What has ministry cost you?
A: Leaving a close proximity to my grandchildren and not having the freedom of leisure time to do my own things is a small cost of ministry in exchange for the many blessings!
Q: What blessings has your ministry brought you?
A: Ministry brings so many blessings it is hard to enumerate them all! First, I’ve grown so in my understanding of the Word and in my love for the Lord. For almost 50 years I’ve been in ministry together with my husband. We have raised three ministry-minded children who are now serving the Lord together with their own children. We have friends all across the world that God has brought into our lives as we served Him together. We look forward to Heaven and seeing the fruit of our labors through multiplication.
Q: How has being a counselor benefitted your own walk with The Lord?
A: As I’ve challenged others to apply Biblical truth to their lives, the Holy Spirit continually challenges me to apply it to my own!
Q: Do you have a particular verse that you find most meaningful? If so, why is it special to you?
A: Psalm 34:3 was the verse my husband and I chose for our wedding and to characterize our life together. I believe that verse has kept us focused through the years and through trials! Life is not about us, but about HIM!
Q: Are there things you would like to do as a biblical counselor but have not done yet?
A: I would love to have the time to write more! I do a lot of editing for my husband and my son, and now for our current ministry, but other than a few blogs, I don’t have time to write, though I enjoy editing!
Q: In what ways have you grown as a counselor since the beginning of your ministry?
A: Starting as a new counselor, I often had trouble articulating truths clearly. As I’ve grown, I’ve been able to counsel and teach in more practical ways.
Q: What does a typical work/ministry week look like for you?
A: My workweek: Monday, I work for my son (Tim A) as Online Training Director for BCC. I am sending info to prospective students, working with our online web training building out new training courses or tweaking ones already there. I may have emails from current students to answer, or projects and finals to grade. I’m currently building our certificate training in Spanish (with the help of others who are fluent in Spanish). All our courses are ACBC certified, and our goal is to train and mentor more ACBC counselors. There are also times I have Skype counseling scheduled through BCC.
Tuesday through Thursday, I work at LCBCC in Charleston, counseling, teaching, editing, or corresponding with counselees via email. I see 7-10 counselee per week there.
Friday, I use as my catch-up day, either personally or vocationally.
Saturday and Sunday are personal days, though at times there are ministry seminars, but we count those as fun! We do try to balance our life with travel and play.
Q: How do you manage your own spiritual growth and spiritual health?
A: Always being in the Word with others is a temptation to rely on that, but when I realize I need Living Water for myself, I typically resort to the Psalms for refreshment! Ron and I are faithful in church and ministry there, so that allows us to exercise our love freely, even if we are doing the same thing we do during the week vocationally! We are energized by ministry, and find strength in serving the Lord together!
Q: Ministry can be draining and exhausting. How do you recharge?
A: I recharge in the Psalms and in prayer. Also just taking a walk will often give me a fresh perspective on life, laying down the burden and focusing on the Lord who carries it for me!
Q: How can the readers be praying for you and your ministry
A: As Ron and I age we continue to pray the Lord will use us until our last breath on earth! We want our lives to be fruitful until we serve our Savior face to face!
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of women in the biblical counseling ministry movement in general?
A: Yes, when ACBC finally allows women to supervise women into certification, I believe we will see a larger number of women becoming certified Biblical counselors. Women are capable and see the need, and women have always been willing to step up to the task at hand. Women mentoring women – a Titus 2 concept ordained by the Lord!
Q: What kinds of opportunities do you see available for women in biblical counseling?
A: Women can counsel, Skype counsel, write, teach/train/disciple/mentor other women. I see women working in counseling ministries such as BCC and LCBCC, but mostly in local churches as more and more churches see the need to have lay counseling ministries. Our passion at BCC is to help local churches develop effective training for those within the body that are gifted in “people-helping” skills. Go to our website at www.BiblicalCounselingCenter.org and see how we assist local churches to develop a lay counseling ministry through our LAUNCH training program.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add here, words of experience, wisdom, advice, anything at all?
A: Thank you for encouraging younger women to be involved in counseling others. We believe counseling belongs back in the local churches who have given it away to “professionals” that too often ignore God and the Word. We pray that more churches see their role to counsel and disciple the flock and then to prepare lay counselors to help with this great task!
Thank you, Sherry Allchin, for sharing your heart for the ministry of biblical counseling with our readers today. May God richly bless you as you continue to serve Him!
This series of interviews is conducted by Ellen Castillo, a Biblical Counselor and the Director of Word of Hope Ministries, Inc., on behalf of Biblical Counseling for Women. You can connect with Ellen at www.wordofhopeministries.com and www.biblicalmentor.com.