So you are setting up a counseling ministry at your church. You have a new counselee. Everyone is looking forward to this. But sometimes, that first introductory meeting can be a bit daunting. What all do you need to cover? How do you get the ball rolling?
Here are a few things that may be beneficial!
We need to take a moment to meet our counselee and to introduce ourselves. Let them know our credentials and years of experience. It is far too easy to want to jump right in with a desire to “fix” the situation. If we take a moment to get to know one another, this can help identify the counselee as a person and not just a puzzle to piece together. Take a moment to introduce any other counselors sitting in the room too
Explanation of Biblical counseling.
It is vitally important for the counselee to understand what Biblical counseling is. Many times, counselees will enter our office without the faintest idea as to what Biblical counseling is. Most will assume it is no different than Christian Psychology. The description needs to be brief – entire books can be written on the subject! – and the focus needs to be on the Gospel.
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the [a]message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:20-21
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
“That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth [b]that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3
Biblical counseling is focused on the superiority of God’s Word over human wisdom. It also is committed to the sufficiency of Scripture Biblical counseling is Gospel-centered – because we have complete sufficiency in Christ for salvation and sanctification – including complete sufficiency for living a life in godliness. We must be dedicated to God’s Word in order to describe the nature of the soul and therefore human behavior.
While psychology can help us with using labels to succinctly describe various behavioral symptoms, it is based on an atheistic worldview. Psychology cannot make claims on what is morally right or wrong, but God does. Psychology is focused on creating methods for change and setting goals – but the Bible is clear, the only lasting and authentic change that can ever occur in anyone’s life comes through Christ and Christ alone. You have to have a Christ-centered Biblical worldview in order to have any authority on the state of human behavior. Heath Lambert said, “when the problems of a person and situation are conceived vis-à-vis God, then Christ as the Bible presents him offers the only sufficient and logical solution. Understand the specifics of the human condition rightly, and the specifics of the person and work of Jesus are the only key that fits the lock”
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” Ephesians 2:1-5
“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15
Scripture teaches us that we are completely incapable of changing ourselves. We are spiritually dead and we need Christ to make us alive. Jesus is the core for any authentic change – and He is the center of everything.
Explanation of expectations between counselor and counselee.
Both parties will come to the table with expectations. It is wise to go ahead and layout the groundwork for what is a reasonable expectation for both the counselee and counselor. One of the first expectations to be covered is an understanding that all change comes from God alone, and that the counselor relies on the power of God through Scripture to change the counselee due to the process of sanctification. We need to elaborate that the primary goal in our life should be to please God.
“ Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9
The counselee should expect the counselor to be punctual with his time, and to work within the limits of the law, and to present information in a loving and compassionate manner. The counselee should expect the counselor to speak from the authority of God’s word and to show them how it can apply to their life and situation. The counselee should expect this to be a process, not an overnight fix. The counselee should also expect to do his own part in the process – by way of completing the homework the counselor provides.
The counselor should expect honesty from the counselee. He should also expect his counselee to be dutiful in his portion of the homework, for it is an especially important tool.
Proverbs 18:10 and Proverbs 18:13 area initially read aloud by the counselee. The counselor would then explain that the Bible says that coming to the church for help with life’s issues is a good thing and that the counselor would be a fool to help them without understanding what the issues were. The information sheet is discussed, and the counselor asks the counselee to elaborate on the issues at hand.
Going over issues such as physical health, family, life experiences, emotions, relationships, view of the issue, actions that have been taken, etc are all discussed. The counselor must ask probing questions – not simple yes or no questions – and must listen to what the counselee says. In this portion of the first session, we are basically asking for a “readers digest” version of their life story.
Many people will tell their life story without delving into the spiritual aspect. It is critical that we take a moment to ask questions about church background, their understanding of what the Gospel is, etc. If the counselee is not a believer this is a great time to present the Gospel. Or, perhaps the counselee is a false convert and does not know really what the Gospel is. It wouldn’t make any sense to treat them as a believer with the Holy Spirit indwelling in them if they are not.
Giving hope to the counselee.
“But we will not boast beyond our measure, but [a]within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
The last ten minutes or so of the first session needs to be on these last two points. Hope and Goals/Homework. Giving hope to the counselee in the first session is so important. We need to establish that there REALLY IS hope. Their problems can be solved through God’s Word.
- Many people have faced similar issues
- God is omniscient
- God is faithful
- God will not give the counselee more than he can handle, and He will provide a way through the situation: in His strength, not ours.
Assigning goals and homework.
One very helpful question is to ask the counselee what his life goals are. This is a very revealing question: it shows where their heart lies. Then we will read these verses:
“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22
Then will talk about how they can bring glory to God in small ways this week and we will discuss homework. This is a good intro to explaining that homework isn’t given to merely keep them busy, but it is a very important aid in the process of sanctification. The counselor will then give out homework. Homework is going to vary depending upon what all was revealed by the counselee. Below are a few recommendations.
- Church attendance – take notes during the sermon
- Offer link to a Wretched clip on a healthy church
- Offer info from Mark Dever’s “What is a Healthy Church?”
- Scripture memory verse (Romans 8:28-29 or 2 Corinthians 5:9 are good to start with)
- Give them “Are You A Rotten Fish?” booklet (Friel) and “Christ and Your Problems” booklet (Adams), have them read it and come back ready to discuss
- Have them read the first three chapters in Ephesians and make a list of what all Christ has done for us.
To read more about the Church’s involvement in Biblical Counseling please go here: https://strivingforeternity.org/the-churchs-involvement-in-counseling/