Interview with Linda Pringle
This is the latest 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 Linda Pringle. Linda has a B.A. from Master’s International University of Divinity (MUID) and is certified through International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). She is currently working on a Doctor of Divinity degree from MUID which combines 30 years of ministry experience and schooling.
Q: Linda, please tell us about yourself.
A: I live in Grand Junction, CO. My husband Jim and I will be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary this year. We have 2 daughters who are both married to wonderful men and we have three grandchildren.
Q: Are you in vocational ministry (paid), or volunteer
A: I am in vocational ministry.
Q: Where do you currently serve?
A: I am the Executive Director of Grace and Peace Biblical Counseling (GAPBC). We receive referrals from churches and ministries across the Western Slope of Colorado. GAPBC is a non-profit organization. Currently, I am the only counselor serving this ministry.
Q: How long have you been a biblical counselor?
A: I have been a biblical counselor for 17 years.
Q: How did you get interested in becoming a biblical counselor, what drew you into the ministry?
A: Through the years I’ve been a leader in women’s ministries, taught many expositional Bible studies, and spoken at a variety of events. Serving in those positions, women would come to me asking for prayer and advice for their troubled lives. In 2001, the pastor’s wife encouraged me that I would make a good counselor and handed me a book called, “Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology” by Ed Bulkley.
I read the book on vacation that summer and it intrigued me, but I had a lot of questions. I looked at the back of the book and realized that Pastor Bulkley was my sister-in-law’s pastor in Westminster, CO and that we would be visiting his church that Sunday. This seemed like more than a coincidence so I prayed that if I was to pursue counseling that I would be able to ask him questions and learn how to get trained. Pastor Bulkley graciously spent 45 minutes with me after church that Sunday and told me about his organization, (IABC).
I had no idea where God was leading but I became an IABC member and Jim and I went to the conference that August with our church’s pastor, youth pastor, and their wives. I remember sitting in a workshop on psychotropic drugs feeling confused and intimidated. I prayed, “God, what am I doing here? This is all over my head!” I heard in my mind a clear but quiet “trust Me” – but I still felt overwhelmed and doubted that counseling was for me.
Within a few days after the conference, I got a call from a friend who said that her sister was in the psych ward and that she wanted me to go visit her. I’d met this troubled woman at a lady’s tea where I had spoken. My friend explained to me that her sister had been suicidal and violent. She had recently held a knife to her husband’s throat and later she wrote “Satan” all over her jeans. She was on a bunch of psychotropic medications and seemed out of control. I was scared to death!
As hard as I tried, I could not ignore the prompting of God to reach out to this poor woman. I called the hospital and they told me how to find the “secret elevator” up to the psych ward. The idea of a secret elevator didn’t help my nerves! My fears calmed, however, as soon as I walked in and saw her. She immediately hugged me, sobbing on my shoulder. My heart broke for her. Not only was she suicidal and violent, she was also bulimic, rebellious, angry, and very depressed. She was also very sweet. I worked with her for several months, through much drama, trusting the Bible was enough.
Q: Please give us a history of your experience as a biblical counselor.
A: I began my counseling ministry through the church where I also taught the women’s Bible study for up to 70 women. I was blessed that the pastor fully understood and supported biblical counseling. He even let me do a half-day seminar on biblical counseling versus psychology. Unfortunately, during the 9 years, we attended this church we saw many people leave the church severely hurt by the leadership. Jim and I finally left the church, but we saw God protecting my ministry through all of this.
After leaving the church, people kept calling me for counseling and I realized I needed to find an office. After a couple of moves, I ended up sharing the expenses of an office with a pastor who also counseled. His church was out of town so he needed a counseling office in Grand Junction. Sharing an office with him worked great for about three years, but as my ministry grew I needed my own space so I rented an office of my own.
It took our family a couple of years to find a church that felt like home. The pastor of our new church was supportive of biblical counseling and even attended that IABC conference with us. Unfortunately, he moved on to a different church and we got a new pastor. When I first met him, he told me that he supported biblical counseling but through time I realized that he believed in both clinical psychology and the Bible.
Over the next 5 years, I was very busy. Along with counseling, I taught a good-sized women’s Bible study and spoke at a variety of events for the church as well as other ministries. Believing this church was a good fit for the counseling ministry, I asked the leadership to bring my ministry under the church’s authority. They were happy to do this and allowed the donations that came in for counseling to run through their payroll to me. Things seemed like they were going great, but God saw what was happening behind the scenes.
