Promoting PErsonal Change, Centered on the PErson of Christ through the PErsonal Ministry of the Word
Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

When Do You Stop Counseling?

WhenDoYouStopCounseling

A Word from Your BCC Team: The following post is an excerpt from Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju’s recent book The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need (Crossway, 2014), which is written as a short, practical, and theological guide to the basics of counseling in a local church.

6 Factors to Consider…

As a pastor or counselor, how do you know when to stop counseling? As you try to decide whether or not to end counseling, you will probably be aware, with some uneasiness, that not every problem has been solved. You will sense the need for more growth or the person’s desire that counseling continue regularly. But these are not adequate reasons to perpetuate counseling. When to end counseling is always a judgment call that requires a lot of wisdom. The decision to bring the counseling process to a close is sometimes clear, but often not.

It’s best to own the decision to end counseling with some clear criteria. Consider two positive indicators of when to conclude counseling, and four less pleasant ones.

The person understands his problem and is equipped to handle it.

The best indicator for ending counseling is when the person has been adequately equipped to respond in faith to his troubles and is showing a consistent pattern of doing so. The symptoms have lightened: the depression isn’t as bad as it was; the husband and wife have reconciled and have rebuilt their trust; the young man hooked on pornography has had a considerable reprieve from his sexual sin. The pressure of the original problem is no longer wreaking havoc on their life. And suddenly, they don’t feel the need to meet with you anymore. And, as much as you love them, you don’t feel the need to meet with them either.

In the course of your care for them, another person’s care emerges as more effective.

If you are counseling in the context of the local church, you will be utilizing other couples or individuals to come alongside a counselee. Often, these other individuals become more effective than you in addressing the issues of this person’s heart. This is not a threat to your position as pastor or counselor, but rather a mark of how the church should work. It should thrill you that others demonstrate a skill or have an insight that you didn’t. If you recognize this as the case, it may be best to transition them to the care of others.

Sadly, not all counseling ends with a positive conclusion. Sometimes other reasons compel a transition to other counselors or other types of care.

Things don’t seem to be changing at all.

You have tried to help for a while, and things just don’t seem to be going anywhere. They have, at least apparently, been striving to make changes, but the same problem they started with is still plaguing them. Maybe it’s even gotten worse. This may be from a lack of insight or skill on your part, or it may be from hard-heartedness, ignorance, or other factors on their part. Usually it’s a bit of both. But the point is, nothing seems to be making a difference. That’s a good time to consider making a shift to someone else.

They aren’t interested in working.

You will be in counseling situations when counselees will basically use meeting time to gripe, gossip, and complain. But when it comes to the hard work of studying Scripture, thinking through heart motives, confronting sin, or facing their own misgivings, they just don’t want to do it. These folks expect you to do the heavy lifting in the sessions. But we don’t serve our people by indulging their sense of “doing something” about the problem by coming to counseling when they refuse to actually do something. Do not let people deceive themselves into thinking they’re putting forth effort when they’re not. If they do not do the homework and are uninterested in answering the questions you lay out, the counseling needs to end for their sake.

They don’t trust you.

There will also be situations where your mistakes are painfully evident. Maybe you messed up by speaking into a matter without understanding it or by responding to them in plain frustration. You’ve forgotten appointments or been unable to fit them in your schedule with reasonable turnover. Two things you know are true of yourself: you are a sinner and you are a human. The point is, they have lost trust in you—whether through your fault or their unrealistic expectations. Regardless, people will not follow your guidance if they don’t trust you, and it’s time to end counseling. If they are unwilling to trust counsel from anyone else in the church, it may also be time for them to consider moving on to another church. 

They need more help than you can offer.

Their problem is intense enough to need more time or expertise than you can offer. You wish you had more time to spend with them, but fulfilling your other responsibilities would become impossible since they would need more than just a one-hour-a-week conversation. For instance, drug addiction can become so out-of-control that strugglers need daily interventions. You wish you had more skill to know the contours of a particular problem, but you don’t have the insight, skill, or time needed to sort through the complexity. Now, keep in mind, the threshold of what you can handle is higher than you might realize. But we also want to recognize that certain troubles have become so spiritually complex or physiologically engrained that you should seek someone with greater skill. The goal is not to pass them off; rather, it’s to get them the help they need.

Don’t feel like a failure if you have to refer them to someone else in the church (another pastor or another mature believer) or someone outside of the church (a counselor or doctor in your community). Sometimes the best way to care for them is not to continue the work yourself, but point them in the right direction—to someone who can give them the adequate time and attention that is needed.

If any of these indicators apply to your situation, it’s probably time to end counseling by asking for a final meeting. Some folks will be more than happy that counseling is over. Others will be quite alarmed. For the latter, a final meeting is a killer for them. They want counseling to go on much longer than is needed, perhaps even arguing with you about how they need more help. If you, in your wisdom (and not your impatience), have concluded that things should wind down, then be gracious and stay the course in bringing things to a conclusion. Don’t let the pitfalls and pressures of overly needy people set the pace of your counseling. Humbly listen to their concerns; pray about it; and then you determine what is best.

