For years, many in the Church considered psychology and psychiatry a humanistic approach to counseling. A counselor in Fort Worth, TX, attributes past resistance to approaches rooted in self rather than Scripture. However, Kevin Gailey says this picture started changing in the 1970s when various authors tried to integrate psychology with biblical teachings.
Gailey says many of those pioneering efforts still looked a lot like secular counseling. However, over the past two decades he says more Christian schools have moved toward incorporating a Christian worldview and biblical principles with counseling.
"Plus, people aren't growing up with the same hostility toward psychology their parents had," Gailey says.
The chairman of the counseling division at Denver Seminary, Associate Professor Fred Gingrich, says the shift over the past 25 years is very evident.
"There has been a massive shift in teaching counseling and seeing it as a resource for ministry," Gingrich says. "The emphasis now is on a biblical basis."
The Tarrant Baptist Association, a group of nearly 400 Southern Baptist churches in the Fort Worth area, promotes counseling centers that are biblically based. It posts guidelines for developing a church-based ministry.
"In the last two years, I've seen a growing trend on the biblical side," Association Director, Tom Law, says.
Nearly 100 churches in the association offer some kind of counseling ministry. They range from large churches with full centers, to smaller churches that offer space to a counselor.
For churches that don have a center or other form of ministry, the association has formed a network of counselors that member churches can access for services.
Any church can recommend a client for counseling. If funds are available, the program will offer eight sessions, with the cost of six sessions divided equally among the association, church and client. The counselor donates the other two.
Advantages to churches
The association's guidelines list numerous advantages to establishing a counseling center, starting with enabling the pastor to devote more time to sermon preparation, visitation and other duties. But there are many different issues to consider before beginning a counseling ministry- from a separate private office entrance, to sound-proof walls, to the time and expense involved in planning, setting up and operating a counseling office.
"Don't start one unless you can do it well," advises Gailey, counseling director at Wedgwood Baptist Church. "And plan for it to grow very quickly,"
American Association of Christian Counselors and companion site, eCounseling.com.
Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.
Christian Association of Psychological Studies.
National Christian Counselors Association.
American Pyschological Association.
Focus on the Family.
Biblical Counseling Quick Reference Guide by Tim Clinton and Ron Hawkins.
Foundations for Soul Care by Eric Johnson.
Christian counseling: A comprehesive guide by Gary Collins.
The biblical basis of Christian counseling for people helpers by Gary Collins.
Transforming Spirituality: Integrating Theology and Psychology by F. LeRon Shults and Steve Sandage.
Psychology and Christianity: Four Views, editors Eric Johnson and Stanton Jones.
Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark McMinn.