God led me through a season of heartache, but I see now that He was again protecting the counseling ministry. In 2013, Kevin Hurt (Exec. VP of IABC) offered to come to Grand Junction to help me put on a biblical counseling conference. My pastor and elders were enthusiastic about it and we planned it for February 2014. However, when I got up to make the announcement at church I mentioned a couple of secular therapies that don’t line up with scripture, one being mind-body therapies. I didn’t say anything I hadn’t said in other talks at church, but I apparently stepped on the toes of a church leader and walked right into a minefield!
A popular therapy at the time was splankna. This was practiced by several Christian counselors in town and supported by a few churches. (For more information go to https://www.gotquestions.org/splankna-therapy.html.) Because I took a stand against this, the counseling conference was cancelled and the pastor told me that splankna was a valid form of counseling. Although he would later change his mind about splankna, his lack of understanding of biblical counseling was obvious.
Jim and I stayed at the church for another year and although I was asked by the pastor to do several speaking events (including speaking out against splankna), I began to look for board members who would support me in setting up the counseling ministry as a 501c3 nonprofit ministry. God quickly provided a great board and by September 2014 I could start doing my own payroll. This freed my ministry from the church. God’s timing was perfect because a couple of months later the church went through a painful split.
Since Jim and I left the church, the counseling ministry continued to grow. From 2014 to 2017 the ministry grew over 23%. In 2017 I held 668 sessions and served about 110 families or individuals. We are now involved with another church where I’ve taught a small women’s Bible study and Jim and I lead a home life group. Our new pastor is a great Bible teacher and sends people to me for counseling.
Q: Do you have particular areas of expertise?
A: I would say I have expertise in counseling depression, anxiety, marriage problems, domestic abuse (verbal and physical), family strife, anger management, and habitual sins. I counsel teens on a regular basis, but I prefer to work with the parents, training them to train their children. I’ve taught a parenting class called “Beyond Naughty or Nice” for different churches. I’ve enjoyed speaking at various types of events. I’ve also written and taught Bible studies which are on my website.
Q: Is there anything particularly unique or unusual about how you serve in ministry?
A: I’m the only counselor at Grace and Peace Biblical Counseling. I have trained a couple of other women counselors, both through IABC training, but neither worked out. One woman needed to work full-time to help support her family. The other woman became IABC certified and we hired her to counsel with GAPBC. After a few months, however, we both agreed that this was not a good fit for her for a variety of reasons.
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 partner with male ministers in a couple of ways. One of my board members is an ordained minister. He is trained in biblical counseling and counsels teens and couples occasionally. He runs a Bible camp, so he works with various churches in our area. He is well known by other pastors and is well respected in our community. I also work with several pastors in our community who refer people to me for counseling.
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: There have been a few women who have inquired about being trained to counsel, but none are pursuing it fully right now.
Q: What unique strengths and advantages do you believe that women bring to a counseling ministry?
A: There are great male and female counselors who use the Bible as their source of inspiration. From a strictly practical standpoint, a woman may have more availability simply because she may not have to earn a full-time income. It’s hard to support a family on a counselor’s income. Most male biblical counselors that I know are also pastors or have other employment which limits how much they can counsel. If a woman has a husband who can support her financially, this allows her to be in a ministry that doesn’t pay much.
Q: Describe any hardship or challenges that you have faced as a woman in ministry.
A: It has been difficult for me as a woman to not have the support and leadership of my church’s pastor or elders because they don’t fully understand biblical counseling and therefore don’t endorse it enthusiastically. Amazingly, God has protected this ministry through church upheavals and times of no support. By His design, He has opened the door for me to help people from many different churches and theological viewpoints. I have led many people to the Lord who have found my ministry through a friend’s referral or through the website (www.gapbc.org). I have also helped many Christians who struggle in their faith because of wrong teaching such as legalism. I have ministered to everyone from the unsaved who have never opened a Bible, to the families of pastors and other ministry leaders from all over the area. The fact that I’m a woman has not been a deterrent for people who want help with their struggles.
Being a woman who counsels men, both in marriage counseling and alone, has not been a problem here locally, but I know there can be Christians who frown on this. While I understand their positions, the reasons I do this are many:
- My husband is not called to counseling nor is he available because of his job.
- There are very few men (including pastors) in this area who understand the concepts of pure biblical counseling. The men I do know who stand by the Word for counseling have other careers so they don’t have much time.
- I cannot in good conscience send a man to someone who will teach psychology along with the Bible. I also cannot in good conscience turn a hurting soul away.
