Crisis Care Initiative: Support Network

biblicalcounseling“Change is a community project,” says Tim Lane and Paul Tripp (How People Change). This means, in developing a crisis care plan for our church we are not simply interested in equipping a single counselor to help an individual in need. Instead, we want to raise up whole support networks that can help to care for those in crisis. Support networks within Cornerstone’s church include both our Recovery program and our advocacy program.

A support network offers two additional helps to individual counseling. First, it alleviates the burden placed on an individual counselor. No single counselor can bear all the needs of someone in crisis. They will either burn-out or they will start to fulfill the role inadequately. A support network can even the burden out across more shoulders. Recently, I reflected on how this works in our Recovery program. Writing for The Biblical Counseling Coalition I applied the benefits of team counseling to our friend “Bill”.

Team counseling involves more people in giving the same counsel and helping to share the same load. By involving more people, we found that the unity of voices was convicting and challenging to Bill. We also found that when one person couldn’t drop everything and run to help Bill in an immediate situation, one of the other two members could help. Individual counseling would not have been able to bear the whole load of Bill’s needs. Involving other counselors meant no single person had to carry the whole burden by themselves, and Bill had more hands ready to help him bear his burdens. (“Biblical Counseling, Addictions, and the Body of Christ“)

A support network helped to keep one individual counselor from becoming too overly burdened.

A support network also helps to provide a web of connections and relationships for the individual in need. A person in crisis has a host of needs, not all of which can be addressed in a single counseling session. They might have vocational needs, financial needs, certainly they need accountability and companionship. A web of relationships can help to hold that person up, provide them with lots of access to a variety of resources. This web becomes essential not only for their immediate support and care, but for their long-term improvement.

At Cornerstone this piece to our Crisis Care Initiative is realized in further developing our Recovery program and cultivating our advocacy program. The Recovery Program will seek to develop this support network through its two primary components: Support and STEPS.

Support will focus primarily on helping people to address their presenting problem through a network of encouragers and a focused curriculum. Our 9 Step Freedom material will involve lots of self-evaluation, Scripture memorization, confession, and restructuring of life. Weekly meetings with a group will allow individuals to find encouragement, breakdown their isolation, and get input from a trained facilitator. After they complete their 9 steps in Support they will be recommended to go onto our Comprehensive Discipleship program, STEPS .

STEPS is a thirteen week intensive discipleship class that combines weekly teaching and accountability. A trained coach will walk alongside participants and walk them through the weekly material, including their comprehensive inventory. In conjunction with the STEPS class they will be introduced to a small group leader/member who will begin building an encouraging relationship with them.

The ideal is that we will establish a network of helping hands who will come alongside those in crisis to help them restructure their life for continued growth moving forward.

Our advocacy program will do similar things in terms of building relationships, but it will do so in a different manner. The Advocacy model I have in mind here was first developed by a program called Twelve Stones Ministries. It involves inviting a personal friend into a crisis counseling situation so that the individual in need has someone who can walk alongside them in their troubles. This person will be challenged to pray for their friend, attend sessions with their friend, take good notes, review material with their friend, offer insights into their friend and their life, and both encourage them and hold them accountable between session and after formal counseling has concluded. The idea of advocacy involves both “standing in the gap” for a friend and helping to “bear their burdens”. There is no formal training necessary for this role, but cultivating it within our current counseling ministry will take time.

This will be the focus of year two in our initiative. The ideal is that no one would suffer or struggle alone. That they would slowly begin to develop a whole network of friends and supporters who can help them navigate the consequences of their sin or the trauma of their sorrow. Support is vital to ongoing growth, which is the final piece of our initiative, but it takes intentional development.

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