I sat down with a church planter a few months ago for coffee, something I like to do as often as I can. His church had launched just a couple weeks prior, and as expected, those previous couple weeks had been very stressful on him and on his family. He told me about a late night fight he had with his wife, but what stood out to me in the conversation was the nonchalant way he mentioned meeting with a counselor. Following up on his mention of the fight, I asked how their marriage was. He said, “We’re good. We have a great marriage counselor we see, and that’s been really helpful…” Then he continued on with the conversation. His nonchalant way of mentioning marriage counseling reminded me that counseling doesn’t need to be “only in the worst cases” or “only if your marriage is on the rocks.” I know that, but the way he talked about it made it sound so normal and free of the stigma that often seems to exist.
Whether you’re a pastor years into leading your church, just getting started, or just someone reading this blog, I recommend a solid, Christian counselor. I meet with a men’s group weekly and do one-on-one counseling biweekly. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has changed my life.
NOT ALL COUNSELORS COUNSEL EQUALLY
We should be very careful and prayerful with any voice we invite into our lives, but especially when it’s someone we are turning to for regular life advice and guidance. Be selective and find someone who is a Christian and will counsel from a Biblical worldview. There’s no substitute for that.
A good counselor can help with a couple things:
Sometimes a really helpful person to have in your life is a disinterested third party. Someone who you can talk to that knows nothing about your church or the people who go there, but who can give honest feedback from an unbiased, outside perspective. It’s so helpful to have someone who you are not trying to lead and set an example for, someone who you can share names and details with. It’s relieving to talk to someone who you don’t have to worry about leaving your church or setting an example for or needing to pray for them. Venting isn’t always a good thing. Proverbs 29:11 warns that, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds back.” Solomon isn’t telling us to never vent, but to be selective. Venting, when done in the wrong time and to the wrong people, can be extremely destructive. My wife can handle a lot of this but I also don’t want her to be an ongoing dumping ground for all of the challenges of ministry.
Meeting with a counselor isn’t only about venting though. The bigger, more important work is preventing. The goal of talking things through and letting things out is to prevent moral failure, giving up, burnout, lack of perspective, isolation… and the list goes on. I began meeting regularly with my counselor at the beginning of this year. Not only had we just come out of a hard season in ministry, but we were also about to enter one of the hardest seasons yet. I had no idea how much I would need someone to talk to, not just to vent, but to help me prevent burnout and losing perspective. My men’s group and counselor have been lifesavers!
There’s so much to be said on this topic but just know this: Voicing our problems and pain is Biblical, and it’s the pathway to health and healing. 1 John 1:9, James 5:16, and Proverbs 28:13 all remind us of the value of confessing (talking things out).
K E V I N • M I L L E R
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