Friday, January 8, 2016

Book Review - The Pastor and Counseling

As a new pastor, there were some things in my job description which were intimidating. But for me, nothing was more intimidating than the thought of counselling. I had often given advice to people, and helped them to think biblically about things, but I had never been–in my estimation–a counselor to anyone. For that reason, I was glad to hear of a book on counseling from 9Marks and Crossway. I find my resources from 9Marks, most published by Crossway, to be the most helpful on church-related issues. The Pastor and Counseling is no different.

This book by Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju is very helpful to me for two reasons. First, it lays down a “theology of counseling” that is both informative and inspiring. Second, it provides a simple yet thorough explanation of what counseling looks like.

The book is divided into three sections and also includes some very helpful appendices. The third section will become more helpful as my pastoring/counseling ministry develops. The third section deals with developing a culture of counseling in a church and ideas around the employment of outside resources. For now, sections One and Two will be a great aid to me in developing as a counselor.

Section One, and the Introduction, deal with concepts of counseling and section Two considers the process of counseling.

The first chapter in section One paints a biblical picture of what pastoring, and specifically pastoral counseling, looks like: a ministry of laboring and suffering, of discipling God’s people, of praying, and of teaching God’s people. Chapter two, still part of section One, delineates the goals of counseling and speaks to the initial contact with someone who might be coming to you. Chapter three, the final in this section, relays the methodology of counseling; the pastor listens, considers, and speaks to people’s heart response to God, self, others, and their circumstance. This section was informative through simple explanation and clear illustrations. The increase in my understanding resulted in a new-found motivation to disciple through counseling. This topic was becoming less intimidating.

The three chapters of section Two provide a very practical description of what actual counseling sessions should look like. Chapter four, the first chapter of section Two, detailed the initial meeting, highlighting its four goals: 1) establishing a relational connection, 2) exploring through listening, 3) displaying hope, and 4) setting expectations. The next chapter concerns itself with the ongoing process of counseling. Concrete ideas such as getting an update, checking up on assigned prep work, and further exploration of the issues might seem obvious to many, but I found the thorough explanation of what the process looks like beneficial. The last chapter in this section, chapter six, describes the final meeting and how the pastor concludes the counseling and releases the member into the regular care of the church. Counseling, once a very intimidating topic, was becoming increasingly understandable and I, once a very intimidated pastor, was becoming emboldened to pursue this aspect of my calling.

For those adept at counseling, this volume might be overly simple. I really cannot speak to that. For me, new to pastoring and new to counseling, this book is a valuable resource. I am certain that The Pastor and Counseling would also be significantly helpful for lay people as well. I recommend this book to pastors who want to grow in their understanding and practice of counseling and to those lay people who would like to do the same.

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