Making counselors

I vividly remember sitting in a 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.  Don’t misunderstand, I am a proponent of gifted Christian counselors that have been trained and called.  These are men and women in short supply and do tremendous work.  However, through life, all of us face issues and struggles where Godly counsel is needed.  Likewise, for every person a pastor fits into his counseling ministry, there are many 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 need to train them to give good counsel.  

Here are the basics lay 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, taking charge of someone else’s life,  fixing a problem or a person, or a 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. He Is alive and well within us, more than able to help us share God’s wisdom into other’s lives. 

A church member should also grasp what counseling is.  First, it is caring for the soul of another person.  Second, it is connecting 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, it has proven to be a valuable and functional model.  Perhaps it will help you in two ways.  First, it could be integrated fully or in part as you provide counsel to others.  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

  1. Determine Time and Place 

Questions to ask (Q):  “How long do we have?” and “Where can we meet?”

  1. Listen 

(Q): “Why don’t you tell me about it?”

  1. Clarify

(Q):“Just what do you mean?”

  1. Investigate the previous counseling 

(Q): “What have others said to you about this matter?”

CRUCIAL POINT – You should determine whether to counsel or refer to a certified counselor at this point depending on the nature and severity of the issue(s) your brother or sister is facing.

  1. Introduce Responsibility –

(Q): “Where have you failed?”

  1. Model the Role

(Q): “May I share an experience?”

  1. Review the Alternatives

(Q): “What could you do?”

  1. Explore the Outcomes

(Q):  “What would happen?”

  1. Supply Biblical Information

(Q): “What would God’s Word instruct you to do?”

  1. Use the Magic Wand

(Q): “Based on what we know and if you had a magic wand to wave and instantly make things right according to God’s Word, what would happen?  After the person clarifies the answer then move to step 11.

11. Formulate a plan for the person to do all that he/she should do to fulfill the scenario expressed.