Should Pastors Counsel?

Discernment Required

If a member comes to you heavy with grief, on the brink of a broken marriage, or buried under an addiction, how should you respond as a pastor? Should you counsel them or send them off to someone else? In this post, produced in cooperation with the Association of Biblical Counselors, Dr. John Henderson speaks to pastors about whether or not they should play the role of counselor. 

John is the Executive Director of the Center for Church Equipping, which is a training arm of the Association of Biblical Counselors, a pastor, and author of several books including Equipped to Counsel: A Training Program in Biblical Counseling.

Pastors should counsel to a certain degree. John recommended a measure of discernment. There are times to refer a church member to a professional, but pastors should proceed in wisdom when those cases arise.  

When do you think is a good time for a pastor to counsel? Why? What situations do you think deserve professional attention? Why?
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Have you ever had to counsel another Christian? If so, how did you handle the situation? Did you refer them to a professional? If not, how might you react to someone asking for counseling in the future? Why?
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What relationships already exist between you and counseling professionals? Who could you begin to develop relationships with in the next few weeks?
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John talked about how pastors should still provide care to church members, even if they’re referred to a specialist. The care of your congregation rests primarily in your hands. How do you care for your congregation? What habits or practices do you have in place to ensure your people feel loved and noticed?
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How could you care for the people in your congregation this week? Who could you counsel or serve?
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As a pastor, you bear the load of the care of your congregation. Take a step back from your ministry this week and think about who you need to counsel. Consider those who might be better served by a professional and refer them to someone you know. Pray for the people in your church who need counseling.  

You can find more on approval from John in the course The Church that Counsels

To learn more about The Association of Biblical Counselors, click here.