Interview with Judy Dabler
This is the eleventh 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 Judy Dabler, LPC with a Master of Arts in Counseling from Covenant Theological Seminary.
A: I have been married for 36 years and have two adult children who are married but no grandchildren yet. I live in St. Louis, Missouri. My hobbies include furniture refinishing and organic farming.
Q: Are you in vocational ministry (paid), or volunteer?
A: Paid, full-time vocational ministry.
Q: Where do you currently serve and in what kind of ministry?
A: I serve nationally and internationally through my ministry called Creative Conciliation where I am the President and Founder. I provide mediation, consulting, education, training, and counseling services to churches, organizations, families, couples, and individuals.
Q: How long have you been a biblical counselor?
A: 20 years.
Q: How did you get interested in becoming a biblical counselor, what drew you in to the ministry?
A: My first seminary professor, Howard Eyrich, introduced me to biblical counseling and inspired me to pursue biblical counseling professionally. As an adult convert, I felt starved for truth and found profound answers to life’s questions through biblical counseling materials Howard encouraged me to read.
Q: Please give us a history of your experience as a biblical counselor.
A: 1995-2007: I worked as a staff counselor, ministry director, and executive director of the Center for Biblical Counseling and Education in St. Louis, Missouri.
2007-2014: Founder, president, and conflict specialist for Live at Peace Ministries.
2015: Founded Creative Conciliation.
Q: Do you have particular areas of expertise?
A: My specialty is conflict, which means that I see just about every type of issue including abuse, sexual addictions, trauma, depression, and anxiety. I have co-authored one book and am working on two others books. I contribute blogs to the BCC. I also have taught at four different seminaries over the past 16 years.
Q: Is there anything particularly unique or unusual about how you serve in ministry?
A: I work in a fledgling field called Christian conciliation, which provides mediation services.
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 almost always work with male counselors or pastors in my work. I value their contribution and find that we benefit one another by serving out of our giftedness. The primary benefit I have received from working with pastors is seeing the Word of God applied graciously to hurting hearts.
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: My work usually requires that I work with males, but because of my commitment to train and mentor females, I often include a competent female counselor or conciliator as a third conciliator or assistant in my mediation work.
Q: What unique strengths and advantages do you believe that women bring to a counseling ministry?
A: Women bring the same strengths and advantages as males. Unfortunately, some of the women I have encountered in ministry lack confidence in their abilities, which often results in less of who they are being revealed in ministry.
Q: Please describe any hardship or challenges that you have faced as a woman in ministry.
A: In my earlier years, when on staff at a church-based ministry, I experienced occasional gender-based harassment from other church employees. I also experienced gender-based discrimination from individuals in leadership, but the senior pastor protected me from much of this. When he retired, however, I resigned my ministry because the politics in the church were too much for me to handle without his protection. I founded a non-profit (Live at Peace Ministries) which was very challenging, but also rewarding. I discovered that serving in the primary leadership role, when young men with families were dependent on me, was a heavy burden that I did not enjoy. I work alone now, except for contracting with males to assist me. I much prefer it.
Q: What women have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: Except for my students and employees over the years, no female biblical counselor has influenced me. I really don’t know any other female biblical counselors beyond the ones I have personally recruited and trained. As I have invested in the women that I have trained, I have often found it to be a purifying and transformative experience.
Q: What men have most heavily influenced you as a biblical counselor?
A: Howard Eyrich, all of the men from CCEF who have written excellent books, and frankly, all of my seminary professors, regardless of whether or not they taught counseling-related courses. I learned more about biblical counseling from my Old Testament professor than I did in most of my post-Howard education. In addition, the pastors with whom I have served with have greatly influenced me through their handling of the Word in ministering to hurting people.
Q: What unique ways do you serve other than providing 1:1 counseling?
A: Speaking engagements, writing, consulting, mediation, teaching, training.
Q: When you first became a biblical counselor, what do you wish you had known then that you know now?
A: I wish I had known that nothing really lasts. Relationships come and go, reputations come and go, and opportunities come and go. I once was a bit “Pollyanna” in my thinking and used to believe that many things were permanent on this side of heaven that really aren’t. I wish I had known that the only thing worth clinging tightly to was Jesus Himself, and nothing else matters in comparison. I had to lose a lot of things I valued in order to truly value the One I couldn’t afford to lose.
Q: What would you like to say to any women considering becoming a Biblical Counselor?
A: Train the eyes of your heart to see and hear directly from the Lord so that you have riches to give to hurting people. Stay deeply in the Word. Engage the Word as this giant shopping mall filled with amazing treasure that is yours to have, so long as you intend to give it away to others. We aren’t meant to hold onto the timeless treasure of God’s Word for ourselves alone. The world is starving for Truth and Light.
Q: We all must count the cost of ministry. What has ministry cost you?
A: A lot of time with my family. A lot of time for myself. A lot of time.
Q: What blessings has your ministry brought you?
A: Besides marriage and mothering, ministry has blessed me more than anything else. I have seen God at work in the lives of people in ways that have been breathtaking. I have seen people filled with hate and envy repent and become lovers of God and others. I have lived in the presence of God hour upon hour. I experience Him most profoundly in my face-to-face work with people. In a word, the greatest blessing of ministry has been ‘worship.’
Q: How has being a counselor benefitted your own walk with The Lord?
A: My husband has often said that “ministry has been the best thing for our marriage.” I think he means that ministry has taught me how to love God and others more deeply.
Q: Do you have a ‘ministry verse’ for your ministry that you find most meaningful? If so, why is it special to you?
A: Philippians 1:9-11. Ministry to others is about helping them know and understand—themselves, others, and God. The ministry of helping others know and understand is what God uses to produce abounding love, and abounding love changes us. Eventually, that abounding love brings glory and praise to God. This passage sums up the work of biblical counseling.
Q: Are there things you would like to do as a biblical counselor but have not done yet?
A: No. I feel like I have done everything I have ever set out to do.
Q: In what ways have you grown as a counselor since the beginning of your ministry?
A: I am more patient, more loving, and less naïve about the evil in the world and in the church.
Q: What does a typical work/ministry week look like for you?
A: A typical work week looks like 60+ hours of face-to-face meetings, plus email, plus more email, plus phone calls, and even more email. I often work away from St. Louis, so a typical week finds me navigating airports and checking into and out of hotels.
Q: Ministry can be draining and exhausting. How do you recharge?
A: I work on my farm, cut down junk trees, burn brush, and read about better farming practices. I also love movies.
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of women in the biblical counseling ministry movement in general?
A: Of course. Women are a huge resource, and only lightly tapped into. It is time for women to emerge in force! There has been too much focus on “what can women do?”, and I want to see the question change to “What is it that women can’t do?” I don’t think that the church supports biblical counseling as it should, and supports women in ministry even less. Women are going to need to make their own way and not wait for an invitation.
Q: What kinds of opportunities do you see available for women in biblical counseling?
A: Women are badly needed in the field of Christian conciliation to serve as conflict coaches and mediators. In addition, women ought to be teaching in the church as often as they can, and filling positions as professors and educators in seminaries and Bible colleges. I think that more biblical counseling organizations need to be founded, and female founders and presidents sound like a really good idea.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add here, words of experience, wisdom, advice, anything at all?
A:You are going to get your heart broken. But, there is nothing like a healed heart to make you stronger to face the challenges and more dedicated to pursuing your mission. Expect betrayal, disappointment, and injustice. In fact, plan for it. It isn’t the worst thing in the world. The worst thing is to be found not loving God and others, and not serving God as he has equipped and called you. Love boldly!
Thank you, Judy, 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