What is Pastoral Counselling?
When we say counselling we mean something broader than therapy provided by professionals. We all counsel one another in the sense that God has designed us as meaning-makers who try and interpret and make sense of life. Since this is the case any conversation we have together involves some form of counsel. At points our counsel may line up with Scripture but at other points it may be at odds. Pastoral counselling is really an opportunity to get together and talk about what we’re facing and understand it from a biblical lens so that we might continue to be changed into the likeness of Christ.
Pastoral counselling is specific pastoral care. It’s not something new but what the church has always tried to do. We regularly sit under the public ministry of the Word (preaching/teaching) and complement it by the personal ministry of the Word (applying Scripture personally to one another in conversation) and the private ministry of the Word (personal disciplines of Bible reading/prayer). Pastoral counselling fits within the personal conversational category as we focus on following Jesus in the specifics of life. In particular this involves thinking biblical about:
- The situation: experiences of suffering/blessing we face
- The heart: how we respond to the situation
- God: how God meets us in ways relevant to our situation and heart struggle offering both rescue and refuge.
There are all sorts of theories out there about how we work, what our needs are, and what’s wrong with us. But pastoral counselling interprets all human struggle through Scripture and asks ‘What is God’s transforming agenda for me in this situation I’m facing?’
This approach takes seriously the vertical dimension of our lives being lived before a personal God. One way to think about the relationship between pastoral counselling and other counselling approaches is to compare the wisdom of Proverbs to wisdom sayings outside the Bible. There is wisdom in counselling methods outside the church as there is wisdom in sources outside Scripture. But what sets Proverbs apart is the central ‘fear of the Lord’ dynamic shaping all that is said. Likewise, pastoral counselling aims to keep this dimension central.
Unlike some approaches pastoral counselling is not an expert model with pastor as counsellor and another as counsellee. Instead both are alongside one another both in need of the rescue and refuge God provides with common struggles of sin and suffering. Even in the most complex of human problems we’re actually more alike than we’re different and it’s about finding that common ground at which God speaks directly to us together.
When Would You Seek Pastoral Counselling?
Any time is a good time to seek pastoral counselling. But broadly your desires and life circumstances might put you in one of two contexts:
- General growth: there’s no specific trigger but you’d like to meet up to grow in your walk with the Lord.
- Specific struggle: there are specific struggles you’re facing and you’d love someone to get alongside you in what you’re facing.
Introducing Jeremy Ward
Jeremy is married to Hayley and father of Heath (4) and Rory (2) and has experienced some of life’s challenges firsthand. He’s wrestled with bouts of depression, conflict in marriage, struggles with parenting, tension in wider family dynamics. As well as receiving psychological help for a season he has some specific training in how the wisdom of the Bible applies to the daily mess of life. As one who knows some of life’s hardships Jeremy is compassionate towards what others go through. In the Bible God promises comfort in all our troubles, so that we can offer that same comfort to others (2 Cor. 1:3-4).