I am frequently asked about the best materials out there for churches interested in building a lay counseling ministry. There are materials out there that help to teach people to be good listeners. There are materials out there that give lay counselors an education on the nature of problems and how God is in the business of changing hearts and minds. These same materials help readers realize that lay counseling can be a credible and highly important ministry in the church. While professionals are needed for difficult cases, many counseling needs can be handled “in-house” if the church supports and supervises wise lay counselors.
Well, a new book is out and though I have not read it all, I have gotten a flavor of it, enough to recommend it to you all if you are looking for such a book. It is written by Robert Kellemen, author of a number of counseling texts and frequent blogger. Don’t miss his answer to a question of mine at the bottom.
Why is this an important book?
- Most prior books on this topic present lay counseling either as an anemic listening only task or speak only in theological terms and fail to actually train lay counselors to listen well. This book considers both the biblical basis for lay counseling AND is concerned about listening skills as well.
- Most prior books forget to bring the WHOLE church along in the vision of biblical counseling. Bob has the readers consider the church culture and health. If the church (leaders) aren’t buying in to this, there won’t be a counseling ministry.
- Bob focuses on the character of the counselor. This is HUGE. What’s worse than a poorly trained counselor? One who is well-trained but arrogant and un-reflective.
- Bob covers practical matters of a counseling ministry including the ethics of lay counseling. This is extremely important if a church doesn’t want to make mistakes that could lead to lawsuits.
Click here for more on the book including a table of contents, video trailer, and sample chapter.
So, I asked Bob this question:
Most churches seem divided between those who support lay biblical counseling and those who think counselors should be specialists outside the church. How does your book speak to both?
Bob’s answer is extended but helpful:
That’s an excellent question. Anyone who knows the focus of my ministry knows that I tend not to be an either/or person, but rather a both/and person. I believe God calls both biblical counselors in the church and those who counsel outside the church.
Equipping Counselors for Your Church, by the very nature of the title, is much more focused on local church-based equipping. However, in chapter one I address More Than Counseling: A Vision for the Entire Church. Here I outline seven different “styles” of meeting counseling needs in the Christian community–including the “specialist model.”
A main reason I choose to focus on equipping counselors for the church is that very few others are doing so. While we have scores and scores of books about training professional Christian counselors, the last book written on equipping counselors for the church was Tan’s 1991 book–based upon his 1980s dissertation which in turn was based upon research from the 1970s. We’ve gone an entire generation without a book on equipping counselors for the church! Frankly, that’s inexcusable given the Bible’s clear mandate that we equip God’s people to speak the truth in love so that we all grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Further, we have 100s of counselor education programs in Christian colleges, graduate schools, and seminaries, but in my research, few of those programs have required courses in equipping counselors. In the one course I took on the topic in my seminary MA, we were told that it was not possible to equip counselors for the local church! I couldn’t disagree more. I always tell pastors, counselors, and students that if you are going to obtain a Master’s Degree that means you have so mastered the topic that you not only are able to do the work of counseling, you should be able to equip others also.
So, we could debate the issue forever (biblical counselors in the church or specialists outside the church), but the fact is, there’s a dearth of biblical, best-practice material available for those who are committed to equipping one-another ministers for the church. Equipping Counselors for Your Church brings together two-dozen best-practice churches who are doing it successfully now, plus my experience launching and leading biblical counseling ministries in three very different churches. It provides a biblical, logical, theological, relational, field-tested, practical step-by-step “4E” process: envisioning, enlisting, equipping, and empowering.