Meaning-Making Forum

“So What?” – Insights from the Course

            This course has certainly challenged me on multiple levels. First, when reading the book Why Don’t We Listen Better, written by Dr. James Peterson (2015). I was so convicted on my arrogance of not being an intentional listener. Peterson’s book reinforces a paradigm on the importance of listening. It’s not about getting the last word in, or winning the argument that is paramount. The necessity of being a good listener will have far reaching impacts to those around us.  Too many times, society is placing value and priority on the loudest voice, when influence over others can truly be achieved by just learning the skill of listening. I am now making a commitment to continue the process of becoming a better listener.  As the leader of an organization, I have always felt that leadership required a voice of direction in order to be successful, but in reality, my influence and effectiveness as a husband, father, and pastor will reach incredible new heights with a commitment to actively engage in communication through listening.   

Like Louise Smith, the first lady of racing, I too have had a few proverbial bones broken on the journey to get where I am today. God has most certainly broken me down so that He could build me up and transform me into the man of God that I need to be for myself and others. 

· One area of concern that I continually have to keep submitted to God in prayer is self-esteem.

· According to Dr. Tim Clinton and Ron Hawkins (2009), “self-esteem refers to an inner sense of worthiness that gives a person resilience and resistance to attack or criticism” (p. 214).

· Low self-esteem has attempted to manifest itself in various ways over my lifespan, usually induced by an old spirit of rejection from past hurts and heartbreaks.My “I” type personality profile asserts that I tend to think people expect me to be perfect (Carbonell, 2008, p. 40) and this could be the puzzling part of my personality that keeps me awake at night. Dr. Ken Nichols in his book Masterpiece writes, “a negative self-image produces a wide variety of problems” (2017, p. 23).

“What’s Best Next?”

            Although society constantly assesses our value (Clinton & Hawkins, p. 215) that does not mean I have to allow those values to determine my worth or fight to uphold those values, especially if they do not align with what God has already said in His word about me. Scripture states that God is mindful of me (Psalm 8:4) and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Therefore, it is important for me to continually foster a healthy paradigm of self:

Self-Care?

· “Many pastors misunderstand self-care to mean “self-ish,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, the initiative’s research director and assistant research professor at the Duke Global Health Institute. “Clergy recognize the importance of caring for themselves, but doing so takes a back seat to fulfilling their vocational responsibilities, which are tantamount to caring for an entire community,” Proeschold-Bell said. “They feel they need permission to take the time to attend to their health” (Rugani, 2012). Making an accurate assessment of my strengths and growth areas can help me learn how to relax, knowing that my value is not solely based on my significance and potential.  I must continue a proactive journey of taking care of my mind, body and spirit to be effective for God

· Barry Howard describes in his article titled “Healthy Self-Care: An Essential Discipline for a Pastor” five areas that place undue stress on a pastor.  One of the areas outlined was that of “Unrealistic expectations– These expectations can be real or perceived, and they can be generated by vocal congregants or be self-imposed by a minister with a “messiah complex.”  Within most congregations there are mix of expectations that fluctuate between market-driven goals (e.g., attendance, budgets, denominational recognition) and mission-driven goals (e.g., life transformation, ministry participation, stewardship practices). The wider the gap between these two categories, the more intense the stress on the minister” (Howard, 2017). I cannot pour from an empty cup, and no matter how much I’ve learned from this course, or how talented I may be in the role of Pastoral Counseling, if I’m not well, it is next to impossible to truly minister to others.

Safe and Securing Relationship?

· Personal integrity is important. According to Charles Kollar (2011), Christian leaders and counselors should always have a clear understanding of ethical concerns that inform our counseling procedures (p. 267). Establishing healthy boundaries and rigid guidelines for counseling sessions are integral to secure relationships. My plans may seem right to me but it is always the purpose of God that will stand (Proverbs 19:20-21). 

The following two guidelines were published by the American Church Group in Colorado when they wrote an article titiled “Reduce the Likelihood of Sexual Misconduct in a Counseling Setting”:

·   “Put your counseling procedures into writing. Conduct counseling sessions only on church premises when others are present in the building. Ensure that at least one other church leader is aware when the counseling session occurs. 

· Prohibit any pastor or counselor from privately counseling individuals of the opposite gender and make sure that a parent or other adult is present when counseling a minor. Few counselors start out with the intention of committing sexual abuse, so assign accountability partners who regularly check with counselors to see if they are struggling with any problems” (2016).

Further Training?

· Every counselor or ministry worker should always be equipping themselves and meditating on the word of God day and night. Scripture states that the Bible is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) so that I may be well equipped to do good work for the kingdom. For this reason, I will seek out other ways to improve my counseling skills beyond seminary training. My goal is obtaining further licensure beyond what I already have obtained.

· CV Ministries offers additional pastoral Counseling Skills Training that would be a great add-on to what has already been learned in this course. “There are two versions of the curriculum.  The 13-module curriculum provides 3 days of training with fellow pastors and church and ministry leaders.  It provides participants with an understanding of the interaction between emotional, mental and spiritual health, identifies the pastor’s role in counseling, and teaches a variety of skills that can be tailored to the participant’s personality and counseling style.  Participants will have the opportunity to practice the skills and attain competence in pastoral counseling” 

Through this course I have learned about who I am first in order to help others.  Ministers do a lot of pouring when others are pulling.  Pastoral counseling is a frontline ministry that carries the weight of others who need God’s guidance.  This course has given me resources that I will use not only for counseling purposes, but in my everyday life.  Through the readings and tools presented even in my hardships I am redirected to Christ for the answer.  Lousie Smith stated, “You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk!”  Self-care is cleaning out but filling up on the word of God so that we can help others.  People are dying, they are lost, and they need kingdom citizens to offer the love of God. “It’s in giving that I gain.  It’s in serving that I grow.  It’s in caring for others that I’s nurtured” (Nichols, 2017).  It is essential to network with peers, “one of the wisest time investments is for ministers to develop and use a referral network of other professionals in the community” (Turner, 2018). This path has not been easy, and my journey has been turbulent, but future counselees will be able to see God work through me.  

References

Carbonell, M. (2008). How to solve the people puzzle: Understanding personality patterns. Blue Ridge, GA: Uniquely You Resources. (CarbonellVitalSource edition).

Clinton, T., & Hawkins, R. (2009). The quick-reference guide to biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Kollar, C. A. (2011). Solution-focused pastoral counseling (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Nichols, K. (2017). Masterpiece: Seeing yourself as God’s work of art changes everything! Forest, VA: ALIVE Ministries.

Turner, R. (2018). Referral: Safeguarding the Integrity of the Counseling Relationship. Enrichment Journal: Equipping and Enriching Spirit Filled Ministers. Retrieved from http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199803/048_referral.cfm.

Howard, Barry. “Healthy Self-Care: An Essential Discipline for a Pastor.” Barry’s Notes, 10 Oct. 2017, barrysnotes.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/healthy-self-care-an-essential-discipline-for-a-pastor/.

Rugani, Kate. “Self-Care Is Not Self-Ish.” Self-Care Is Not Self-Ish | Faith and Leadership, 13 Aug. 2012, faithandleadership.com/self-care-not-self-ish.

“American Church Group.” Reduce the Likelihood of Sexual Misconduct in a Counseling Settingwww.americanchurchgroup-colorado.com/ministry-resources/blog/reduce-the-likelihood-of-sexual-misconduct-in-a-counseling-setting/.

www.cv-ministries.com/pastoral-counseling-skills.html