In my teenage years, I spent a lot of time in both secular and Christian counseling. Some of that counseling was genuinely helpful, but most of it wasn’t. As I’ve had plenty of time to think through what counseling was most helpful to me personally, I came to realize that it was when I felt the counselor actually cared about me. Rather than being interested in giving me a sermon, the counselors who connected with me the best were relational and offered godly counsel. This is why as I read The Pastor and Counseling The Basics of Shepherding Members In Need I was greatly helped as I once again thought about how to care for people better.
Over the years, I’ve read dozens of books on counseling. From histories of pastoral counseling to theoretical books from every spectrum of Christian counseling nothing, much surprises me much anymore when it comes to counseling books. I was surprised in a good way in reading The Pastor and Counseling in that while it doesn’t offer anything ground-breaking what it does offer is a primer that will remind seasoned counselors and equip new counselors to engage in healthy and godly counseling practices that will help their clients. As one who is regularly engaged in counseling ministry at my church and outside of it, I found the entire book to be extremely helpful and is one that I’ll refer to often and recommend to others.
The book has three parts. In the first part, which has three chapters, the author looks at how to begin the counseling practice with clients and how to counsel them. Chapter three is particularly helpful. Here the author notes, “Pastoral counseling involves at least three core elements: listening, considering and then speaking. Pastors actively utilize three aspects of counseling in order to uncover, weight, and offer redemptive insights for the trouble in their people’s lives” (48-49). This counsel is solid and the only thing I would add to it is that we should spend significant time praying for those we counsel. We should begin each session with prayer and end with prayer. In-between sessions pray for those you’re working with as well. The author’s also note that we should consider heart responses and speak the truth in love (50). As the author’s note asking lots of questions is important. I’ve also learned that it’s important to restate important points back to the person to make sure I’m understanding what they are saying. This is vital especially if you’re going to speak to one of the issues they are talking about.
Pastoral counseling is the arena of ministry where we’re seeking to love the person made in the image of God. Chapter three concludes with five helpful suggestions for your counseling office: first, be prepared for the criers with tissue, second, position clocks strategically, third, limit interruptions, fourth be visible at all times, fifth, and finally, put only recommended books on your shelves.
Part two looks at the counseling process. Here the author’s consider the initial counseling meeting, laboring for change, and the final meeting. This section was also helpful in thinking through establishing parameters in one’s counseling with people, and finally how to wrap up the final counseling meeting. Part three helps pastors to think through how to create a discipleship culture in their churches where people are cared for and helped so the pastor doesn’t bear the entire load for caring and discipling for members. This is a very important chapter and I’m glad is in this book. The final chapter calls pastors and counselors to use outside resources well. Finally, the book concludes with a call to love the Lord and the people we’re ministering to.
The Pastor and Counseling is a very helpful and needed primer on counseling. As one of the endorsers says reading this book is like taking two seminary classes on pastoral counseling. I agree with that statement. A lot of this material needs to be covered in counseling especially the parts about setting healthy parameters for counseling people. As Christians, we’re called to care for one another. Over fifty times in the New Testament, we’ve been instructed to one another each other. The commands to one another are grounded in the grace of God. God’s grace poured into our lives through the person and work of Christ is the reason why we should care for one another. As a result of God pouring His love and grace into our lives, we should desire to care for one another and for the lost.
All around us are people who are hurting. Some people are good at hiding it. Some people wear their feelings on their sleeve. Be the kind of friend you want others to be to you. Opportunities to minister and care for others abound.
Lots of people want to help but before you can help you need to be working on stuff in your own heart and life. This is not only so we’re removing the log in our own eye first but also because people can see if you are real. In counseling, you open yourself up and prayerfully are transparent about where the Lord has worked in your life at various points in your life. If you love people like I do it’s easy to become so involved with people’s lives that we miss out on growing in the grace of God ourselves. The results of that are disastrous which is why I encourage you if you’re like me at all to focus first on walking in an abiding relationship with God and ministering out of your walk with God. This will help you to genuinely care and walk with people in every life situation.
I highly recommend Pastors and Counseling. This book will help you to care for people but set healthy boundaries and expectations for those you work with. This book would be ideal for Bible college and seminary students. This book will also be a good reminder for experienced pastors and counselors as a reminder and should be required reading for every pastor-in-training. Every layperson engaged in counseling should read this book.
This book is one of the best primers on pastoral counseling I’ve read. I believe as you read this book you’ll be helped, encouraged, and at times corrected in your thinking about counseling. Go pick up this book and begin to equip to serve the Lord in caring for others.