BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Six of a seven-part Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Equipping Counselors for Your Church. In this series, you’ll read:
- Part 1: What’s a Pastor To Do, by Bob Kellemen
- Part 2: It Takes a Congregation, by Bob Kellemen
- Part 3: Counseling in Community: Equipping the Ground Troops, by Garrett Higbee
- Part 4: On Equipping the Saints for Counseling Ministry, by John Henderson
- Part 5: Teaching Resources for Equipping Counselors, by Bob Kellemen
- Part 6: Equipping a Stubborn Little Church, by Sue Nicewander
- Part 7: Why We Need to Equip and Be Equipped, by Adam Embry
The Reality of Resistance
Counseling is needed in every church, and everyone seems to know that (especially when they need help). As a pastor or ministry leader in a smaller local church, you may clearly recognize the need for church-wide discipleship, but convincing your people is another story. They may not intend to be stubborn; they just pursue their own ideas. And they resist change that doesn’t fulfill their vision of what their church should do.
As a biblical counselor, I work with a group of five Baptist churches ranging from 40 to 300 members. Each senior pastor is deliberately working to develop discipleship. Each has met with resistance and difficulty. But discipleship growth is happening. Here are two reasons why.
1. A Realistic Starting Point
Each pastor started with a realistic vision for discipleship ministry, which he is patiently casting. From their examples, here some ways you may lay foundations for change, step by step, even when people are stubborn.
Pray faithfully about your church’s needs, including the need for biblical counseling and discipleship. Consistently invite individuals to pray with you. Give your prayer warriors a list of requests and Scripture to pray through for your church. Meet regularly to pray before worship services each week. Email non-confidential updates and requests during the week. Be diligent in prayer, remembering that this is God’s church and you are doing His work. Confess sin and follow His Word both personally and corporately. You and your church family need His wisdom, direction, power, provision, and timing.
- Speak the Word constantly to show your people that it is sufficient for all matters of life and godliness: that Christ is real, relevant, and essential for life. People won’t consider biblical counseling if they don’t connect Scripture with real life.
- Cast vision for robust Titus 2 care among your people. Consistently remind them that the church is a living organism, a body created to grow and function as a unit to serve Christ.
- Convey that everybody already counsels all the time, whenever they give advice, make decisions, or offer opinions. The question is whether or not their counsel is biblical.
- Teach practical biblical discipleship using current means: preaching, Bible classes, one-on-one mentoring, and resources that are already in place or easily obtained. Build from there.
- Talk to other likeminded pastors about how they develop discipleship.
- Goals. Do your people know what your church is about? Write a clear and concise vision statement with your church leaders, biblically stating who you are and what you want to accomplish.
- Spiritual needs of your people. What are their strengths? What are the themes of their struggles, and where do they go for help?
- Resources. What spiritual gifts do you recognize? How might your church utilize, enhance, and expand its human and financial resources more wisely?
- Organize so that people don’t passively sit together, but to interact meaningfully.
- Programs and ministries: Write out ideas to beef up efforts that strengthen your people’s knowledge of God and resultant faith and service. Eliminate programs that drain your church’s energy, time, and money.
- Plan for change. With your Word-driven goals and objectives in mind, write a timeline for gradual implementation. (Change is hard for people, so plan to be patient and steadfast. Don’t be shocked if it takes two years or more for an idea to take hold.)
- Welcome suggestions and feedback. Graciously receive and consider what people tell you. Forgive appropriately.
- Choose one or two men with leadership potential, and individually move toward them. Teach them how to pray, disciple and counsel, lead a Bible study, preach a sermon. Delegate carefully as your leaders grow more able.
- Equip your leaders to counsel well, and encourage them to disciple others. Purchase or write materials and teach them yourself, and/or send people to classes or conferences, such as the ones at Biblical Counseling Ministries (BCM) or Faith Church.
- Ask your trainees to share with the church what they are learning.
- Approach those with ability, and kindly request that they serve in specific ways. Equip them as needed.
2. A Vision for Collaboration
Consider collaboration to receive more help. Biblical Counseling Ministries, Inc. (BCM) has a collaborative model that brings biblical counselors like me to a group of churches who individually can’t afford to add a staff counselor. I help with discipleship development in a number of ways.
What the Resource Biblical Counselor Does
To assist church leaders, I travel weekly among five churches to counsel (or co-counsel) those referred to me by the pastors.
To build discipleship, I offer classes, seminars, reading recommendations, a monthly newsletter, mentoring, and consultations.
What the Core Church Do
Our churches support BCM through their missionary budgets. In addition, they provide for the ministry’s operational needs, including office space, clerical help, resource materials, IT assistance, and classroom support.
The Growth of Discipleship
Biblical counseling has been instrumental in the growth of discipleship at each of our core churches (and beyond). The pace of growth has varied, and progress has required faith, patience, and diligence. Each pastor has had to build foundations to nurture that growth, has faced stubborn resistance. But in spite of the obstacles, during our twelve years of collaboration all of our churches have grown considerably in discipleship ministry. They agree that it has been important to have a biblical counselor available to organize and assist in the process.
BCC Staff Note: The two main points in this blog are developed more fully in Building a Church Counseling Ministry Without Killing the Pastor by Sue Nicewander, Pastor Stephen Steinmetz, and Pastor Jonathan Jenks (Day One Publishers, 2012).