I vividly remember sitting in pastoral counseling class over a decade ago when my professor said something I’ve never forgotten. He asked, “When do you become someone’s counselor?” After allowing a few seconds for us to think he answered, “You become someone’s counselor when they walk up to you and say, ‘Hey, you got a minute to talk?’” After years of pastoring I’ve come to realize how true his words were that day. Don’t misunderstand me. I am a proponent of called, gifted, and trained Christian counselors. These men and women are in short supply and they do tremendous work. However, through life all of us face issues and struggles where Godly counsel is needed. Likewise, for every person the pastor fits into his counseling ministry there are many more that never call for an appointment. This led me to a realization several years ago. If we want our people to receive good counsel we better train them to give good counsel.
Here are the basics lead church members should know when they are sought out by others for counsel. First, they must understand what counseling is not. It is not giving advice. It is not taking charge of someone else’s life. It is not fixing a problem or a person. It is not the person’s only chance to receive Godly wisdom. Why is knowing this important? It depressurizes the situation and removes the intimidation factor. All believers have the Holy Spirit alive and well within them and He is more than able to help us share Gods’ wisdom into the lives of others.
A church member should also grasp what counseling is. First, it is caring for the soul of another person. Second, it is relating God’s Word to another’s life. Third, it is encouraging another by caring enough to listen. Finally, it is a chance to show the love of Christ to someone who is obviously in need. Years ago I was given an 11 step counseling model. While I certainly cannot take credit for it, it has proven to be valuable and functional. Perhaps it will help you in two ways. You could integrate all or part of it into your efforts the next time you find yourself offering counsel. Second, you may choose to share this with people in your life who are called upon to offer guidance in the lives of others.
Eleven Step Counseling Model
- Determine Time and Place – “How long do we have?” “Where can we meet?”
- Listen – “Why don’t you tell me about it?”
- Clarify – “Just what do you mean?”
- Investigate the previous counseling – “What have others said to you about this matter?”
CRUCIAL POINT – You should determine rather to counsel or refer at this point depending on the nature and severity of the issues your brother or sister is facing.
- Introduce Responsibility – “Where have you failed?”
- Model the Role – “May I share an experience?”
- Review the Alternatives – “What could you do?”
- Explore the Outcomes – “What would happen?”
- Supply Biblical Information – “What would God’s Word instruct you to do?”
- Use the Magic Wand – “Based on what we know, if you had a magic wand to waive and instantly make things right according to God’s Word what would happen? After the person clarifies the answer then move to step 11.
- Formulate a plan for the person to do all that he/she should do to fulfill the scenario just expressed.