PERSONAL NOTE TO PASTORAL COUNSELORS
By Reydon Stanford
a pastoral counselor for sixteen years, I have spent great amounts of time and energy researching and learning many aspects
of human behavior. I've also learned a great deal through experience and would like to share a few thoughts with you concerning
counseling and the value of it, as well as some of it's dangers.
I once read a statistic that said that the largest
number of people who seek counseling for the first time, do so by approaching their pastor or minister. This statistic alone
should reveal to us the seriousness of our being prepared to help people when they come and the dangers of being ill-prepared
when they do. Counseling is like juggling fine china. If you 'slip up' it can be disastrous.
Becoming a successful
pastoral counselor requires a very rare gift that many pastors/ministers seem to lack, (unfortunately), and that is to view
counseling in a very different light as preaching or biblical teaching. Pastoral Counseling truly is a unique ministry in
and of itself, with different requirements and needs. It requires one to be extremely sensitive...non-condemning and non-judgmental,
while having the confidence and faith that over time, people are able to accept a change of mind that will greatly improve
A successful counselor must embrace the motto of Jesus who said, "For God did not send His
Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17)
who comes for counseling is usually in serious emotional trouble and may very well be standing at the brink of personal disaster.
If they leave a session feeling judged, condemned, or belittled...their chances for recovery are much worse and they may never
seek counseling again. In extreme cases, it may even be the difference between life and death.
One of the first
principles we must embrace as pastoral counselors is this: "People end up where they are...for very specific reasons."
Counseling, therefore, becomes a quest to understand a person's problem(s) by gaining understanding of 'how' they got there
in the first place.
Sometimes the reasons people are suffering are clear and the results of their own thinking
and subsequent actions. Other-times, however, their struggles are the result of any number of issues that they themselves
have had little control over, (such as mental illness, chemical imbalances, brain injury, abuse, etc.). Finding the answers
to these problems takes time and impatience on the part of the counselor will usually result in a wrong diagnosis and therefore,
wrong counsel. Therefore, if a pastor/minister is unable to dedicate the time required to successfully help people in the
counseling scenario, they should be prepared to refer the struggling person to someone more qualified.
is a continual labor of love to offer information to those looking for solid answers. My prayer is that it will help us become
better equipped with practical tools to help the hurting people of our generation...the people Jesus died for.