- I’ve had pastors from many different churches, even very conservative churches, send couples or men to me for counseling. I’m viewed as a trained professional.
- My husband, who is my authority under God, does not see anything wrong with it biblically, nor do I. We don’t believe a woman should be a pastor or an elder of a church, yet men can learn from women in a variety of ways, whether it is through a song on the radio, a book, a workshop at a conference, or a few weeks of counseling.
- I’ve had zero problems counseling men over the years. I try to be selective and only counsel men who are referred by someone I know. I’ve led both men and women to the Lord over the years.
Would I recommend this for every woman? NO! This is an issue that needs much consideration and prayer. It needs to fit what you believe and if you counsel under a church you should be under their authority on this topic. It also needs to be something you and your husband agree is right for your marriage and your situation.
Q: What women have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: I’ve met many women at conferences I’ve attended who I appreciate, including Julie Ganschow. Julie was a great source of encouragement when I was praying about setting GAPBC up as a nonprofit organization. I’ve also read books on biblical counseling written by women that I’ve appreciated.
Q: What men have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: The men who have been most influential to me as a counselor would be the men I’ve met through IABC. Ed Bulkley, Bill Hines, Alden Laird, and Kevin Hurt come to mind as men who helped me early in my ministry. I’ve also learned a lot from books written by men. Two excellent resources are Why Grace Changes Everything, by Chuck Smith and How to Counsel God’s Way, by Bob Hoekstra.
Q: What counseling or ministry resources specific to women do you find most helpful?
- Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds, by Jen Wilken
- Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Breaking the Bondage of Destructive Eating Habits, by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Q: How do you stay current as a counselor, and is this important to your ministry?
A: I attend conferences, read a variety of books, and conduct research on trusted websites. I’m also continuing in education to earn my Doctor of Divinity degree. I don’t just try to stay current on biblical counseling topics but I also want to grow in theology, apologetics, knowledge of biblical history and other Christian studies. All of this helps me be a more effective counselor.
Q: When you first became a biblical counselor, what do you wish you had known then that you know now?
A: When I first started to counsel, I took it very hard when people refused to listen and continued in their sin. I feared I wasn’t a good counselor. On the flip side, I tended to pat myself on the back when they did well and they learned to trust God for their lives. This rollercoaster of emotions was stressful!
It didn’t take long for my ministry verse to be Gen 4:6-8, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”
Yes, it’s a strange ministry verse! Yet, it reminds me that God, the perfect Counselor, pleaded with Cain to “do well” and yet Cain chose to kill his brother. I’m not better than God. I can plead with people to follow God and to love Christ, and they can walk right out of my office and sin. Jesus taught many people who didn’t end up following Him. Wasn’t He a good teacher? Of course, He was! He was the perfect teacher, but most people chose to go their own way. If someone does well because of my counseling, it’s because the Holy Spirit is convicting them of sin and as they humble themselves, they are drawn to the truth. If they don’t do well it’s because they are choosing selfish desires over love for God. My job is to simply point people to Christ, the forgiveness of sins that He offers, and the truth of His Word. What they do with that information is between them and the Lord. Having this mindset takes a lot of pressure off and has helped me counsel without fear.
Q: What would you like to say to any women considering becoming a Biblical Counselor?
A: The world is becoming more and more sick with sin. If God has filled your heart with compassion for the hurting, then let Him use you. My caution would be that you first have a good working knowledge of the Bible. You don’t have to be a scholar, but you should have a good understanding of theology and biblical doctrines. You should also be able to defend your beliefs when confronted with false teachings. Unraveling misunderstandings of God is a huge part of biblical counseling. The truth sets people free.
Q: We all must count the cost of ministry. What has ministry cost you?
A: Ministry certainly has it costs. For example, being in ministry is not typically a high paying job. Before becoming a counselor, I was a business manager which certainly had a higher earning potential. A different type of cost is not being able to share the day-to-day victories and pressures of the job. I have the support of my husband and the board of directors, but I don’t share a lot with them because of confidentiality. If I have a difficult counselee, or I hear icky disgusting things, or even if someone accepts the Lord or their marriage is healed, I carry most of that alone to the throne of God. Although I share generalities with my husband or my board, I keep a lot of the day-to-day details to myself. It feels sort of lonely at times.
Q: How has being a counselor benefitted your own walk with The Lord?
