Unit III: Specific Guidelines for Pastoral Counseling
1. These are only guidelines – they are not “iron-clad” rules
2. Experience, general maturation, and exposure to others involved in this task will cause you to make “mid-course” corrections.
1 Tim. 4:15
I. Before the Session(s)
A. Accepting the case
1. The propriety of accepting the case.
a. No one has an unqualified right of access to your study or office for pastoral counseling.
b. You are a steward of your time, your gifts, your reputation, and your position as a leader among God’s people.
c. Your inward disposition must be that of 2 Cor. 4:5 and Matt. 20:26-28, but you must not forget 1 Cor. 7:23.
2. The viability of accepting the case.
a. Do they manifest a willingness to deal honestly with their problem?
b. Do you believe you are sufficiently gifted and experienced to deal with the particular problem or is there someone else in the church who is more competent?
1 Cor. 12:4-7, 11
c. Is the person in a fit state to be counseled?
1 Kgs. 19:4-8
B. Preparing one’s self
1. The necessity for preparation
2 Tim. 2:15
2. General preparation
2 Tim. 3:16-17
Books of proven worth such as Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (see here; simplified, Kindle, Spanish, pdf), Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies, John Owen, Vol. 6, etc. The Christian Counselor’s Manual by Jay Adams esp. page 277-278.
See J. I. Packer in the Introduction to The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, vol. 1 “A Christian Directory”:
“The opinion that the Directory is the richest and best single counselling resource available to those who give pastoral guidance today will, no doubt, seem paradoxical until one’s way through it; after doing so, however, one is likely to find that verdict inescapable.”
3. Specific preparation
a. Acquire as much information as possible beforehand.
b. When possible engage specific study on the subject.
c. Seek the input of others more experienced in the area of concern.
d. Review your notes from previous session(s).
e. Cry to God for discernment.
II. During the Session(s)
A. Setting and maintaining the proper climate for the session(s).
1. Prepare the physical surroundings.
2. Use “sanctified small talk” to set the person at ease.
3. Affirm your concern and love.
4. Establish your commitment to impartiality.
1 Tim. 5:21
5. Make it evident that you have outlined the structure of your time and take charge of the session.
6. Do not promise unqualified confidentiality.
7. Be prepared to engage yourself completely in the session.
8. Don’t allow any unbridled carnality to be manifested.
B. Diagnosing the problem(s)
1. Listen carefully and fully.
2. Ask probing questions.
Charles Bridges, A Commentary on Proverbs, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), p. 338.
See Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, pp. 274-293.
3. Keep your eyes open.
See Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, pp. 257-258.
4. Avoid premature and simplistic conclusions.
a. Beware of thinking that everyone’s problem is a mirror image of yours.
b. Remember the Book of Job
David Murray, Christians Get Depressed Too, (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), pp. 14-15, 28-29.
5. Avoid prejudicial analysis.
1 Tim. 5:21
Geoffrey B. Wilson, New Testament Commentary, vol. 2 “Philippians to Hebrews and Revelation”, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), p. 252.
6. Check things out with others.
Use the accumulative wisdom of your fellow elders and trusted friends in the ministry.
7. Seek constantly to find a biblical definition or illustration of the problem.
2 Tim. 1:13
1 Cor. 2:13
1 Tim. 1:15