Join the Conversation

As a pastor/biblical counselor, what factors do you consider as guidelines for when to end counseling?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Pastoral Resources, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

BCC Weekend Megaphone Post: IBCD Newsletter

 

IBCDNewsletter

A Word from Your BCC Team: On weekends we often use our BCC “megaphone” to make you aware of various leading biblical counseling organizations. This weekend we highlight the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD) and their most recent newsletter.

IBCD stands for the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship. Their mission is to equip Christians to be able to counsel one another in their local churches. They do this by assisting in the ACBC Certification process, as well as offering training and events that are helpful to anyone interested in learning how to better help others through the Word of God.

Their most recent newsletter includes resources and articles such as Protecting Your Marriage, An Interview with George Scipione, and Care and Discipleship in Papua New Guinea.

There are two ways you can access the IBCD Newsletter:

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Discipleship, Gospel-Centered Ministry, Local Church Ministry, Marriage & Family, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

Sermons on Biblical Womanhood

Denny Burk shares direct links to several of his Recent Sermons on Biblical Womanhood.

4 Principles for Talking to Children about God’s Design for Sexuality

At Ligonier Ministries, Nate Shurden discusses Talking to Children about God’s Design for Sexuality.

4 Warnings from a Broken Savior

J.D. Greear writes of Jephthah that, “We need a better Judge. This is a recurring theme in the book of Judges. Jephthah was a savior of Israel, but a terribly broken savior. And he, like all the other judges, points us to Jesus, the perfect Savior who was broken for the broken.” Read the rest of Pastor Greear’s insights on Jephthah in 4 Warnings from a Broken Savior.

Why Telling Kids to Dream Big Is a Big Con

“Our culture is rich with esteem-boosting platitudes for young dreamers, but the assurances are dishonest and dangerous.” So quotes Leslie Garrett in an Aeon article entitled Why Telling Kids to Dream Big Is a Big Con.

After Domestic Violence, Should a Woman Call the Police or Her Pastor?

Justin Holcomb discusses why he believes that After Domestic Violence a Christian Wife Should Call the Police Not a Pastor First. Also see by Justin Holcomb: How Pastors Can Best Help Victims of Domestic Abuse.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Five To Live By, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Self-Esteem/Self-Image, Women/Wives | Tags: , , , , , ,

Are You Healthy?

AreYouHealthy

There has never been a generation (at least not in our affluent western society), that worries so much about their health as we do today. In 2013, according to statistics from the German Federal Office, Germans spent 314.9 billion Euros on their health. That is 3,910 Euros per citizen.

We buy lots of drugs and tonics to improve our constitutions, swallow the latest vitamins, and make sure we’re eating organic vegetables and a balanced diet. We’re either torturing ourselves with exercise at home or spending a fortune financing one of the many available fitness studios. We make regular visits to the doctor and ensure that we have precautionary examinations done.

Paul Also Spoke about Health

The letter which the apostle Paul wrote to Titus also revolves around the topic “Health.” In the first two chapters alone, Paul speaks about health five times (Titus 1:9; 1:13; 2:1; 2:2, 2:8). However, in none of the listed references does he speak about the health of our bodies. Evidently, for Christians, there is a whole other health issue, namely, spiritual health or the health of our inner man.

What does Paul mean by spiritual health? How do you recognize if your inner man is really healthy? At the beginning of Titus 2 for example, Paul mentions various indicators of spiritual health for different age groups and genders (Titus 2:1-10). However, he does not define spiritual health through these indicators, rather he merely deals with indicators of spiritual health, similar to the marker on a blood panel.

But What Is Spiritual Health?

Nevertheless, the question remains as to how spiritual health can be defined. When we attempt to understand a concept, expression, or thought, it is often helpful to take a look at the contrast thereof. If we want to understand the comfort and blessing of warmth, it would be useful on a cold winter’s day to think about being without a functioning heating system. This principle is exactly what Paul uses in his letter to Titus. In Titus 2:1, Paul starts with the words: “But as for you, teach what accords with sound [healthy] doctrine.” This “but” shows a contrast. Accordingly, directly before this verse, the discussion must have been about “unsound” (unhealthy) doctrine.

Titus 1:16 of the previous chapter is a splendid description of a spiritually unhealthy person. Here Paul is speaking about people who claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him and thereby are unfit for doing anything good. Therefore, “Being unhealthy in the faith” is to claim to know God, His Word, and what He expects, but in practical life to disown Him. To be unhealthy in the faith means to have a good theological knowledge but not to allow this theology to rule our lives. For example: believing that God is omnipresent and omniscient, but in an allegedly unobserved moment, looking at something on the computer, or on the Internet, or cell phone that no person, whether child or adult, should be looking at—this is spiritually “unhealthy.”

Two Theologies

Evidently, every person carries two theologies within them. Firstly, a Formal Theology, where one knows that it is correct. We enjoy speaking about this Formal Theology; we discuss it with relish, defend it, and even take pleasure arguing about it. Often this just serves as a means to amass knowledge, to own it, or to impress with it. We use it to corroborate our orthodoxy. We do not argue about our Formal Theology because God’s righteousness or His reputation is dear to our hearts. We argue because we want to be right and because we know the truth and nothing but the truth .

However, there is another theology in our hearts. Let’s call it Functional Theology. This is the part of our intellectual world that actually affects and determines how we think and act. This is the theology that rears me or disciplines me, that comforts me, encourages me, exhorts me, that guides me, and that helps me to live a life which is pleasing to God. For most of us, this Functional Theology is often more poorly developed than the Formal Theology.

