The Growing Need for Counseling Pastors

From the time I was a student in Seminary the Lord consistently brought people into my life who were in need of counseling. Though I did not realize it at the time, he had already prepared and called me to this important task of counseling ministry from a very young age. I have been in counseling ministry since 2006, but have been studying psychology and human behavior from childhood. 

I recall being about seven years old and observing an unhealthy relational interaction that kept recurring. This led me to ponder, and pray to the Lord about how to break that pattern, and replace it with a consistent healthy, loving, relational interaction, so I set out on a mission to find the answers to help people. Over time, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with the support and wisdom of my parents, in particular, my mother, I sought to understand the root of each problem, and the motivation and perspectives that drive them.

By age ten I finally had the courage to intervene in the unhealthy interaction I had observed a couple years prior, and was determined to change it. Though my hope was to be conciliatory, at that point, I was looking only for change, and I remember thinking that it did not matter if the change was good or bad, but only that the pattern be broken. The next time I observed the unhealthy interaction, I spoke up and it made an impact. There was an immediate and noticeable difference, partly in the other parties, and partly in me, for this marked the first time my role was that of a counselor.

Since we, as Christians, recognize that God can and does immediately and completely heal people from all types of ailments, physical and mental, we must also recognize that this is more often the exception rather than the rule. The problem is when Christians who continue to struggle are told from well-meaning brothers and sisters in the Lord that they have not received God’s miraculous healing touch yet, because they lack faith, or need to pray more, or have some hidden sin in their life that they need to confess, etc. The fact is, that oftentimes when God chooses not to miraculously heal someone, it is because he wants them to work through the process of healing, which can and does bring great spiritual growth (See Cloud and Townsend How People Grow). That process of healing is wrought in the context of Christian Counseling.

With all that has transpired in the world over the course of a couple short years, I am seeing an exponentially greater number of people in need of counseling. This, unfortunately, has emphasized an underlying problem, that many pastors are not up to the task of counseling. There are as many reasons for this problem as there are possible solutions, but the fact remains that there is a great shortage of effective Christian Counselors.

The best solution for most churches to consider is hiring a Counseling Pastor, that is, someone who has extensive experience in Counseling Ministry and whose primary role on staff is as a Christian Counselor. In many churches this may be a dual role such as “Counseling and Teaching Pastor,” “Counseling and Discipleship Pastor,” “Pastor of Counseling and Spiritual Growth,” etc.

While this role may, at first glance, appear to be the job of the senior pastor, he may have neither the time nor the training necessary to deal with some of the more complex issues that come up in the counseling session. Christian Psychologist Larry Crabb makes an excellent point in his book Effective Biblical Counseling that counseling (like prophet and teacher, etc.) is a gift given to the church (Rom 12:8 Gk). Additionally, it is beneficial to have a pastor to whom people can go and confidentially confess their struggles without the threat of church discipline (with the obvious exception of extreme cases which would be handled in like manner in secular counseling) or feeling like every sermon will be directed at them. Counseling is kept strictly confidential and therefore compartmentalized for the sake of the dignity and growth of the client.

In conclusion, since it is incumbent upon the leadership to make sure the church is mentally and spiritually healthy, it is imperative to consider the need for the role of Counseling Pastor on your team, and to hire one who is both humble and competent.

Jesse Walker is an ordained pastor who is Christian Counselor.

He is the founder and lead counselor of Christian Counseling Ministries in Phoenix, AZ.

  1. We need more counseling pastors indeed

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