This post was written for the Foundations Christian Counseling blog and originally appeared on January 18, 2019.
Tim Madden is the Pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church in Northeast, PA. Over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed how he encourages his church to get trained in ministry, even if the training is over ten hours away! And get this, his congregation is both willing and wanting to get trained to help people! I’ve asked Pastor Tim to be our guest Blogger and share his thoughts on Creating a Counseling Culture in the Church.
The pastor is not supposed to minister to everyone, but is supposed to equip believers within the church to minister to others. In order to equip believers to help others, we need to train them.
Fred recently contacted me and asked me to blog on “creating a counseling culture a church.”First, if I could step around Fred’s question, by saying I’m not going to use the word counseling. I do think it is the appropriate word. To counsel someone is simply to give them advice in an area of life they are struggling through.
At the same time “counseling” has certain implications that hinder people in our churches ministering to others going through trials. The idea of “counseling” in our modern culture has the idea of someone needing to be a professional, and properly educated in that area. There are many times people need a professional counselor, but often, people need another basic Christian to help them walk through how to see things through the eyes of God. It also has legal ramifications that I think that we need to be aware of.
So, with Fred’s permission, I am going to reword the question to “how do we create a church culture of helping people through trials.” The first word I want to focus on is the word culture. I appreciate Fred using that word. Culture is different than program. It has the idea of who we are more than what we do. If we are a church who is willing to help people through trials, programs are not enough. We need to have any programs be a part of the culture of the church, that is, who we are more than what we do. We are a people who look out for each other, help each other, guide each other, and attempt to point each other to Christ and God with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Second is the word create. In order to have a culture of helping others through trials, we need to create that culture. It is not something that naturally happens on its own. We are more interested in helping ourselves than others. So how do we create it? We need leaders who own this task personally. They are living example of people who help people through trials. They are people who take time to listen and speak the truths of Scripture and point people to Christ.
We also need leaders who are willing to lead others in this area. While we believe that all Christians should be equipped to minister the gospel to others, this has to be planned out and intentional. How have I attempted to do that throughout the years?
I’ve taken many in my church with me to “counseling” conferences. Our church has invested in people who want to invest in people. They are not all seasoned Christians. They aren’t people who have it all together. They are just people who love Jesus and love others. The training at a conference helps give years worth of information to groups of leaders and parishioners in my church in a day or several day period of time.
I also connect people to each other. Part of what I do is network within my church. Sometimes I connect hurting people with those who have been trained in these areas. Other times I connect hurting people with people who have gone through the same type of suffering they have. I set up meetings, build trust between parties, and coach as we go.
The question becomes, as a pastor, aren’t you the best person trained to do the job. The answer is complex, but if I could simplify it for the time being. Yes, I am the one who is trained most academically. But if we are going to continue to expand the ministry at our church, we need more than just the pastor ministering. Also consider the fact that while I have academic knowledge, someone with experiential knowledge of how someone is suffering will better be able to empathize with that person. I believe if, like Scripture says, we are faithful in a few things, God will make us faithful in many things. So as the leader of minister instead of the only minister, I believe God will continue to send us His children who need His healing.
What does overseeing people who are ministering to each other in our church look like? Practically I set up meetings where I coach from the sidelines. I often meet with someone the first time who is struggling through something and just do some triage work. Then we talk about who in the church they trust and think can help them. I always try to find two people, that way if one person is busy or doesn’t follow through, the other person will be there for them.
I then attempt to meet with the sufferer and two ministers. I try to provide a level of what the root problems are, the struggles, and practically how those two people can minister to the other person. I give books they can study through together, walk them through how to listen, pray with, guide, and speak truth into that persons life. I talk to them about how to provide accountability, and how I will be available if the players need the coach to guide them.
I attempt, as time allows, to do quick check-ins on those who are both helping and being helped. It could be a simple text like, “give me a one paragraph update on how things are going with x.” Depending on the severity of the problem, I then meet with them either a couple days our weeks later. This is to have a group gathering with all four of us to see the progress. I ask the suffering and the helpers how they are growing through this time. It provides a good time to look at progress, that’s often overlooked on a daily basis. I then reassess what that person needs and if the helpers need any more guidance in helping.
This is really a short overview of how I have created a church culture of helping others at our church. It has it’s flaws, and many bumps in the road. But by the grace of God he has helped grow and see fruit with both those looking for help and those giving help within our church. God has blessed it, and we are happy to serve him. The culture is created that we are all sufferers growing together. That we are not just here to be served but to serve. That programs are great and helpful, but the organic ministry that is happening in the trenches often have longer lasting significance.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.