According to Titus 1:16, when you pretend to know God, His character, His essence, His greatness, and His will, but through your actions in your practical life, you actually disown Him—this health condition of the inner person is pathologically critical. A healthy inner person is when my knowledge of God determines my life with God, e.g. when I don’t just speak about grace, but my life and my dealings with others are determined by grace and evidence grace.

Spiritual Health Is Vital

Spiritual health is important because the opposite of spiritual health is not just illness but often hypocrisy. Our Lord showed much understanding, much grace and mercy for those who were truly weak in spirit. However, whenever the Lord came across people who pretended to know the truth, but actually denied it by the way they lived, His patience was short and His dealings with them hard and clear.

The Bible never separates what we learn from how we live or the truth from how we behave. In my home country, Germany, especially in conservative circles, it is a widely spread notion that spiritual health is the same as orthodox teaching with profound and extensive knowledge about the revealed counsel of God. But this is not so. Being spiritually healthy is when my knowledge about God also determines my life with God. When I don’t just speak about grace, but also allow my life and my relationships to be determined by it.

Don’t get me wrong. Healthy teaching is without a doubt the prerequisite for a healthy life, however, healthy teaching alone does not equal a healthy life. Therefore, I would like to close with some practical suggestions especially for those responsible in our congregation:

  1. Like me, many of us who preach recognize that expository preaching is the best way to ensure that the meaning of God’s Word is conveyed undistorted. Yet we frequently have to remind ourselves that the utilization of God’s Word according to 2 Timothy 3:16 does not just depend on the teaching but also on reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. This process is only successful when the listeners actually receive the grace of a changed life (v. 17). To this end, the preacher must not only interpret the text accurately but must be able to apply it to the lives of the listeners.
  1. Let’s take a look at the current discipleship courses that, I am happy to say, are being worked through by young believers. Most of these courses place great value on biblical instruction, on good theology, and healthy/sound teaching. This is correct and important and yet at the same time, too little! God does not want to merely reach our intellect. Yes, it begins with a changed way of thinking, but a changed way of thinking must lead to a changed way of life! God does not want to just reach our heads but also our hearts, our character, our hands, and our homes. Right at the beginning, young believers especially need healthy teaching which must lead to a healthy lifestyle.
  1. Many of us must learn anew (or maybe for the first time) what it means to “meditate” on a biblical text. This has nothing to do with exercises of reflection from the Far East, but rather simply and poignantly, with the practice of not just thinking about the meaning of a biblical text, but also concretely about how to utilize it in your life.
  1. It is an impossibility to have a healthy local congregation without offering individuals the personal ministry of the Word of God—namely the process which is often referred to as “counseling” (Acts 20:20, 31). The personal ministry of the Word deals with nothing other than intensive discipleship, in order to assist people to find that good teaching also leads to good living to the glory of God.

Join the Conversation

Are we as pastors, elders, counselors, and church leaders pursuing the goal of presenting the sheep who have been entrusted to us as spiritually healthy? Do we recognize the meaning and necessity of the personal ministry of the Word, to really present the people mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28)? Are we, in our walk with the Lord, too easily satisfied with orthodox teaching without a changed life to the glory of God?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sanctification | Tags: , , , ,

The Missing Ingredient for Sexual Purity

MissingIngredientSexualPurity

For a long time, I viewed my sexuality as a curse. I was a mixture of terrible paradoxes: desiring to save sex for marriage on one hand, but deeply fearful of romantic relationships on the other; desiring purity in my thoughts and conduct, but really, really enjoying pornography.

Masturbation and erotic fantasy was a convenient but miserable halfway house—it was easier than actually trusting God while pursuing wholesome relationships. I was begrudgingly of the opinion of Oscar Wilde, who said masturbation is “cleaner, more efficient, and you meet a better class of person.”

If you had been one of my “accountability partners,” you probably would have seen a man who was pursuing sexual purity. I prayed about it, read books about it, went to counseling about it, and even attended conferences about it. But no matter what I did, repentance never seemed to stick.

But in time and through a lot of stubbornness, I learned an extremely valuable lesson about purity, and my life has never been the same since.

The Gratitude Displacement Strategy

In Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul writes:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Purity is a funny word. It is a word that stresses the absence of something—the absence of some kind of contamination. In my mid-20s, this was the heart and soul of my pursuit as a young man: flee from porn and lust and hope it isn’t fast enough to catch me. A noble goal, to be sure, but it felt rather pathetic—it felt like a choice between porn or nothing. And this is a pretty lousy choice.

The Bible does not talk about purity this way, however. Here, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he gives us a new pursuit. It isn’t merely about running from sexually immoral behavior, impure thoughts, and crude humor; it is about running towards a life of thanksgiving.

This is what Douglas Wilson calls a “gratitude displacement” strategy: when we are filled with a personal joy, thanksgiving, and contentment directed toward Jesus Christ, then gratitude fills up all the available space in our souls, leaving no room for covetous cravings.

