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James 3:1 told us about the teacher who will be held to a stricter judgment. Paul told Timothy (1Timothy 3:1-7) there are some things to factor into being a good pastor. Think about this: Many pastors, who are good at pastoring, do not know how to counsel people well. That is not a slap on pastors but a sober reminder of what’s required of good counselors.
While there are templates and warnings about what it takes to be a good pastor, we don’t have a template to be a good counselor. You can even become “certified” to be a counselor but that does not mean you are and it does not insulate the counselee from being hurt and unhelped by the so-called qualified counselor.
past tense: certified; past participle: certified
attest or confirm in a formal statement.
“the profits for the year had been certified by the auditors”
synonyms: verify, guarantee, attest, validate, confirm, substantiate, endorse, vouch for, testify to; More
officially recognize (someone or something) as possessing certain qualifications or meeting certain standards.
“a certified scuba instructor”
synonyms: accredit, recognize, license, authorize, approve, warrant
“a certified hospital”
officially declare insane.
Two of the more common comments I have heard from hurt and disappointed counselees are:
These two statements do not fall into the “anomaly realm” of things that happen to people. They are regular occurrences within Christianity. The point of this podcast is not to become defensive or argumentative about these realities but address them humbly while thinking through how to change this problem. Three poor responses are…
I’m sure you could come up with your own list of necessary things to possess to be a high-end, formalized counselor. One of the main things I’d want you to see in this list is how education (training) is not on the list. There are three reasons for this:
When Paul laid out what it takes to be a pastor, out of the fifteen things listed, the ability to teach was just one thing while there were fourteen character/gift qualities that surrounded that singular ability. If counseling training is all you have, then you do not have enough to do high-end, formalized counseling.
There is an unintended consequence to being “certified” by a counseling organization: People can think the certified person can actually counsel well.
List credit: This list was provided by Julie Hansen, a student in our Master Mind online training program. It came from one of her assignments. Thank you, Julie, for giving me permission to use your list. I did change three of the words.
List caveat: You’re looking for the presence of these attributes not the perfection of them.
1 – Courageous – You cannot be timid or insecure. You may not have perfected courage, but it must be more than just present. Some of the most hurtful people you will encounter will be the ones you’ve invested the most amount of time into their lives.
2 – Wise – Wisdom is the objective practice of applying God’s Word to your life. Wisdom, simply defined is, knowledge applied. If the knowledge is not being applied to your life, then you’ll be a hypocritical dispenser of truth who has not been changed by the truth you’re dispensing.
3 – Creative – You cannot do “cookie-cutter” counseling. You discern each unique person according to the season of life they are in and the shaping influences that are molding them, and then formulate a plan in your mind of how to bring God’s truth to them in a customized way.
4 – Pneumatic – You have to walk in the Spirit. You must be able to see more than what is presented. If you cannot discern what is not being said, then your inability to see the invisible things needed to help a person will not be accessible to you and the person will not be helped.
5 – Mature – A desire to counsel a person does not mean you can counsel a person. You must have a measurable, proven track record of solving your own problems. Your life is “Exhibit A” of what a God-centered person is. You present yourself as an example of a transformed life.
6 – Compassionate – There is no place for harshness in counseling. Patience, long-suffering, empathy, kindness, and a gentle spirit are some of the necessary elements when restoring others. Without compassion, it’s not Christian counseling.
7 – Convicted – You must know what you believe, why you believe it, and you’re able to deliver your biblio-centric beliefs in such a way that the other person finds convincing, appealing, and applicable. Your passion should be exportable to others.
8 – Humble – Without humility, there will be no favor from the Lord. One of the ways you can do this is by practically living out a life that is “below” those you’re caring for. This has restorative power in people’s lives.
9 – Safe – Stewarding not just what a person tells you but stewarding their life as well. This is essential. This is deeper and wider than just can you be trusted. Are you a caring person who is genuinely “for” the other person?
10 – Charismatic – Being winsome, joyful, and fun is part of what it means to lead others. These three qualities function in the realm of light, not darkness. God has never been boring and neither should you.
11 – Disciplined – Procrastination, laziness, and a lack of self-control will affect every area of your life. Though you’re not rigid or legalistic, you’re a leader who knows how to lead others. You’re a disciplined, well-ordered person.
12 – Strong – This kind of counselor cannot be squeamish. You will hear everything that could possibly be said, plus the kitchen sink. At this level of soul care problems, there is nothing within the realm human depravity that is off limits.
A master’s degree or other types of training are not enough for this kind of counselor. It’s the main reason I never tell a person in our training that the end goal for them is this kind of counseling. I’m careful about the language I use. I don’t want to set the student up for a false hope and I don’t want to position them to where they can hurt others if they are not qualified to counsel at this level.
There are some churches that like to say their folks have gone through
[this kind of training]
, which implies the people are qualified to counsel. Many pastors are hired in a similar way: They have the right education and they are good orators.
However, when Paul thought about a qualified pastor, he zeroed in on character qualities more than teaching ability. Developing and discerning character takes more time and attention. Most training programs are about giving out the facts and then testing you on those facts. If you do well with the facts, then they say you’re trained. That is dangerous. You can learn more about our training here.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).