Pastoral counseling : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

My undergrad degree is in social work and one thing I will never forget is the professor asking "how many of you like listening and watching" out of a class of 30 only 2 people raised their hands. Counseling is about listening, clarifying, helping individuals/couples heal inner wounds. For most of us who are therapists along with our training and use of different pschological modalities we know our own life experience plays a key part in working with people. One of the primary tenets of counseling is to begin where your client is, not where you want them to be.

I bring all of this up because of other discussions on this board, regarding divorce and remarriage. Neither of these issues are black and white and can not be summed up in a paragraph for we are dealing with real people who bring their hurts, fears and guilt to the table.

We as clergy are encountering more and more couples who are in the midst of a divorce or have gotten remarried and putting a blended family together is not working. Counseling these populations require patience, training and insight. In my many years as a pastor couples usually come to me much too late. Often marriage counseling is seen as something to do as a last resort so they can say we tried it once and then they go off and get a divorce. Divorce is painful and both parties need the support and love of the pastor and church. It is often awkard, for one of the parties leaves the church and the other one stays and all too often the one that stays is judged as the person who caused the divorce. With the national divorce rate steadily going up and now it is almost 50 percent of marriages will fail, it is imperative that we as clergy and laity respond with love.

Our God is a big God! He can and will correct us and judge when he sees fit, God forgave Saul a mass murder of Christians and transformed him into Paul the apostle the greatest witness of the Christian faith. I would hope we will treat those who are divorced with love and acceptance for they and the whole body of Christ are living under grace and not the law.

I feel strongly that we need to focus on the grace and love of God and not have "selective legalism" lifting up one issue and calling those who fail at that issue as sinners. We are all sinners. The true beauty of Methodism is that it is born out of a need to include the common person, the poor, the working class, the drunk etc. Methodism was born to give hope that all of us could lead a "holy life" but only if we came to Christ daily for regeneration and forgiveness, thus the emphasis on discipline, daily bible reading, service to others. Pastoral Counseling in my opinion is one of the most challenging aspects of ministry. We cannot use proof-texting, citing different scripture verses to support our arguments, we must do pastoral counseling with a firm understanding of our tradition as methodist and a firm understanding of theology for we rely on that those foundations then "we know what we stand for"

Let us pray for compassion in our churches instead of alienation towards those who are divorced and or remarried, let us reach out to couples to help them succeed in their marriages. And let us trust God to take care of his children, we do not need to judge them.

-- Anonymous, November 11, 2003


Well said Rev. Denise. I personally think the concept of Pastoral counseling is still a very new phenomenom for many in our churches today. The emphasis on preaching is so great we as ministers and lay folk often forget that REAL

-- Anonymous, November 11, 2003

Well said Rev. Denise. I personally think the concept of Pastoral Counseling is still a very new phenomenom for many in our churches today. The emphasis on preaching is so great we as ministers and lay folk often forget that REAL ministry in carried out in the trenches as modled by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is where we see people where they are at and really cannot simply throw a scripture at them. Love and understanding are very necessary in hering and accepting each other in our churches. Like Jesus said when the woman was caught in adultery and those awful men wanted to throw the law at her as justification for her stoning but Jesus quickly reminded them that none of them were qualified to throw a single stone let alone a tiny pebble and when it was all said and done they had all dissappeared except Jesus and the woman. Do we really care about our brother or sister when all we can say to them is thus saith the Lord and not even attempt to understand their pain? Jesus understood the woman but did not entirely let her off the hook telling her to go and sin no more but he met here where she was first even in the darkness of adultery.

-- Anonymous, November 11, 2003

Rev. Rogers,

I have said it once and will say it again and again, you are a jewel. You have a Pastor's Heart, and it is controlled by the Spirit of Jesus.

Your sister, Carmen

-- Anonymous, November 11, 2003

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your insight on the issue of Pastoral Counseling. I am presently pursing my Masters at Turner Seminary with a dual major in Christian Education and Pastoral Counseling. While I agree wholeheartedly with what your wrote, there is the missing element that we as ministers/pastors need to understand there is no shame is us seeking help as well. It is important that a minister/pastor has someone whom they can go to on a professional level even if it is just to release some of the baggage that is gathered in the process of ministering. I also must comment that it is very important that as ministers we are aware of when counseling is out of our league. Because one is a pastor does not necessarily make one a Pastoral Counselor.

Continue the thought provoking insights.

God Bless

-- Anonymous, November 19, 2003

Thank you for bringing up two very important points, knowing when to refer to other professionals. Though I am trained as a therapist and worked as a therapist before going to seminary I do also refer to other professionals. Pastoral counseling that is offered in most seminaries is not enough usually one or two semesters. I have found more damage done by clergy who are not adquately trained in my town. For example, there is a pastor in our town who tells his members that they should not take anti-depressants that God will heal them. Several of his members stopped taking their medication and 2 committed suicide. He also says that if a woman is being beaten in her house it is her fault for the man is the head of the household. He pastors the largest church in our town 1,000 members. It is a fundamentalist church. I have talked to him and he tries to shut me up for his church does not believe in the ordination of women. Needless to say I have not been quiet. There are other pastors who do similar things in my town. I keep praying and chipping away at the ignorance.

The other issue you brought up is preventing clergy burn out. I know for myself it is the end of the year and I am exhausted. I do not make enough money to take a vacation. And most of us who do rural ministry are in the same boat so having someone to talk to helps a lot! I am blessed for my Presiding Elder is a God send and she stays in touch with me every week, I also have clergy girlfriends that I call on a regular basis. I am doubly blessed for I have a congregation that pitches in and take the initiative. It would be great to go to conferences and have the fellowship of other clergy but for those of us doing small and rural ministry that is not an option. Though I must say when I was at the southern california conference, I got to see Rev. Harper, Rev. Mike Barta, Felicia, Elder Guidry, Bishop Bryant Dr. Cecil Murray and I was greeted with so much love I felt like I was at a spa.

I loved hearing your comments Rev. Kelly and please keep posting!

-- Anonymous, November 19, 2003

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