“Biblical contentment is not stoicism. We are not called to be content in the same way that a block of wood is content—even though we may assume the wood presumably is content. That is not what we are called to. And Paul is not urging us into some kind of ‘happy, happy, happy all the day’ kind of stuff. He is not urging a constant and frothy giddiness. No, he sets the pattern for us, providing us with an example. In one place he describes himself as ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Corinthians 6:10). His joy, his contentment, was not a perverse kind of denial, or a stiff-upper-lip stoicism. And yet it was ‘always rejoicing.’ This kind of contentment, whether well fed or hungry, is a deep satisfaction with the will of God for you (Philippians 4:11-12). This is bedrock stuff—a basalt kind of joy twenty feet down” (Doug Wilson, Father Hunger, p.184).

Porn: My Tantrum at God

At that time in my life, I had bought into the lie that marriage and sexual intimacy were somehow basic rights that had been denied me. I believed sex was not only a tumultuous biological need, I believed sexual pleasure was, in a way, a main goal of life: a promised land I had yet to enter. Porn was my way of cheating the God who had denied me this basic right. It was my tantrum at God.

Had my mind not been so clouded at the time, I would have seen marriage was no more a “right” than anything else in life: it is only by God’s undeserved mercy and patience that I have any blessings at all. Had I been thinking straight, I would have understood that sex was not a “need” (at least, not in the sense I meant it). It was I, not God, who had turned a normal sex drive into something desperate and demanding. It was I, not God, who had elevated sexual pleasure to a pedestal it was never meant to occupy.

I say all of this not to be “down” on our God-given sex drive or down on marriage, but to put them in their proper place, for it is only when they are in their proper place that I can pursue and enjoy them without being enslaved to them. Sex is good (very good, actually). Sexual pleasure is good. Marriage is good. It is good to desire them. But when I believed I “needed” them, then God became a capricious Creator bent on placing people into impossible situations and then demanding chastity from them.

This grumbling, complaining brashness was the opposite of gratitude, for I could not be grateful as long as I believed these lies about God and my sexuality. But understanding sexual pleasure as a good desire—not a desperate need—I am free to place it alongside other good desires and alongside God’s commands about them. I am free to repent of my warped and selfish version of sexual fulfillment without fearing that I am denying or rejecting some essential part of me. And I am free to pray to God without anger in my heart for “making me this way.”

With Christ in the School of Contentment

Yes, contentment is one of the key missing ingredients for a life of purity, but this is admittedly a frustrating sentiment, isn’t it? A sexually fulfilling marriage is often dangled like a carrot in front of those with unrequited lusts. “Just be ‘content,’ and God will satisfy the desires of thy heart with a sexually vibrant spouse,” we are told. But offering God our contentment in exchange for good sex is hardly true contentment.

Instead, we should go on the journey of what Paul calls “the secret” of satisfaction.

“…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11b-13).

What is Paul’s “secret”? The word Paul uses here is a technical word that was used in other religions of his day, carrying the idea of being “initiated” into a special group to learn exclusive mysteries that only an inner circle was allowed to know. However, here Paul implies all Christians can learn the secret of contentment, and he tells them what his initiation process looked like.

Christ had brought Paul through experiences of hunger and distress, as well as circumstances of plenty and fullness. One moment Paul is surrounded by encouraging friends, has a roof over his head, and is experiencing great success in ministry. Then the next moment he is being stoned, shipwrecked, or thrown in prison. Both kinds of experiences—plenty and hunger—were the way Christ initiated Paul in the school of contentment. Every valley and every mountaintop was another opportunity to trust the wisdom of God’s providential and purposeful care.

Deep in the core of our being, we must choose to believe in our covenant-keeping God over the false promises of the ancient serpent—the serpent that whispers in our ear that God is holding out on us.

We must then turn that faith into a daily rehearsal of what Brother Lawrence calls “practicing the presence of God,” turning all our moments, no matter how mundane, exciting, or tempting, into an opportunity for prayerful dialogue and praise.

Until we repent of our discontentment and trust in God’s unending kindness, porn will continue to be the fruit from a bad tree.

Join the Conversation

What has been the biggest help to you in your battles against pornography?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Pornography, Sexual Purity, Sin | Tags: , , ,

God’s Counsel About Counseling Youth

GodsCounselYouth

Proverbs is about easy sex, easy money, good and bad friendships, beauty, fear of what others think of me, careless lending, laziness and work, pleasure and pain, impetuous angry reactions, unguarded careless speech, a good or bad reputation. The list goes on and on. Pithy statements about hundreds of life experiences that concern young adults and God’s wisdom for them all: that’s Proverbs.

Proverbs: A Young Adults’ Book

Proverbs is a young adults’ book. Proverbs 1:4 says pointedly that the book is to give “…knowledge and discretion to the youth.” The Hebrew word for youth, na’ar, is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament and overwhelmingly refers to young people from puberty until full adulthood—about age 30. (Witness bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah at age 13 and 12, respectively, continuing in today’s Jewish culture—the age at which a boy enters young manhood and a girl young womanhood.)

Na’ar have all the capacities of full adults, all the accountability of full adults, but not all the freedom of full adults. That’s why they are referred to as “young” adults. They are still under the authority of parents. Proverbs is tailored to youth (and younger children, too, as parents and teachers summarize the concepts more simply). The brevity, poetic nature, real-life connections with interests of young adults, and the consequential focus of practicing or not practicing this wisdom are crafted artfully and tailored skillfully for this life-shaping season in their lives.

