This week I had the privilege of speaking to a group of students at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on the importance of biblical counseling to the local church. All but one student (who was a female) intends to become a pastor in the future. While I discussed a variety of things about biblical counseling, I had one main message to deliver to those future pastors and church leaders, and it is a message I want you to hear too:
Bible Counseling is Discipleship
Biblical counseling is the one-to-one ministering of the Word of God to a person in need of wisdom, insight, and understanding. It is making application of biblical truth to the heart of a person who is looking for help for a common-to-man problem (1 Corinthians 10:13) in her life.
Training for a biblical discipleship ministry is well worth the time invested in the process. You will learn how to mine the depths of God’s Word in ways that will help you to offer practical and theologically accurate help to struggling people and minister one to another. When you finish your official training period, you will take a couple of open book tests and then spend 50 hours with a seasoned counselor who will offer you guidance and help as you meet with hurting people.
Your ministry to other women may be informal and take place around your kitchen table or from the booth of your favorite coffee shop. For the cost of lunch or a cup of gourmet coffee you can affect the lives of a woman and possibly her entire family.
There are many other places women can serve as discipleship counselors too! For example, women who have received biblical counseling certification work in Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Rescue Missions, as lay-counselors in their churches, and sometimes as part of a church staff.
If your desire is to work or serve in the church, you might begin to attend women’s Bible studies and definitely let the Women’s Ministry leadership know that you have received your certification. I suggest you offer to teach or facilitate a women’s Bible study. That is one thing I did when I was working toward certification, and it didn’t take long for women to ask to speak with me privately as they struggled with issues the intensive study of the Bible raised. They brought marriage and family problems, submission, unequally yoked relationships, rebellious children, financial problems, and many other common stresses to me and it gave me the perfect opportunity to put what I was learning to use.
Training Is Important
You might be wondering why you should go through all of that training if biblical counseling is discipleship. The Bible doesn’t talk about “biblical counseling.” Isn’t just knowing the Bible enough? The Bible is enough, however, we live in a litigious culture that relies heavily on “experts.” Having excellent training with certification offers an appeal to those counselees who are looking for such qualifications as well as to the pastor who will entrust his precious sheep into your care.
In our litigious society many churches are fearful of using words like “counseling,” and intensive discipleship is essentially the same thing without the liability of using the terminology. You might take this opportunity to let your pastor know that you believe the Scriptures are sufficient to address the problems of life. It is best to have oversight from your church and to develop a cooperative relationship with the leadership, especially as a woman.
Speak with your pastor and explain what biblical counseling truly is. I suggest you tell them about the mission and goals of the ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) or the IABC (International Association of Biblical Counselors). Be prepared to answer any questions they may have and bring along selected paperwork from the organizations to leave with them after your meeting.
Explain the training process: The educational component, reading, theology, and the counseling and theology exams you had to take. Let them know you have observed counseling and have gone through a practicum of 50 hours of supervised counseling by a highly qualified, certified counselor.
Offer to do biblical discipleship with the women in church. You might write up a short mission statement that outlines what you would like to do and equally as important, what you wouldn’t be doing. Be very clear that you would not practice medicine or do therapy, but instead you would minister the Word of God to warn those who are unruly, help those who have fallen into a pit, and comfort those who are in need (Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). Show them the materials you would use, and give them an opportunity to examine your homework pieces.
I know that despite your best efforts in presentation, there are churches that will refuse to recognize the importance of this one-anothering ministry. I hear from those who are deeply discouraged that their leadership will not allow them to formally counsel or disciple the women of the church. My encouragement is to persist in prayer for change on the part of the leadership of the church (Proverbs 21:1) and wait. Nothing will invalidate your ministry faster than rebelling against the authority of the church and going forward without their blessing. Proceeding that way will also reveal issues within the counselor that must be addressed biblically.
Persevere in Doing Good
There are things you can do to serve while waiting and praying. If you are a good writer, consider submitting an article for publication or being a guest blogger for another biblical counseling organization. Some bloggers will solicit posts if they are going on vacation or to a conference.
Join every like-minded organization you can find such as the Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC) and subscribe to the news feeds from the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC) and Christian Counselors Education Foundation (CCEF). Make connections with other like-minded people through internet forums like LinkedIn, and make it known that you are looking for opportunities to serve in biblical counseling. Continue to learn and grow and change and take every opportunity the Lord brings you to disciple and serve.
The best advertisement for what you do is changed hearts and changed lives. Talk about what the Lord is doing in your life and the lives of those you teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness. My encouragement is to persevere. With prayer, patience and respectful appeals your pastor may change his view and allow you to serve in the church. Even if he doesn’t, I hope you can see that there are ministry opportunities all around you! There are numerous ways to serve the people the Lord brings into your life every day.