Interview with Betty-Anne Van Rees
This is the fourth 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.
Q: Please tell us about yourself.
A: I was married to Mike for 17 years and have been a widow for 16 years. I am mom to a son, Joshua, (who is married to Jenni) and they have Emma who is 2. I also have a daughter, Laura. I live in Cambridge, ON, Canada. I enjoy most things outdoors, especially walking, jogging and kayaking.
Q: What are your credentials?
A: I have a masters degree in biblical counseling (MABC) from The Master’s College.
Q: Do you serve in vocational ministry (paid), or volunteer?
A: All of the ways I serve are unpaid.
Q: Where do you currently serve and in what kind of ministry?
A: I counsel from home – people from my own church as well as other churches in the area. I also care for Canadian cross-cultural workers who are serving in other parts of the world. I serve on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and on the board of the newly formed Canadian Biblical Counseling Coalition.
Q: How long have you been a biblical counselor?
A: I slid into the role with no apparent start date. It’s likely been about 10 years since it became evident that I would serve in this way.
Becoming a Biblical Counselor
Q: How did you get interested in becoming a biblical counselor, what drew you into the ministry?
A: My own personal benefit of meeting God in the daily issues of life and wanting to see others grasp His tender care and all-sufficient provision for life and godliness.
Q: Could you please give us a history of your experience as a biblical counselor?
A: The history of my role as a biblical counselor is fairly unremarkable. It began by people reaching out to me for help in walking through their struggles. I think they were watching me walk with hope in my own difficult circumstances and they wanted to know how I was doing it. So in the beginning, my counsel was fairly autobiographical. I could share with people how God was meeting me in my difficulties.
Q: Do you have particular areas of expertise?
A: I most often interact with people struggling with anxiety and/or depression. I’ve done a wee bit of speaking; I love this role most in a small enough setting where interactive conversation is possible.
Advantages of Partnerships
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: I do. As often as possible, I want the under-shepherds of the people I counsel to be involved. In marriage counseling, it’s essential to have that male voice speaking. In other situations, I feel it’s invaluable for the body of Christ to be sure that leadership knows what those under their care are walking through and how they are facing those struggles. Additionally, knowledge of the field of biblical counseling is limited in my area. All of these interactions are God’s opportunity to expand confidence in His generous provision.
Q: Do you partner with other female counselors, and in what ways? In what ways and what advantages does female partnership bring to your ministry?
A: I do. Most often these women are not trained counselors but rather friends of the counselee who serve them in a mentor role by sitting in on all sessions, taking notes for the counselee, and walking with them between sessions. I am certain this greatly extends the effectiveness of my ministry as these women learn how to walk with their friends in meaningful ways and the counselees have others speaking the same truths into their lives as I am speaking.
Challenges and Influences
Q: Please describe any hardship or challenges that you have faced as a woman in ministry.
A: I’m not sure there are any. I describe myself as a wife and a mom who ran out of ministry through widowhood and launching my children into adult life. I have been only surprised by the ways that God has used me in the ensuing years. I think any limitations I have experienced would more likely result from a lack of confidence among Canadian Christians in God’s all-sufficient provision for all of life.
Q: What women have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: Surprisingly, they haven’t been biblical counselors. They’ve been women who’ve loved God, have been passionate about knowing Him through His word, and have applied His truths to their own lives in divinely empowering ways. Nancy Judson. Kay Arthur. Elizabeth Elliot. Joni Eareckson Tada. Their courage and hope in deep suffering have inspired me to know God in the same way.
Q: What men have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: There would be many men in the same category as above: C.S. Lewis and Steve Saint to name two. Others, who are not primarily biblical counselors but have influenced me by their teaching; John Piper, John McArthur. In the biblical counseling field, my professors at Masters were pivotal in giving me a solid grounding: Wayne Mack, Ernie Baker, John Street and Stuart Scott. Additionally, the staff at CCEF have very effectively been used to ensure that the grand narrative of the gospel is central in my biblical counsel rather than the ‘issues’.
Q: What counseling or ministry resources specific to women do you find most helpful?
A: I don’t use any!
Q: How do you stay current as a counselor, and is this important to your ministry?
A: The most important way for me to keep current as a counselor is to keep my own relationship with God fresh and intimate. When I am effectively applying His word to my life on a daily basis, His feeding overflows into my counseling relationships. Additionally, I read blogs (BCC, ACBC, and CCEF) and books and attend at least one conference annually. As well, my involvement with the Biblical Counseling Coalition is a very effective opportunity for ongoing growth.