God’s Wise Approach to Young People

In my work with teens over the last 40+ years, a few observations about God’s wise approach to young people in Proverbs jump out at me. Others are there, but these leap to the front of my mind for reflection. Youth workers and parents must give attention to God’s approach and imitate it to offer helpful counsel to youth.

1. All counsel to young people is ministry.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning” of both “knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7) and “wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Youth workers need to be conscious that every word they speak is counsel moving young people toward or away from God’s wise will for life. Different Hebrew words translated “beginning” are used in these verses. Both words locate teens in God’s redemptive universe. (LORD, YHWH, is the covenant, redemptive name of God.) “The earth is the LORD’s…” (Psalm 24:1). Everything belongs to Him and is for Him (Colossians 1:16). This includes the teen and his years.

In Proverbs 1:7 “beginning” means the fear of the LORD is the most important feature of knowledge. It’s like oxygen needed for your body to live. You can have a lot of other things, but without oxygen, you suffocate—die. All the knowledge in the world, like so many bits of data, will not hang together usefully in the long run (and often in the short run) without the fear of the LORD as the cohesive heart force to configure them accurately and healthfully. That’s true in every human area of life and Proverbs identifies hundreds of them. “Why do you want me to live, LORD?” This is the beginning of useful thought in every realm of life. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega.

In Proverbs 9:10, the Hebrew word for “beginning” has to do with the order of things. Like buttoning a shirt or launching a rocket—the way you begin will affect the way you end. The fear of the LORD is the most critical place to start to get perspective about putting life together (wisdom). “How do you want me to live, LORD?” This is the beginning of useful behavior in every area. How do I use what I’m learning about this world and life so that I’m not fleeing from a lion and meet a bear and flee from the bear and lean against a wall in my house of safety only to be bitten by a snake (Amos 5:19)?

2. All counsel to young people is consequential.

We do not have to read far into Proverbs to get the sense that the sages who are writing are holding out both positive and negative temporal consequences to motivate young people to make good choices. (Chapter 1 verse 2 gets the tsunami of consequences rolling.) There are eternal implications to every decision, to be sure. But the here and now of life is in the forefront for teens, and it is in the forefront of counsel to teens in Proverbs.

By my count, there are 368 negative and 324 positive temporal consequences held out for young people to consider in their life making-decisions in Proverbs: the profit from hard work, the poverty from laziness, the trap of making foolish promises, the vulnerability of being sexually seduced (even in the midst of the Christian community), the consequences of wise or foolish friendship choices, or any of hundreds of other outcomes. The sages of Proverbs keep waving these pleasant and painful results of youthful choices in front of them like a matador with his muleta or red cape to attract the bull.

These counselors are not neutral about what is good and wise living. Neither are they making the youth’s decisions for him. But they are being clear about what is wise and foolish in their options and why that is so.

3. The outward is a “way in” to the heart of the teen.

The usual outcomes from choices people make are a “way in” to the teens’ heart motives. As noted above, this is ministry. Our end goal is not just to get teens to do the right thing, like Pharisees. We want their “hearts” to be engaged principally. But as the nearly 700 consequences delineated in Proverbs seem to assert, with many teens, our helpfulness with counsel for them may need to begin on the outside. The outcomes and results teens want and can see as likely to occur often make the most sense to them.

The outside is where God seems to begin His conversation with young adults in their hundreds of decisions. This is not to contradict the first observation listed above. But what we have in mind and where we want to go with our counsel, is not necessarily where a teen with whom we meet wants to go at the beginning of our conversation. The “outside” is connected to the inside, for sure. We can make that linkage in time. As youth practice the wisdom-of-God-in-action, and see its fruit (and they usually will, Proverbs 9:10), we cultivate a trust relationship with them that can be strong enough to withstand deeper probing on our part and more serious (heart) self-assessment on theirs.

4. Teens are motivated by “wise wants.”

Teens generally want things that are good for them—by common grace, i.e. God’s general goodness to all. Sin twists these wise wants in many ways, of course, but underlying all the Proverbs is a curriculum of God-imbedded desires to which the sages are appealing in their counsel to youth.

“Long life is in her right hand…” (Proverbs 3:16a)

“Riches and honor are with me…” (Proverbs 8:18)

“A wise son makes a glad father…” (Proverbs 10:1)

“Good sense wins favor…” (Proverbs 13:15)

Think about the assumption that the counselor of young people in Proverbs is making for the counsel he gives in each of the above instances. Young adults want these good things. They want long life, riches, honor, glad parents, and a good reputation. That’s why these Proverbs make sense to teens. God holds these benefits out as the fruit of wise living.

Counselors can listen to young people to discern what they “want.” Sin will often have distorted the way they are defining and even pursuing their wants, but youth workers can affirm the God-implanted features of their desires and then go on to show how what they are doing or thinking and wanting is probably like shooting themselves in the foot. They are self-destructing! The door is now open to showing God’s wisdom way. When teens get that message, they often make serious changes to change the outcomes. If they do make these changes and you’ve been involved, you probably have built a pretty strong relationship to take your connection with the teen to the next serious, heart level.

5. You can accurately affirm young adults—about some choices they’ve made.

Because life is made up of so many choices, the teens you work with have undoubtedly made some good ones. The writers of Proverbs recognize that some of this good decision-making has been happening by virtue of the ongoing offers still open to them. They’ve not completely destroyed themselves yet. There is hope that they can make good choices like ones they’ve made in the past.

