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Enrichment Journal - Enriching and Equipping Spirit-filled Ministers

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Pastoral Counseling: 10 Key Principles

By Wayde I. Goodall

When I read of those who had negative behavioral patterns (sins) that Paul listed for the Corinthian church, it reminds me of people in our culture today–the sexually immoral (adulterers, prostitutes, homosexuals), idolaters, thieves, swindlers, and those who do not control negative conversation about others (slanderers). But then Paul said, “And that is what some of you were” (1 Corinthians 6:11, NIV). When these people came to Christ, He not only saved them, but they were delivered from the sins that bound them. They came out of a world controlled by the devil and became a part of a healthy community. In spite of the Corinthian's problems, it was still a church body full of Spirit-filled people who ministered to one another.

The majority of people in our communities turn to a pastor or priest when they have a crisis or counseling need. Robert Morgan wrote: “Pastoral counseling is best done by a pastor–not a professional counselor or psychotherapist. Good professional biblical counselors certainly play an important role when the complexities of mental illness are involved, but they are allies of the pastor, not substitutes for him.” Morgan listed several advantages pastors have in counseling.1

At times, part of the care we offer people is helping them find a competent Christian mental health professional. My rule of thumb has always been that if I sense mental illness, serious depression, or suicidal thinking, I automatically refer to a Christian mental health professional. I remain their pastor. Even for those I refer, I still pray for them and meet with them for pastoral counseling. However, I believe that the professional has the expertise to handle the complicated and delicate issues that come up with these types of difficulties.

Remember these 10 key principles when you are involved in pastoral counseling.3

Counseling is a part of every pastor's life. We counsel after a tragedy, at a funeral, during a marriage difficulty, or in a premarriage counseling session. We counsel in the church foyer, during visitation, or before a critical surgery. Whenever it occurs, remember these 10 key pastoral counseling principles.

Wayde I. Goodall, D.Min., is executive editor of Enrichment and coordinator of the Ministerial Enrichment Office, Springfield, Missouri.

ENDNOTES

1. Robert Morgan, “Why Pastors Make Great Counselors,” Leadership, Spring 1997, 29-31
2. Using an illustration from one of your counseling sessions is not ethically correct. Counselors must protect the confidentiality of those they counsel.
3. Larry Crabb has used a variation of these points in his books and counseling seminars.

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