He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. NLT – 2 Corinthians 1:4
The Christian community has become known as a place where people need help. It has therefore become a place of potential counselees who may have long–term needs but look to the pastor who, if properly trained, is able to provide the most effective counsel available in the local church. This blog will explore how pastors prepare for counseling the congregation. It will explore if seminaries are providing the essential courses needed for preparing the pastor for a pastoral counseling ministry. Without seminary preparation the pastor counselor is left to learn how to care for those in crisis through experience alone. This blog’s purpose is to address pastoral needs for pastoral counselor in the local church. Subjects of discussion will be pastoral counseling context, preparation, formation, identity, and role while also taking a look at the boundaries pastoral counselors need to be aware of.
Pastoral Counseling Context
Everyone goes through crisis at some point. However this study explored a local church and worked with twenty-six individuals who had dealt with specific times of crisis. There is a need to define a crisis as it pertains to church members and also identified that a social support system is present and active in the local church. In addition, it provided for coping mechanisms and is analyzed the experiences and measured the responses (Townsend, 2006). A well-used counseling source has been used by the church is as Fletcher (2005) presented in response to Pamela Cooper–White’s book called Shared Wisdom. This article (2006) represented the presentation from the American Academy and explored an understanding or insight on how large groups interact with pastors and church consultants.
The importance of pastoral counseling to be grounded biblically enables the pastoral counseling to meet the needs of crisis within the congregation by providing spiritual guidance. Pastors provide available care when needed twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. The local church would benefit from an article like this to help clarify or better define whom a pastoral counselor is and what the individual has to offer. It would also help the congregation better understand the boundaries and roles of the church staff.
Christians anticipate help from the pastor during times of need (Stone, et al., 2004). The pastor represents God in many if not all cases of care. Stone et al. (2004) recognized that there has been two aspects/degrees of a crisis “developmental and situational” (p. 406). According to Greenwald et al. (2004) many people have sought out pastors because they are not usually considered part of the mental health system and unlikely to diagnose the disorder in other words diagnose an individual with a mental illness. Greenwald et al., (2004) pointed out that nearly 90% of pastors used experience to counsel others. In other words just 10% of pastoral counselors surveyed were professionally trained to counsel.
In a study conducted by Stone et al. (2004) on a congregation that experienced “times of crisis” (p. 405) found that the spiritual dimension was as important emotional and physical aspects during times of crisis. Many of those who participated in the study were greatly impacted by the pastors who empathized along with those in need having had shared similar experiences (Stone et al., 2004). The study concluded that any training in “crisis intervention” (p. 420) would dramatically influence the ministry’s effectiveness.
Many in the Christian community may feel as if they needed to change something in their lives or escape the problems faced. Possibly wanting to please God much like pleasing one’s own parent that created a low self-image. They may find the church a place where they can learn to let go and allow God to fill them with his presence. The pastor counselor has served as a reminder of God and his love for his children. Understanding God’s love is one thing but accepting his grace is another. Many may feel spiritually stuck and ineffective in their interaction with others. The pastor counselor has the opportunity to provide help when all hope is lost and God feels far away.
Fletcher, W. (2006). Countertransference and Large Group Dynamics in the church: Reflections on Pamela Cooper-White’s, Shared wisdom: Use of the self in pastoral care and counseling. Pastoral Psychology, 55(2), 205-211. doi: 10.1007/s11089-006-0038-x
Greenwald, C. A., Greer, J. M., Gillespie, C. K., & Greer, T. V. (2004). A Study of the Identity of Pastoral Counselors. American Journal of Pastoral Counseling, 7(4), 51-69. doi: 10.1300/J062v7n04•04
Stone, H. W., Cross, D. R., Purvis, K. B., & Young, M. J. (2004). A study of church members during times of crisis. Pastoral Psychology, 52(5), 405-421. doi: 0031-2789/04/0500-0405/0 C
Townsend, L. (2006). Theological reflection and the formation of pastoral counselors. American Journal of Pastoral Counseling, 8(3/4), 29-46 doi: 10.1300/J062v08n03̱03