“Who, Me? I’m not a counselor. I don’t have a degree in counseling. I don’t have the vaguest idea why you think I could counsel her.” Becky gazed at her pastor’s wife in awe. She wanted to help her friend but did not know how. Becky had experienced the pain of her husband’s betrayal years earlier and had learned to walk through the trial in a way that honored God and now her next door neighbor, who had just learned of her husband’s unfaithfulness, was coming to Becky in desperation. Becky’s first thought was to seek help from Patti, her pastor’s wife and now Patti was shifting the responsibility back onto Becky.
It is not surprising that Becky would feel ill-equipped for such a task. It is not uncommon for God to call His people to do something that requires total moment-by-moment trust in Him. Moses is an early example of this kind of bewilderment when God told him “ … I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people … out of Egypt” (Exod. 3:10). Moses cried out to God saying, “Who am I that I should go … ?” And how did God persuade him? He promised Moses, “I will certainly be with you … I AM WHO I AM …I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt” (Exod. 3:12-17). Clearly, God is the One who does the mighty acts. We are merely instruments in His mighty hand.
In a recent survey of biblical counseling training participants who had received over fifty hours of formal biblical counseling training (and many had much more), only 25% had ever counseled formally. Of those 75% who had never counseled formally, but wanted to, about 50% admitted that fear was an influential factor in their delay of becoming active in the counseling ministry. Following are some of the fears that were acknowledged:
- What if I don’t know how to answer the counselee’s question?
- What if I don’t know what to say?
- What if I lead the counselor in an unbiblical direction?
- What if the counselee has been diagnosed with a mental disorder?
- What if the counselee is suicidal?
- How do I know whether or not the counselee is saved?
Additional concerns about beginning the process of counseling were provided by survey participants:
- Not being organized accurately
- Not good at asking good questions
- Giving hope and understanding while still being bold to point to the truth
- Getting to the heart issue
- Scripture coming quickly to mind
- Not having access to a team to pull in if needed
- Not being prepared to handle the unexpected
Interestingly, of the 50% who did not admit to fear as being an influential factor, acknowledgment of some of the above factors was still made by over 60% of these “fear-less” participants. These numbers tell us that most participants sitting in a classroom learning much valuable information about the biblical counseling ministry, have some apprehension that can be alleviated through receiving thorough guidance through the initial sessions. It is the intent of this writing to address the above listed concerns with practical suggestions and resources in hopes that the number of soldiers in God’s army of biblical counselors will increase since the hurts and woes of this world continue to compound daily and the need is dire.
The New Testament has much to say about the responsibility that every believer has in helping fellow believers. When Jesus was preparing to leave this earth, He left His final instructions to His followers: “Go … and make disciples … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you … ” (Matt. 28:19-20). Every Christian, therefore, is appointed to disciple others. The word disciple as Jesus is using it appears in the English to be a noun: “make disciples.” However, a look at the Greek word ties the noun disciple to the verb make, meaning that when Jesus used the word matheteuo, (μαθητεύω), He had an action verb in mind which carries with it the meaning “to teach; to instruct; to cause someone to become a follower.” Jesus clarifies this when He says “teaching them to observe all … that I have commanded … ” This instruction is directed toward every follower of Christ so there is no room for saying, “I am not a teacher” or “I am not a counselor.”
Likewise, Paul writes to the church in Rome, “ … you are … filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom 15:14). The Greek word translated admonish is noutheteo (νουθετέω) meaning “to warn, instruct, as giving instructions in regard to belief or behavior.” In English, when instructions are given in regard to belief or behavior, we call that counseling.
There are additional New Testament references to a Christian’s responsibility to counsel one another on an as-needed basis:
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Col. 1:28; NASB)
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:1-2; NASB)
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. We urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thess. 5:11, 14; NASB)
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16; NASB)
Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:31; NASB)
Therefore, we can conclude that all Christians are called to teach and to counsel others in the way toward Christ-likeness.
