If someone came to you and said they wanted to start a biblical counseling ministry in your church, what might come to mind? That seems like a lot of work? Do we really need another ministry to administrate? After reading Bob Kellemen’s recently released book, Equipping Counselors for Your Church: The 4E Ministry Training Strategy, I’m convinced that’s the wrong question. Why? Because biblical counseling is really about discipleship.
The goal shouldn’t be to start a biblical counseling ministry in your church. The goal, Kellemen argues, should be that your church is a place of biblical counselors. “You don’t need another program,” he writes. “You want a congregation saturated by the vision of every-member ministry and equipped to offer one-another ministry. Even more, you want a congregation where every member is a disciple-maker” (pp. 33-34).
In this book, Kellemen unpacks his vision of “every-member, one-another ministry” while offering practical advice based on his decades-long experience in bringing counseling & discipleship to the core of a congregation’s, from planning and equipping to implementing and replicating.
There’s so much that’s compelling about this book that I couldn’t begin to do it justice (especially given its length), but here are a couple points that I found particularly helpful:
1. Kellemen’s understanding that we’ve wrongly defined biblical counseling as solving problems instead of discipleship. He writes:
We’ve made it a subset of discipleship focused on reactive work with persons struggling with sin. Instead, we should think of biblical counseling as synonymous with comprehensive personal discipleship. Biblical counseling is focused one-another ministry designed to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. (p. 35)
This is a hugely important distinction that moves counseling from a reactive discipline to a proactive one. Reactive ministry has its place certainly, and the concept doesn’t remove the need for qualified, licensed counselors who can deal with issues requiring a medical diagnosis. Kellemen’s every-member, one-another ministry concept encourages people to work out their salvation in community.
2. Kellemen’s principles of envisioning, enlisting, equipping, and empowering God’s people have a much broader application. Reading the book, I was struck at how easy it is to transplant his advice into a different context. He does a great job of providing specific application to the subject at hand, but it’s easy to go beyond it in a good way. If I were starting any ministry, I’d want to see what I could use from this book to help with envisioning what it could be and enlisting the right people.
As much as I appreciated Kellemen’s work on this book, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind as you prepare to read it:
1. It’s big. Really big. The appendices alone make up one quarter of the total page count. It’s all valuable, but don’t be intimidated when you see it arrive on your door (and don’t compare it to your ESV Study Bible either—that one’s still bigger).
2. This book is loaded with acronyms and acrostics. I know some people find them helpful, but I’m not one of them. One chapter (number 10, I think) introduced no less than 4. By the time I was done the chapter, I couldn’t remember what they were (and I was trying). Perhaps the issue is I don’t find acronyms “stick” with the way I process information. I deal with dozens at work every day and I still have no idea what some mean five years into my employment.
3. Take your time. This isn’t your kick back and relax with an Earp’s Sarsaparilla read—it requires focus and reading a bit at a time. This is one of the few books that took me over a month to read. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just skimming. Plan to read a chapter a day, make lots of notes, think everything through really carefully.
Equipping Counselors for Your Church is a much-needed book. It’s practical, helpful and thorough advice offers a strong vision for every-member, one-another ministry—one where every member of the church really is a disciple maker. I’d encourage any church leader to read this book if you’re at all considering incorporating biblical counseling into your ministry—it will take some time, but it will be a blessing to you and your congregation.