Sometimes teens we talk to feel hopeless. “Nothing I do is right! Everything I do is wrong!” I’ve often pointed out to the teen sitting with me that I notice he has clothes on. “That’s a good choice you made earlier today—unless your mom dressed you.” Another way of making this point is to ask if when they woke up this morning they felt a kind of pressure in their abdomen area and went to a little room down the hall and after a minute in there they felt better? “Do you mean did I go to the bathroom?” “Yes,” I respond. “That was a good decision!” I’ve never had a teen who didn’t laugh at that. It gets the point across. They can still make good decisions.

It’s true they’ve probably been making some bad choices. And those may be raining some painful consequences on them right now. But that is not all of who they are. Teens can often be myopic—a victim of tunnel-vision. They don’t see the big picture easily. You can help them get a wider perspective about their life, not as a way to patronize them, but to show them that they have made good choices in the past and can do it again. This can give them a measure of hope that “things can be different.” Change is possible because of the way God has made life to work.

There is a lot more to learn about the content and process of wise counsel to youth for us all. Observing our Father’s manner of guidance with these precious people in the Wisdom literature is the best place to start—and finish: “The end of the matter…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole (duty is not in the Hebrew text) of man.” Total teen (and adult) identity is wrapped up in the “fear of the LORD.”

Join the Conversation

Think about reactions you’ve experienced in counseling youth when you’ve NOT had these patterns of communication in mind when talking to them. Do you have other observations from Proverbs about God’s wise counsel to young adults?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Marriage & Family, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Teens | Tags: , , , , , ,

A Parent’s Role in Counseling Teenagers

ParentsCounselingTeens

A Parent’s Desperation

“Please fix my child!”

A parent may not articulate their desperation quite this way, but it is often the underlying plea when seeking counseling for their teenager.

It is easy to understand this desperation. Whether you are a parent of a teenager or not, you have encountered teenagers who are difficult and challenging. When a teenager struggles with something that seems beyond what our society deems “normal teenage behavior,” we often feel inadequate and ill-equipped to help.

Unbiblical Cynicism

There is an attitude towards teenagers in our society and in our churches that is cynical and unbiblical. This cynicism says:

  • Teenagers all go through rebellion; it’s part of their development and they need to go through it.
  • The younger generation is leaving the church in droves; it’s too big of an issue and we don’t have the answers.
  • I don’t understand teenagers, and I am not able to relate to them.
  • Teenagers don’t want to talk to someone my age; we have nothing in common.
  • You can’t reach a teen’s heart; it is already too heavily influenced by the culture.
  • Teenagers aren’t capable of following Christ; they are too self-centered.

Maybe you could add a cynical attitude of your own. In order to serve teenagers well, we must repent of our cynicism and think biblically where youth are concerned.

Biblical Perspective

Teenagers can, in fact, enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Their rebellion can be addressed with God’s Word. By God’s grace, we can connect and relate to teens, and they can enjoy relating to us and seeking our wisdom. We have much in common with them—we are all sinners who need a Savior; we are far more alike than we are different. We are all self-centered; age doesn’t change that. Many youth come to faith and want to walk by faith in obedience, and many are willing to hear how God’s Word and the gospel address their sin and their suffering.

Fear holds many counselors and disciplers back from serving youth. Those who are otherwise positioned well for discipling teens often allow their cynicism to override their mandate to serve the younger generation (Titus 2). Fear causes parents to shrink back from parenting well. Fear causes counselors to miss the mark regarding serving young people in their ministries. Fear breeds discouragement and cynicism.

The Counselor’s Role

Counselors: If fear has held you back from discipling the young generation, I would encourage you to rethink your ministry. It is necessary to understand what your role is in the lives of teens.

First, some roles that do NOT belong to the counselor:

  • The counselor is not a replacement for a parent.
  • The counselor is not to be the primary person to disciple the teen.
  • The counselor is not to be the sole confidant of the teen.
  • The counselor is not to take sides with either a parent or a teen.

Second, some roles that do belong to the counselor:

  • The counselor is to come alongside both teen and parents, whether or not the parent is in the counseling office. Counseling teenagers falls under the heading of “family counseling.” Generally, you should not counsel a minor without also involving the parents.
  • Give hope to both teen and parents—show them that change is possible. Provide them with both practical and spiritual tools to navigate the teen years.
  • Be a mediator when needed. Explain the principles of peacemaking and follow them in your sessions together. (An excellent resource is peacemaker.net.)

The Parent’s Role in Counseling Youth

Parents: Check your own attitude for cynicism and unbiblical thinking about your teenage child. You must realize that it is your primary responsibility to disciple your child. You are right to seek help from a counselor when you are unsure how to handle your teen, but you must also be willing to enter into the counseling dynamic in cooperation with the counselor.