Q: What unique ways do you serve other than providing 1:1 counseling?
A: Along with previously mentioned opportunities for serving, I love teaching in small groups.
Q: When you first became a biblical counselor, what do you wish you had known then that you know now?
A: Thankfully, one of the earliest things I learned is that I’m not looking for ‘the right answer’ in order to walk with others well. God’s word and His Holy Spirit are alive and active in my conversations. I can trust Him to breathe life into my counsel that is far beyond my knowledge or wisdom.
Q: What would you like to say to any women considering becoming a Biblical Counselor?
A: If they love Jesus and they have friends, they are already counseling. Every conversation imparts knowledge – for good or for harm. I’d want to encourage them to resist the temptation to settle with sharing their own ideas and grow in biblical competency so their conversations are infused with the life-giving wisdom of Scripture. In other words, “Go for it!” in whatever capacity they can.
Q: We all must count the cost of ministry. What has ministry cost you?
A: Jesus has called me to deny myself, to take up my cross and to follow Him. Ministry has cost me my life – in the same way that being a Christ-follower has.
Q: What blessings has your ministry brought you?
A: I count it an immeasurable blessing to watch God work in the hearts and lives of His people. I also have been deeply blessed to see Him working in the Canadian church as we have been awakened to His power to meet people in their deepest pain.
Q: How has being a counselor benefited your own walk with The Lord?
A: I often say, “I think God gave me this ministry because I need it.” The words coming out of my mouth have as much potential to feed my soul as any one else’s.
Q: Do you have a ‘ministry verse’ for your ministry that you find most meaningful? If so, why is it special to you?
A: Nothing formal, but a passage that informs the way I serve is Mark 2:4-5; the friends that take the lame man to Jesus. They know ‘they’ aren’t his answer but Jesus is. They are so fully committed to the task that they stop at nothing to get him there. Perhaps the man was weak in faith but Jesus saw ‘their faith’ and healed him. My goal is simply to bring the people that come to me to the ultimate Healer and watch Him work.
Q: Are there things you would like to do as a biblical counselor but have not done yet?
A: I don’t have any personal dreams as I’m having trouble keeping up with God’s revealed will. I’m content to ‘do the next thing’ and let Him take it where He is going. That said, I will feel like I have fulfilled my calling when Canadian pastors are trained with confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life and godliness! It’s a large vision but I believe it’s God’s, so I look with expectancy to see Him work.
Q: In what ways have you grown as a counselor since the beginning of your ministry?
A: Today I rest in His sufficiency better than I did in the beginning. I used to feel that my failure to get it right could jeopardize the outcome. Today I am more confident in my incapability and His full capability!
Q: What does a typical work/ministry week look like for you?
A: I wear a lot of different hats and there really is no typical week. Because I don’t serve in an office with leadership who require (certain tasks) of me, I am privileged to be in a position to respond to needs, so I do.
Q: How do you manage your own spiritual growth and spiritual health?
A: In light of the previous answer, this has been tricky. The needs are endless and I am not a Savior. I have had to learn to balance mutual relationships with helping relationships. I have had to learn to prioritize time when God and I can talk leisurely – not just a ‘quiet time’ but quiet. This has required that at times I feel that I am disappointing people but with the big picture in mind, I know that I must.
Q: Ministry can be draining and exhausting. How do you recharge?
A: I get outside in God’s creation. When I look at the world He has made, I mean really look, my perspective on everything is changed.
Q: How can the readers be praying for you and your ministry?
A: I would ask that God would take my little life and effort, like He took the lunch of a young boy, and bring Himself glory by nourishing souls, perhaps even thousands.
Future of Women in Biblical Counseling
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of women in the biblical counseling ministry movement in general?
A: I have unshakable confidence in God’s ability to use a ‘life laid down’ in whatever way He chooses. So, yes!
Q: What kinds of opportunities do you see available for women in biblical counseling?
A: The potential is endless because God’s ways are infinitely higher than ours. I look at the women (and men) of Hebrews 11 and know for certain that He means to use those who by faith, do not shrink back. My prayer is that we will be as willing to be the faithful ones at the end of the chapter as those at the beginning; that we will give Him the freedom to choose.
Thank you, Betty-Anne, 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.