Besides the opportunity to bless the Lord by responding to Christ’s “Great Commission” and “storing up treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), a counselor will discover multiple rewards for his labor. First, as the counselor studies, prays, examines his heart, repents of sin and develops skills in preparation for counseling, he will actually find himself growing in ways he has not grown in the past. Second, as he uses his gifts, he will hone his skills, enhancing the life of the church. Third, because genuine biblical change in counselees hinges on authentic regeneration, a counselor who helps the unsaved see the benefits of salvation for the “here and now,” are met with evangelistic opportunities to the lost through counseling. Fourth, because it is God who does the transforming work in the heart of the counselee, sitting in the counselor’s chair is almost as if the counselor gets a “front row seat” to personally observe the amazing and loving work of our Almighty God.
When wounded marriages are restored, when sinful ways are abandoned, when desperate people find peace and the unity of the church is restored, the counselor’s faith in God’s power and confidence in Scripture grows, giving a sense of fulfillment of purpose and thereby compounding the desire to serve. This is an example of God’s plan and provision for the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12).
If we are going to live our lives for God’s glory and experience the fulfillment of serving God’s Kingdom despite our feelings of apprehension or self-perceptions of inadequacy, we must trust God and obey Him. If God calls us, we must follow. Clearly Becky is being “called.” So how does she go about obeying her Master?
This exposé is intended to answer that very question. How does a follower of Christ, who wants to be a faithful servant, go about beginning the process of helping another find peace, comfort, direction and meaning in a trial? Of course, not all cases are about marital betrayal. The diversity of dilemmas that people face in a fallen world is endless. They can range from attempted suicide to wanting to lose weight; from the tragic loss of a baby to singles longing to be married; from a psychological or medical diagnosis to dueling neighbors. Every case is different. But even though one case will differ from the next, there are many core similarities. It is these similarities on which this Toolkit will capitalize. The recommendation of additional resources will guide in the addressing of specifics. As an extension of this Toolkit, the website, www.bctoolkit.net has been established in order to share this author’s growing supply of homework assignments and other tools with biblical counselors worldwide.
This paper intends to:
- Give step-by-step instruction to the inexperienced counselor to take on an initial counseling case and proceed through the first few counseling sessions with confidence
- Help the counselor-in-training to visualize what the counseling session looks like and how it proceeds
- Help the counselor to organize thoughts, plans and records
- Provide recommendations for resources to turn to for specific needs at distinct stages of the case and for particular types of cases
- Clarify the different approaches for ministering to a counselee that is predominantly suffering compared to ministering to a counselee that is predominantly in sin
- Provide a diverse set of relevant homework assignments from which to draw on at various points in the counseling
- Provide reproducible lessons to help the counselor build hope in the counselee
- Provide exercises for the counselor’s continued self-examination and spiritual growth throughout counseling
- Provide forms, worksheets and homework assignments that can be duplicated for counseling use
This paper does not intend to:
- Attempt to convince the reader of the need for biblically-based counseling or that the Scriptures are sufficient for counseling. That premise should already be established within the belief of the counselor-in-training.
- Develop an in-depth strategy for handling all types of counseling cases. There are numerous invaluable resources in which the counselor can be immersing himself as he grows as a biblical counselor, which can be of assistance as the counselor progresses through the stages of counseling.
- Equip a Christian to “hang their shingle” in establishing a counseling “practice” for monetary compensation. No one should have to pay money for a Christian to minister God’s Word to them.
Looking back to the opening scenario, Patti’s encouragement of Becky to counsel her neighbor is biblically founded. Becky knows, first-hand, the comforting and transforming power of the Holy Spirit. She is learning to say “no” to her flesh and obey God’s commands, finding meaning and purpose in her trials. She understands her purpose in life is to live for God’s glory. And she has memorized many key Scripture passages that teach biblical principles that apply to a diversity of life issues. In the pages that follow, step-by-step guidance and resources are provided for Becky and for others who find themselves in her shoes.
 At the 2014 Faith Biblical Counseling Regional Training Conference at Canyon Hills Community Church in Bothell, WA, 158 participants were surveyed by Nanette Loveless, author of this Toolkit. Of the 158 surveys collected, sixty-eight were collected from students of Track 1 and eighty-seven from students in Track 3. There were three surveys on which no track was indicated, thus limiting the usefulness of the answers, but not entirely eliminating their significance.
 J. Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G3100. Electronic edition.
 T. Friberg and B. Friberg and N. F. Miller, Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament, vol. 4 Baker’s Greek New Testament library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 251.
 Strong, G3560.
 Friberg, 273.