Crisis Counseling Initiative: Continued Growth

biblical-counseling-bannerThe goal of formal Biblical counseling is, in part, to help people get to a place where they no longer need formal Biblical counseling. That is to say, our desire as counselors is that people in crisis would be able to transition into the normative discipleship of the church. The final goal of our Crisis Counseling Initiative, then, is to strategically position people for continued growth in the body of Christ.

The goal of all crisis counseling is to see people transition into the regular healthy life of the church body, through participation in Christian community and service. We all need each other for continued spiritual growth and emerging from crisis is not the end of a person’s spiritual journey. So, we aim to plug them into the small group ministry of Cornerstone Baptist Church.

Small groups exist to help each of us as a church fulfill the one-another commands of Scripture. They focus largely on fellowship within the body, helping one another to grow spiritually. Our Small Group Leaders focus on promoting the Four C’s among each participant in their group: Biblical Content, Christlike Character, Christian Community, and Discipleship Competency. A brief word about each can help us see the importance of these characteristics.

First, our small groups are a great place to gauge a member’s knowledge of the Scriptures. Biblical Content is important for a disciple. We want to know that our folks are learning both how to study the Bible and what it says. Do the people in my small group know where the books of the Bible are. Do they often have trouble finding references or interpreting passages properly. Are they more prone to proof-texting? Are they more prone to share their opinions than Scripture? Are they able to accurately apply God’s Word to situations in their own lives and the lives of others? Do they understand how Christ is the center of the entire Bible? I want to make sure that the folks in my group are growing in their knowledge of the Word of God. If they don’t seem to have a good handle on the Scriptures it’s my job as a small group leader to help them. That’s a crucial area of spiritual growth and small group leaders are in a good position to gauge how the folks in their group are doing.

Christlike Character should follow from Biblical knowledge. Small Group leaders get to know the folks in their group at a deeper level than others generally do. They spend time with them week-in and week-out. They learn the commons struggles and frustrations of those in their group, they learn their temptations, behaviors, and attitudes. As such they are in a better place than others to help them grow and develop godly character. If I see a husband who consistently barks at his wife, is neglectful at home, or who worships his job I want to humbly and graciously help him to work through those issues. I want to see growth for the person who has a quick temper, who is constantly self-focused, who is lazy, who is proud. Of course, in turn, they are helping me too. They are looking for growth in my life and helping me work through issues. That’s one of the benefits of small groups: the mutual discipleship that can happen as we grow together. Our elders and staff can’t know these kinds of details about every single member of our fellowship, but small group leaders can and as such they can identify who is working on developing more Christlike character and who is not.

The importance of Christians community cannot be overstated in spiritual growth, that’s why I want my leaders keeping tabs on whose involved in community. Some people sign up for small groups but never attend, or attend but never participate. A leader will want to dig a little deeper and find out what’s going on with that person. We want to know if someone is living in isolation, or attempting to fly under the radar. We want people to be involved in the lives of others and allowing others to be involved in their lives. Small group leaders can help us track that information so we can be intentional about engaging folks on the periphery of church life.

Finally, I want to know how prepared our folks are to make other disciples. Discipleship Competency just means the ability to help others grow in godliness. If someone in your small group doesn’t know how to make disciples, doesn’t know how to use the Bible, is fearful of confronting, challenging, or rebuking others then you may want to direct them towards our Biblical Counseling program. If someone simply doesn’t know how to build healthy discipleship relationships then you as a leader may just want to invite them along as you do it with others. Train them by modelling it for them. There is no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t make disciples, so it’s important that we help the members of our small group do exactly what the Lord Jesus has tasked all of us with doing. Everyone should be discipling someone, if there are folks in your groups who are not doing this you want to find out why and strategize to help them.

Transitioning people into the normative discipleship of the church via small groups, requires us to engage small group members and leaders in the process of crisis care. This means inviting a member or leader of a small group to get to know someone who is undergoing crisis counseling. To walk alongside them, love them, pray for them, visit with them. For someone who is already in a small group, this might mean inviting someone from their group to join us in a few counseling sessions. It may mean that a counselor gives that person some specific guidance on how to follow-up with and hold accountable the counselee. For those not involved in small group then this means introducing a counselee to an active small group member or leader and inviting them into that counselee’s life. The goal is to be able to hand a counselee over to the care of a small group when formal counseling has ceased. We never want to leave people blowing in the wind, but rather we want always to be engaged in their care and support as a whole church. This is especially important when crisis has passed and individuals are inclined to think they no longer need help. Those are the times we are most prone to self-deception and relapse.

This piece is particularly helpful for those involved in our Recovery program. In the early stages of a person’s participation in STEPS they will be introduced to a small group leader who will take the time to befriend them, pray for them, and encourage them. They will learn a participant’s story, share their own, and seek to develop a mutually healthy relationship. The ideal is that a person’s friendship with a small group leader will transition into a participation in small group when Recovery ends, and from there they will be set up to move on with their own healthy spiritual life.

This requires several key things from our Small Group ministry:

  • Equipping leaders to evaluate the spiritual health of their groups – the need for leaders to know how to evaluate the spiritual health of their group is so important. We want leaders to take some responsibility for shepherding those under their care, encouraging them, challenging them, and guiding them into greater spiritual health. To this end we have been working with our leaders, and will continue to in the future, a rubric that allows them first to evaluate themselves and then to use the Four C’s to think about how each member of the group is doing.
  • Building a bridge between STEPS and Small Groups – We are seeking members of small groups and/or leaders of small groups who are passionate about what we are doing in Recovery and interested in befriending those who are going through the STEPS program. They are not being asked to do counseling at this point, but only to spend time with a counselee. To invest in their life and pray for them and befriend them. This will allow a person to transition more easily from STEPS into a small group.
  • Establishing a practice of self-replication within existing small groups – We need space within our small group ministry if we are going to adequately meet the needs of all those in crisis counseling. This means making sure that our existing groups are ready to self-replicate, to expand and multiply into more groups. Otherwise we will exhaust our existing groups and disappoint those trying to get in and find care and support. So we are working on a model that will help existing groups to make that difficult decision to multiply.

This goal will comprise year three of our initiative, but the pieces for it are already being developed and some are even now being implemented.

I firmly believe that Small Groups are a vital part to the discipleship of people at CBC. We all need one another to help us grow, and those coming right out of Crisis Counseling are especially in need of continued growth and discipleship. To that end I want to see Small Groups bridge the gap that presently exists between counseling and normative discipleship. I look forward to all that this initiative will do for our church in years to come.

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