A: God has blessed me abundantly through the ministry of counseling. Seeing someone’s eyes light up when I share a spiritual truth blesses me beyond words. The joy of leading someone to the Lord, or to see someone set free from anxiety, depression, anger, or habitual sins is what has kept me going for the past 17 years. I have seen many miracles of God as He has helped my ministry, as well as miracles in the lives of people I have counseled.
God has blessed me abundantly through the ministry of counseling. Seeing someone’s eyes light up when I share a spiritual truth blesses me beyond words. The joy of leading someone to the Lord, or to see someone set free from anxiety, depression, anger, or habitual sins is what has kept me going for the past 17 years. I have seen many miracles of God as He has helped my ministry, as well as miracles in the lives of people I have counseled.
Q: Are there things you would like to do as a biblical counselor but have not done yet?
A: I would love to have a biblical counseling center here in Grand Junction where other counselors are trained and can help share the load. There is such a need in this valley. Mesa County has one of the highest suicide rates in the world! Another dream is a biblical “inpatient” facility for suicidal people or those struggling with substance abuse. I would also love to have more opportunities to speak and write.
Q: What does a typical work/ministry week look like for you?
A: God has grown the ministry to be full-time. I counsel Monday through Friday. My sessions are 1 ½ hours long and I schedule sessions at 9:00, 10:30, 1:00, 2:30, 4:00, and 5:30. I usually schedule 2 to 5 sessions a day. I try to not do 6 sessions in one day but there are a few of those days! I try to schedule appointments back-to-back so I don’t have a lot of wasted time, though that doesn’t always work out. When I have downtime at the office I do administrative stuff (e.g. bookkeeping or working on the website), catch up on session notes, and respond to counselee’s phone calls or text messages. Right now, I’m doing about 15 to 18 sessions a week. On top of counseling, Jim and I lead a Life Group at church and I occasionally teach at different events. I’m also working on my doctorate degree.
Q: How do you manage your own spiritual growth and spiritual health?
A: To manage my spiritual growth, I read the Bible every day, go to church, and fellowship with other Christians. I try to have a humble walk with God, recognizing my own selfishness, and confess my sins to Him regularly. Humility before God makes what Christ did for us at the cross beautiful. I never want to take His forgiveness of my sins for granted.
To recharge I spend time with family and friends. My grandkids are a delight (they can be exhausting, too, but in a good way!). I also like to travel when I can.
Q: How can the readers be praying for you and your ministry?
A: People can pray for me and the ministry in several ways:
- Pray that God would bring the people who need the help I offer.
- Pray that each person who comes into my office would be prepared by the Holy Spirit to hear truth.
- Pray that I would have compassion and wisdom for each person.
- Pray for the board of directors to have wisdom and direction for the ministry.
- Pray for greater opportunities to reach this very troubled valley.
- Pray that when I decide to retire (if ever) that there would be others who will step in with solid biblical counseling.
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (John 4:35)
Q: What kinds of opportunities do you see available for women in biblical counseling?
A: Many women are called to social work or counseling in the secular world and it’s no different in the Christian world. Women can be natural nurturers. I believe that biblical counseling is a wonderful way that women can use their gifts for the kingdom of God.
- What an asset a trained woman biblical counselor would be on any foreign mission trip. Struggling women around the world could use the guidance of another woman who is trained in the Word to help them with their hurts, fears, frustrations, and anger.
- There is a need for rehab centers for women. It seems there are more centers available for men. Women need rehab centers for substance abuse, for sinful eating habits (anorexia or bulimia), and for suicidal ideation.
- There is a need for women to help other women (and men) who have wayward teens. This is a time of grief and fear for parents. They often don’t know how or when to discipline for fear that they will push their child farther away. Specialization in work with families who have teens who are suicidal, who are on painkillers, have announced that they are gay, or are rebellious in other ways, could be a very important ministry.
- There is a need to go to the high schools and advertise a Bible study specifically for depressed, anxious, angry, or lonely teens.
- There is a need to train young mothers on how to train their children in the gospel. Most of the Christian resources for young moms are psychologized.
- There is a need for biblical counselors to go into nursing homes and minister to the Christians (and unbelievers) in the facility. When my mother-in-law had a stroke, she ended up in the nursing home. She then realized she would be there for the rest of her life and she grieved. Instead of helping her with grief, they put her on psychotropic drugs. The elderly have a full range of emotions like the rest of us and they need to be encouraged in the Lord.
Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. (John 4:35b)
You can find Linda online at www.gapbc.org
Thank you, Linda, 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 Word of Hope Ministries and Biblical Mentor.