Interview with Karen Pickering

This is the twelfth 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 Karen Pickering, a certified biblical counselor with the IABC.

Q: Karen, please tell us about yourself.
A: I live in Wisconsin with my husband and 7-year-old granddaughter. We have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. When I have free time I like to play music, read or write. I try to get to a few auctions every year. It is like a treasure hunt with the added fun of people watching.

Q: Are you in vocational ministry (paid), or volunteer?Karen Pickering
A: I counsel on a volunteer basis.

Q: Please describe your current ministry role.
A: I have taught Sunday School for years and often have women’s Bible studies in my home. The last couple years I have organized a one-day women’s retreat focusing on discipleship.

Q: How long have you been a biblical counselor?
A: I have been a biblical counselor for almost 5 years.

Q: How did you get interested in becoming a biblical counselor, what drew you into the ministry?
A: Our family was in crisis for an extended period of time. I pursued biblical counseling to get answers/help for myself and my family. I saw the value of having someone in the church come along side hurting people instead of sending them off to a stranger for counseling.

Q: Please give us a history of your experience as a biblical counselor.
A: I am not using my training as I expected. While I don’t work in an office and have regular hours, time and time again the Lord brings hurting people to me. Typically, I work with one person every six months or so. I don’t seek them out, God sends them my way. I had to get over the fact that my training didn’t turn out how I planned, but that God had a better plan for me. One that fit with what was going on in my life. I have occasionally counseled at a pregnancy center in a nearby town, but am not doing that on a regular basis. I have worked with a couple of different women as the need came up.

Q: Do you have particular areas of expertise?
A: I have done some counseling with sexually abused women, but my main emphasis in counseling is discipleship.  As I help people shift their focus from their problems to the God who loves them it changes everything. The problems don’t go away, but their perspective changes. I have also discovered a love for writing. Some of my earliest counseling was done by e-mail. I found as I put things down in writing it helped me process and sort out truth and error. The written word is powerful. I think that is why God’s chosen mode of communicating with us is through His word. I have a blog called “Windows of His Grace” and have written a study book for people who are in crisis called “Learning to Seek God’s Presence”.

Q: Is there anything particularly unique or unusual about how you serve in ministry?
A: I am not the typical counselor. Many of those who have come to me are personal friends. I have had the privilege of walking side by side with them through deep waters. I felt honored that they would trust me enough to share their struggles with me. Some I have met with on a weekly basis, more often it is every two weeks or once a month. Some of the best counseling happens when working on a project together.

Q: What unique strengths and advantages do you believe that women bring to a counseling ministry?
A: Plain and simple, women understand women. God made men and women different and who better to counsel a woman than another woman.

Q: What women have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: My mother was my first example of someone who regularly came along side other women. She opened her home often and gladly to those who needed a friend or confidant.

Julie Ganschow was my mentor as I went through the IABC course. Her teaching and advice were invaluable to me. She gave me the courage to do something hard for the purpose of strengthening the church and helping hurting people. She also encouraged me to continue writing. I have a dear friend, Patsy Elsinger, who was a counselor in the prison system for years. Her perspective is Biblical even though her training was not. She is my sounding board and the one I ask hard questions of. She faithfully points me to God’s word and pins me to the wall when I get off track.

Q: What men have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: I would have to mention my father first of all. He worked at a local university and regularly brought international students home for dinner and eventually to church. He got involved in their lives and became their friend. Bob Kelleman, even though I have never met him, his books have been very helpful. I have learned much from his writing.

Q: What counseling or ministry resources specific to women do you find most helpful?
A: Two books by Julie Ganschow I have found very helpful as I help other women. “Living Beyond the Heart of Betrayal” (deals with sexual sin) and “Seeing Depression Through the Eyes of Grace”.

The Well-Behaved Child – Discipline that Really Works!” by John Rosemond. Here is a man who was trained as a clinical Psychologist but no longer holds to what he was taught. He became a Christian about 15 years ago so although all his books are good the newest ones are better. His advice is sound and no-nonsense. He suggests we return to parenting how our grandparents did. A website I use again and again is blueletterbible.com While I love studying with books spread out all around me that isn’t always practical. This combines many of those study books in one place and has several translations of the Bible with a click of the button.

Q: How do you stay current as a counselor, and is this important to your ministry?
A: I try to attend at least one conference a year. I also do a lot of reading and follow some blogs. However, the best preparation I can do as a counselor is found in the oldest book I own. The Bible. It is my main resource and plumb line.

Q: When you first became a biblical counselor, what do you wish you had known then that you know now?
A: You don’t have to look far and wide for people to help. They are right where you are. God has put each of us where he wants to use us. Look for ways to be helpful where you are. I can have the most influence on those I am the closest to.

Q: What would you like to say to any women considering becoming a Biblical Counselor?
A: I would like to see every woman go through the Biblical Counseling training. We are told to bear one another’s burdens. How better to do that than to be trained. Don’t expect to change the world, but do expect that you will be impacted by those you counsel. I have learned much from the women I have had the privilege to serve.

Q: What blessings has your ministry brought you?
A: It continues to push me closer to God. I see my utter need of him.

Q: How has being a counselor benefitted your own walk with The Lord?
A: It has forced me to be in the word more. I spend more time in prayer.

Q: Do you have a ‘ministry verse’ for your ministry that you find most meaningful? If so, why is it special to you?
A: A few years ago when my family was in crisis these verses became a daily lifeline.  I still return to them and share them with others that need encouragement.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:10, 13

Q: Are there things you would like to do as a biblical counselor but have not done yet? What are they?
A: I feel content in the role God has put me in. My prayer is that I see opportunities as he brings them to me. I am not looking for bigger and better. God works more often one on one and side by side.

Q: In what ways have you grown as a counselor since the beginning of your ministry?
A: My realization that I can’t help or save anyone. That is God’s job. My role is to point them to Christ and He will transform their perspective and their life.

Q: What does a typical work/ministry week look like for you?
A: Counsel once per week or maybe just twice per month. Bible studies once or twice a month. From time to time a one on one Bible study that meets weekly for a couple months.

Q: How do you manage your own spiritual growth and spiritual health?
A: My habit is to pull my Bible into bed with me before I get up in the morning. I have a bookshelf by my bed so I can pull study books in as well. It’s a great way to start the day. I vary how I study and how I work through the Bible. I find that if I read something more often than just once it stays with me longer. It also helps if I take notes and try to dig deeper.

Q: Ministry can be draining and exhausting. How do you recharge?
A: Spending time in God’s word has an amazing restorative effect.

Q: How can the readers be praying for you and your ministry?
A: My husband retired a couple months ago. We just sold our house and moved to a new town the end of August. We would appreciate prayers for finding the right church and being useful to God in the new community.

Q: What else would you like to say to the readers?
A: Learn to be faithful in small things. Some of God’s best work is done where no one else sees it. Know that He sees it and is pleased when we are faithful.

Thank you, Karen, 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.

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