You play a major role in your child’s counseling, including but not limited to, the following:

  • You are more than your child’s friend. Your God-given role is a leadership/authority role. If you have struggled with your parental role, speak with the counselor about this and work towards change (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
  • You should not use counseling as a “punishment.” Discipline and punishment are not the same. You will never succeed at punishing a child into a relationship with Christ. Grace and discipline work very well together and that approach will enhance your teen’s counseling.
  • Think of your counselor as a resource. Ask the counselor to help you to address your own heart issues while your teen is in counseling. Be teachable and transparent for the sake of your family. Be willing to hear the Truth spoken in love by your counselor.
  • Be understanding. Communication is possible, but you must guard your words. Speak encouraging and constructive words that can be used by God. Guard your own heart so that you do not speak out of fear, discouragement, or anger. These attitudes hinder the counseling process (Proverbs 12:18).
  • Understand that teens are able to grasp deep concepts. Don’t underestimate them. You and your counselor can both give guidance. Proverbs is full of wisdom for youth (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20).
  • What you see as a teenage-problem is actually a gospel opportunity. All sin and suffering is addressed by the gospel. While they are struggling is the perfect time to have these talks. God uses our troubles (at any age) to reveal our hearts. Everyone’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). It can be difficult to see this revealed in your own child, but this is a more biblical view than blaming hormones and chronological age for your teen’s struggles. Think biblically.
  • Don’t take their struggle personally. Consider your own struggles and realize that teenagers are just younger sinners. You can relate to them when you keep this in mind. Your own heart, too, can tend towards self-centeredness and deceit. Keep in mind that the power to change comes from a daily dependence on Jesus (1 John 1:8–9).
  • Share the truth in love. Be merciful and gracious rather than punitive and legalistic. Remember that it is your job to be faithful, and God’s job to change hearts. You are His instrument. Keeping that in mind will make your burden seem lighter as you depend on Him and not on yourself to change your teen (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Ephesians 4:15).

Hope Has No Age Limits

Parents and counselors, it is critical that you deal with your cynicism biblically. There is much at stake here. Hope is the antidote to cynicism! Hope also requires time. Take the time to offer hope! Parents must make time for family. Counselors must include helping families in their ministries. We are all instructed in Titus 2:1-15 to teach the younger generation. It is not just a good suggestion, it is a biblical mandate.

There is a spiritual battle raging for the hearts and souls of our youth. Cynicism gives the enemy a victory. Hope defeats the enemy! Teens need to know that you are in their court and that you love them and so does God. They need to know that you believe in their potential to follow Christ (1 Timothy 4:12).

A teen’s heart should be our primary focus as counselors, parents, and disciplers. If we only focus on age and physiology, we are going to miss the mark and not serve teens well in the body of Christ. I once heard a Christian psychologist say that the goal for dealing with the teen years is to “just get them through it.” That kind of cynicism breeds discouragement and fear. God offers us a better way.

The backbone of biblical counseling and any other biblically solid one-another ministry is the sufficiency of Scripture. Parents and counselors, if we believe that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), then why do we often act like it doesn’t apply to people between the ages of 13-19? Let’s repent of our cynicism and purpose to serve the young generation.

Join the Conversation

What cynical attitudes prevent you from serving the younger generation?

What part can you play in the discipleship of teenagers in your sphere of influence?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Teens | Tags: , , , ,

Resources for Your Life and Ministry from the Biblical Counseling Coalition

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On weekends we often highlight resources from various biblical counseling organizations and leaders. This weekend we highlight two resources produced by the Biblical Counseling Coalition and written by dozens of biblical counseling leaders.

Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World

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Today we face a tremendous weakening of confidence in the Bible. This is just as true for the pastor offering counsel in his office as it is for the layperson talking with a struggling friend at Starbucks or the small group leader who is unsure of what to say to a hurting group member.

Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life In A Broken World equips you to view and use the Bible in a robust, relevant, relational way to help hurting people.

And when you order your copy on the BCC Website, you get over 40% off the List Price—that’s cheaper than Amazon.com!

Learn more here.

Sale price: 18.99  Order Today!

Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling: Changing Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth

Christ-Centered_Biblical_Counseling

Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling seeks to become a catalyst for the return of God’s people to gospel-centered one-another ministry in the context of the local church. Authored by over 2 dozen biblical counseling leaders, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling provides a positive presentation of the sufficiency of Scripture for progressive sanctification. It offers both a theology of biblical counseling and a methodology of biblical counseling.

Learn more here.

Sale price: 19.49  Order Today!

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

50 Resources for Equipping the Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition writes:

“If you’re looking for something to share with people in your church in order to better equip them to discuss homosexuality, same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage, or the biblical view of sexuality, consider one of the following 50 resources.”

Find the links at 50 Resources for Equipping the Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage.

3 Reasons a Pastor Should Use His Vacation Time

Pastor Brian Croft interacts about Why Should a Pastor Use All His Vacation Time Each Year.

3 Errors of Musical Style That Stifle Community

Tim Challies writes:

“It is ironic that music, an element meant to draw Christians together in mutual love and service (see Colossians 3:16) has become a force for significant division within the church. It just goes to show, I guess, that we can make a mess of pretty much anything. In their book The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop point out 3 common errors of musical style can stifle local church community.”

Read Dever and Dunlop’s perspective in 3 Errors of Musical Style That Stifle Community.

Praying the Bible

At the Reformation Theology blog, Donald Whitney shares about Praying the Bible.

