Counseling de-energizes me. I realize there are times when counseling is necessary, but I didn’t seem to have a great return on the investment of time and energy. Here are some discoveries I made.
1. Over the pew counseling. When someone at church said, “I need to set an appointment to get your counsel.” I’d point to a place away from others and say, “Let’s sit down right over here and see if this is something we can talk about here.” Many times the situation was minor and my help could be given in 5 minutes talking across a pew. When a situation requires an appointment for a counseling session in the pastor’s office, it being an appointment and in the pastor’s office indicates it is now quite serious – and must take quite a bit of time.
2. Don’t let somebody else’s long-term ongoing mess that suddenly becomes an emergency mess up your dinner plans. On occasion, long-term problems boil out of control and seem to require immediate attention at the counseling E.R. Most of these “emergencies” are not emergencies at all. You know the people you serve. Don’t change your plans to be accessible to respond to long-term situations that are not going to be fixed in a few minutes.
3. Never counsel with anybody who has not gone to prayer about the issue at hand. I had counselees arrive at the church 30 minutes before our meeting. They were given a simple counseling prayer work sheet with several questions where they were to write their answers during 30 minutes of prayer:
- What is the issue or challenge that brings you here today.
- What options do you see to respond to the issue or challenge?
- After prayer, what do you feel the Bible and Jesus would have you do in response to the situation?
- What do you plan to do as your next step of action to resolve this problem.
The worksheet then became the guide for our conversation. Often, the person got their answer while in prayer and cancelled their appointment.
If you would like a digital copy of the form I used it can be provided – signup for the Truth Publications mailing list over to the right and it will be sent to you.
4. Teach practical Bible insight on life. Bible answers are the solution to life’s problems. To give people my insight is to give human wisdom; the Bible is full of the wisdom of God. Which do you suppose is better? Jay Adams books on pastoral care give insight on what he calls Nouthetic Counseling. He observes that pastoral and Christian counseling should give Bible solutions. For whatever counseling you will do – his approach has my recommendation. An easy link to look over Jay Adams material on Amazon comes by clicking the picture below.
5. A five minute rule at the end of church. Every church, no matter how young has someone, (usually several) who immediately stand in line saying, “Pastor, I need to see you for a minute.” Those people need attention, but the moments right after church are when the pastor needs to be touching the people he wants to touch, instead of the needy few. Institute a 5 minute rule, “For the first five minutes after church, talk to somebody you do not know, or do not know well.” This gives you – the pastor – time to get out to the people you really want to connect with. You will have to remind people of “The Five Minute Rule” almost every service.
I’m sure many of you enjoy the counseling setting. If so, build ministry around it, others of you have found ways similar to what I’ve described above. I’d like to hear things you have put to work.