Wednesday, July 21, 2010

About Fee-based Parachurch Counseling & CCEF

Hi Robert,

I've given it a lot of thought. I was thinking of doing it as a fee based operation under the authority and oversight of the church. I don't think we have the population base necessary to have it work full time. I think the fee gives people a sense of ownership and a kind of accountability they wouldn't otherwise have. I suppose it could be both a church ministry and fee based. We could charge a minimal amount and give the money to the church, or even give it back to the person if the counseling goes well. Most people don't think they are getting anything of value unless they pay for it. They don't understand Grace.

Having a place to do counseling which is separate from the church facilities might be helpful. People could come without feeling like they were coming to a church for help. On the other hand, when people come for counsel and they are not members of a church, evangelism is the primary counsel they will get. And when a person's problems are bad enough the church is where they often turn anyway. Also, if the counselors create a reputation of helping, people will go wherever the help is.

The other difficult thing about making it church based is that the church would have to be large enough and have a vision for separate staffing. Right now I'm a full time pastor here at Christ Church. I do minimal counseling with people from outside our church. If we were to be in a position where people came in enough to make me full time, the church would have to call another pastor, which we can't do for financial reasons. But I think this is the way to do it, if it could be done.

I have heard of pastors who have hung out a shingle to do counseling and have gotten so overwhelmed with the load that their pastoral ministry suffered, so if you were to do this, you should take care that nothing of value to you falls by the wayside (family, church, etc.).

I don't know what I would say about CCEF. There is no connection between WTS and CCEF other than they are across the street from one another. But clearly there is a profound connection in the minds of the public and the students both institutions share. While neither WTS nor CCEF is church based, which is definitely a problem, especially for WTS, it is clearly very helpful to counseling students to have CCEF right there. CCEF doesn't seem to make enough money through counseling to stay open. This causes the big guns to do a lot of writing and speaking they might not otherwise do. I appreciate that. This part of their ministry to the larger church community also comes out of actual practical experience, which is helpful. I would hate to see them go away.

On the other hand, while all Christians are or should be competent to counsel, not all are gifted for it. I think there are particular gifts needed to counsel many if not most of the problems counselors see and we need places where people can go to find help. Most pastors are not equipped to counsel and most don't want to go that direction with their ministries. So what should the church do? I think we continue to struggle along doing what we can and holding out a vision for whole church ministry; letting the theology wonks do their theology and the music wonks do their music and the counseling wonks do their counseling. We just need to love one another enough to let people exercise their gifts in a way that honors God.

I hope this helps.

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