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt

At CCEF, Alasdair Groves writes, “I’m increasingly convinced that creation is one big treasure hunt. God apparently loves hiding things in our world for us to discover and develop.” Read the rest of Alasdair’s thoughts in The Ultimate Treasure Hunt.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Five To Live By, Homosexuality, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Prayer, Worship | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

5 Reasons to Join Us for the BCC’s First Global Conference: Revive the Nations

Revive The Nations 2016 Conference

I want to share some exciting news!

The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Board of Directors recently agreed to partner with the major biblical counseling organizations in the United States to host a biblical counseling conference with leaders and caregivers from around the world—Revive the Nations will be the BCC’s first Global Biblical Counseling Conference!

Imagine a blend of pastors and biblical counseling leaders from around the world joining together to encourage, equip, and empower the global biblical counseling community.

The conference will take place in Chicago—an international city with easy access and wonderful summer activities! Mark your 2016 calendar for June 5th through the 7th and plan to join us in Chicago, Il!

Here are five reasons to join us…

1. Rejoicing Together

Be encouraged and rejoice with us!

In Psalm 85:6, we read:

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”

We can all use some good news in light of the challenging things going on around us. Rejoice together! God is on the move in the global biblical counseling movement. The BCC has been able to help facilitate unprecedented cooperation and collaboration among biblical counseling leaders and organizations in the last few years.

While we certainly should rejoice in the progress we have seen among ministries and churches in our own country, we need to continue to look beyond our borders and consider God’s heart for the nations. Our partners around the globe are doing a great work for God, but most of us know little about their stories or excellent counseling ministries. Growing unity among like-minded leaders has led to synergy, resulting in a greater outward focus and impact for the universal church. Yet, there is still much work to be done to encourage, equip, and partner with indigenous leaders across the globe. That’s why we’re hosting this conference with the theme of Revive the Nations in partnership with biblical counseling leaders and organizations around the world.

  • Our theme centers on both personal and corporate revival based on the transforming power of God’s Word. Revival starts with us but the ripple effects are contagious.
  • Our purpose is to encourage, equip, and empower a global community of biblical counselors and leaders to join in prayer, share resources freely, and more effectively minister to their people groups.
  • Our training will equip you to address cross-cultural and multiethnic issues relevant to the church today. Together we’ll learn how to impact our diverse communities for Christ through the personal ministry of the Word.

2. Better Together

Be a part of something bigger.

This Global Conference is not about benefitting the BCC, but it is all about encouraging and equipping you and our partners here and around the world. This conference is also not meant to replace ongoing efforts from our para-church partners to equip the church at large; rather, the BCC global conference will be an opportunity to platform their ministries and to further their efforts to reach the nations. As we plan, we are consulting with key leaders from CCEF, ACBC, ABC, and other prominent para-church biblical counseling organizations worldwide. They have all given us their blessing and support for what promises to be an uplifting time of fellowship and training.

Furthermore, it will give all of us opportunities for networking, future collaboration, and translation of solid resources into multiple languages. I trust you will want to be part of this exciting event.

3. Learning Together

Be equipped.

I believe that we have much to learn from each other. There is a need to address issues that are common in biblical counseling, but in a context that promotes a better understanding of each culture and sin strongholds, suffering, and strengths indigenous to various people groups. Just listening to testimonies and training increasing our awareness of how God is moving in other parts of the world through His Spirit could awaken a new passion to pray and help where it is needed most.

Our partners around the globe would agree that the United States is not the only nation that needs healing. The rise of Islam, the burnout of missionaries, and the deterioration of the family are worldwide problems. How do we counsel in a world where sexuality is now defined by a person’s preference, post-Christian culture is rampant, and ethnic and racial conflicts are on the rise? It is time for us to come together to listen, pray, and act on behalf of God and our brothers and sisters from around the world.

4. Glorifying God Together

Be inspired.

Be there because this promises to be one of the most diverse and well-represented gatherings in biblical counseling ever to be held.

Be there because this will be a small foretaste of heaven as we will represent many tribes and tongues together in one spirit worshipping our awesome God!

Be there to encounter God’s holiness personally in a way we hope will revive your soul.

Be there because we will tackle important cross-cultural issues near to the heart of God and relevant to every pastor, counselor, and believer.

Be there to experience afresh the coming together of His saints to glorify Him for all He has done and is yet to do.

Be there so you can take the Word of God back to your ministry context and your community in a way that will revive others.

5. Moving Forward Together

Be an ambassador.

We need you to invite those who have been on the fringe of the movement or those who need to see in a new way how God is moving in biblical counseling to create greater influence in the relatively unreached areas of the world. Join us in crying out to God to revive our strength and bolster our commitment to moving forward together in His name. Imagine the impact this could have on returning the care for souls back to the local churches around the globe that still need to be equipped.

You may be wondering what you can do right now, starting today? Here are three things that we would love for you to take to heart:

  1. Prepare by saving the date and keeping an eye out for future information. Watch the BCC website for more details. Add your name to our mailing list to receive updates via email.
  2. Promote the conference in your church and your circle of influence.
  3. Pray for God to ignite personal revival, unite people groups, and equip the saints in BC.

On Behalf of the BCC Board of Directors,
Garrett Higbee, Executive Director

Sign up here to receive the latest info about the BCC Global Conference: Revive the Nations

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Cross-Cultural Ministry, Discipleship, Equipping, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Worship | Tags: , , , , , ,

About the BCC

The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.