Crisis Care Initiative: A Church of Counselors

biblicalcounselingIf it’s somewhat of a cliché to call the church a “hospital for sinners,” it is still a fitting description. The church after all, is the place where broken people are to find community, hope, and help. It is the place where the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and offered to all. Being a “hospital,” requires, however, far more than just preaching good sermons. To be a good “hospital,” we need to be able to care for those in crisis. As part of my counseling role at Cornerstone, I want to develop a thorough and strategic plan to provide the most comprehensive care for people in crisis that I can. In what follows I am outlining my three-year Crisis Care Initiative. Comprehensive care for those in crisis involves counseling, supportive care, and ongoing discipleship.

The first stage in the development of this plan is focused on equipping as many counselors as possible within Cornerstone Baptist Church. Stage one has the expressed goal of helping Cornerstone become a church of counselors, not merely a church with counselors. The difference in prepositions is significant. A church with counselors has a few select individuals whom we think of as the “professionals.” These are the people who are expected to handle all the counseling case load within our church and community. In such a model if a member of our congregation comes across someone hurting, in need, or struggling they refer them to one of these “professional” counselors. Such a model has two major problems: (1) it burns out counselors, and (2) it doesn’t equip Christians for the work of the ministry.

A philosophy of counseling that seeks to centralize ministry around one or two “professional” counselors will exhaust those counselors. The needs of the church and the community are so great that a handful of people cannot possibly handle all those cases. Already at Cornerstone we have a wait list for our Thursday night counseling, the needs are greater than the number of counselors we have available. Instead, equipping the whole church to fulfill the one-anothers of Scripture can dramatically cut down on the number of cases the so-called “professionals” have to see. It allows them to focus on more intensive cases.

An approach centralized around “professional” counselors also fails to fulfill the intent of Ephesians 4:11-12. Paul writes:

 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ

The whole church is meant to do the “work of ministry,” not simply the paid staff. By limiting the counseling ministry specifically to what the staff counselors do we fail to obey Jesus and fail to equip the church to love one another, bear one another’s burdens, rebuke one another, and instruct one another. A church of counselors, then, is not only a better model, it’s a Biblical model.

We aim to cultivate a culture within CBC where Biblical counseling is happening everywhere. Where counseling is just part of the DNA of what it means to be a member and a growing disciple. This involves two kinds of counselors: Spiritual Friends and Crisis Counselors.

Spiritual Friends are those members of our congregation who have a basic understanding of the Scriptures and the basic skills needed to apply them to lives of others in helpful ways. These are average disciple-makers who can come alongside their friends, their small group, their ABF classmates and encourage and instruct them with the Scriptures. Through Spiritual Friends we can better fulfill all the one-anothers of Scripture.

Crisis Counselors are those with special training in dealing with complex problems. They will have gone through Basic Biblical Counseling training courses, had at least 10 hours of observations, and 40 hours of supervised counseling. They will be involved in our Thursday night Counseling Team Ministry.

Both kinds of counselors are essential. To create this culture we will focus on three things:

  • Lay Leader equipping – all lay leaders, throughout the whole church, will sit through a one day seminar on the basics of Biblical counseling.
  • Biblical Counseling Training Courses – We will offer our three track Biblical Counseling training program in the fall to equip more people in the basics of Biblical Counseling.
  • We will train more crisis counselors through observations and supervisions in our Thursday night Counseling Team Ministry.

The development and implementation of this part of the plan is going to take up the bulk of year-one. A church of counselors does not just happen, we have to cultivate that mentality within our church. Those of you who have been through counseling training, who are presently participating in the classes or training, or those who have benefited from it can help by spreading the word. Encourage others to think about their role as “counselors” in our church, as “spiritual friends,” and encourage people to sit in on the classes this Fall. Help us spread the word, help us by seeking to fulfill the one-anothers in your ABF, in your Small Group, in Youth ministry and children’s ministry. Help us to fulfill the one-anothers by lovingly caring for those in your immediate circle of influence. We want counseling to be part of the DNA of our church, because a church with counselors is not only healthy, it’s Biblical.

As we move to the other two stages we will see how this piece is foundational.I believe that Cornerstone’s Counseling Ministry, its Recovery program, and its Small Group ministry are all interconnected. In the coming weeks I will make that clear as I continue to unpack this Crisis Care Initiative. I hope you’ll look for ways to help us implement this plan.

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