Continuing education is important to me. I’ve attended numerous workshops, training seminars, and even Alumni courses post-graduation. As a counselor I am especially aware that there are hosts of areas where my ability to speak to specific issues needs more development. So, while I am not personally under the direction of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, I was interested to attend their three-day conference on counseling those who struggle with a same-sex attraction. I am glad I attended even if I don’t think I’ll be going to next year’s conference.
This is only my second year in attendance at an ACBC gathering. Last year’s was so helpful and insightful, and this year’s topic was important to me, so I thought I’d join the event in Louisville. There were some great breakout sessions and a few good plenary talks. The most important moments for me were the networking moments. Building relationships with colleagues and other professionals in my field to be able to build one another up and share resources was as important to me as anything else that happened there. I am immensely grateful for the handful of conversations I got to have with people while there.
I was also incredibly helped by Brad Bigney’s talk on “Getting Unstuck” in the counseling process. His discussion of “grace blockers” was very helpful and gave me some good things to look for and ways to address them. Brad is both a dynamic speaker and a gifted counselor, and I am grateful to get to hear him and even more grateful to know him.
Bob Kelleman’s discussion on equipping counselors in the local church was also helpful. As we are presently trying to equip and train more lay counselors in our church I was very interested in what an experienced counselor like Kelleman had to say on the subject. His book was a bit frustrating for me, but hearing him deliver the same content in a classroom gave me some new insight and a better handle on the approach he takes. I was thrilled to have sat in on that workshop.
Because I had to come a day late I missed a few of the plenary sessions, but there were two that stood out to me. Rosaria Butterfield shared her own story of being both an active Lesbian and an activist in the LGBT community and how God transformed her life, turned it upside down, and changed her heart. It was a moving, beautiful, convicting, and encouraging story. She is an eloquent speaker and a compelling theologian. Following her, Sam Allbery did an excellent job preaching to us on “Finding Hope and Joy When Change is Slow.” As someone who struggles with a same-sex attraction, Allbery was the perfect person to address this subject. He did so with grace, humility, humor, and solid exposition of Scripture. I was moved to tears in parts of his lecture and am thankful to God for both he and Dr. Butterfield.
There are many things about the conference that I enjoyed and benefited from, yet I don’t think that I will be going to next year’s conference. One of the biggest challenges for me was that some of the workshops are simply to basic to be all that helpful. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the refresher, but what I had hoped to gain was some more advanced understandings of problems, available resources, and approaches to specific kinds of cases. Instead I got some rather obvious tips about starting places, and priorities in sessions. The challenge that ACBC has, and one I respect, is that they have such a wide array of participants that it’s impossible to know how informed any given room is. In a single breakout session you might have an experienced counselor and a student, a seasoned pastor and a novice layman, someone with advanced training and someone with no training. In an effort then, to both be helpful and not assume more than they should many of the breakout sessions go over a lot of the basics of counseling. Other conferences, it seems divide out those with training from those who are still beginners and offer advanced courses only for those who have met specific requirements. So, while I appreciate and respect ACBC, I think I will be looking for something more next year to help me get better equipped.
Overall it was a good couple of days, and I am grateful for the opportunity to go and learn and make connections. I appreciate ACBC and will continue to associate with them and continue to applaud their vision for Biblical Counseling in the future.