Archive for December, 2015

Video: Post-Traumatic Stress (Step 8)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Post-Traumatic Stress.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“The Anti-Climactic of the Post-Traumatic”
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

Trauma: Step Eight, Brad Hambrick from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

 

Memorize: Romans 5:3-5 (ESV), “More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through this Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

    • “Rejoice” – If you read the passage carefully, you’ll see we rejoice in the fruit of suffering; not the trauma, not the pain.
    • “Endurance… character… hope” – In these words you can likely see the journey you have been on in this study.
    • “Shame” – God is faithful not only to redeem the suffering but remove the shame associated with suffering.
    • “God’s love… poured” – You may fill empty many times on this journey, but remember God’s supply is constant.
    • “Holy Spirit” – This seal (2 Cor. 1:22) of God’s permanent covenant cannot be broken, even by the effects of trauma.          

 

Teaching Notes

“[Jesus] shields the sufferer herself so that the wrongdoing can neither penetrate to the core of her identity nor determine her possibilities (p. 118).” Miroslav Volf in The End of Memory

“Relational intimacy is built on emotional connection and risk taking (p. 115).” Steven R. Tracy in Mending the Soul

“The resolution is never complete, it is often sufficient for the survivor to turn her attention from the tasks of recovery to the tasks of ordinary life. The best indices of resolution are the survivor’s restored capacity to take pleasure in her life and to engage fully in relationships with others. She becomes more interested in the present and the future than in the past, more apt to approach the world with praise and awe than with fear (p. 212).” Judith Hermann in Trauma and Recovery

“Therefore, I seek counseling as a concession—not immoral, but tragic. For counseling often provides the kind of community where change can occur, whereas such community was meant to be provided in the context of normal and daily intimate and prophetic conversation that is mutual, equal, and free (p. 38).” Dan Allender in Wounded Heart

“Victims often must experience love before they can embrace love and begin to trust others (p. 197).” Steven R. Tracy in Mending the Soul 

Video: Christmas at DPAC 2015

Year after year Summit Worship does a phenomenal job of putting together an artistically excellent production with a clear presentation of the gospel. If you missed this year’s presentation, or if you just want to see it again, here is the video from #ChristmasatDPAC2015.

Christmas at DPAC 2015 from The Summit Church Sermons on Vimeo.

 

Hambrick Family Christmas Letter 2015

Dear Friends,

Notice the extra sweet smiles on the boys this year. That’s because we talked Mama into climbing three branches high in a Magnolia tree for our Christmas picture. Saying, “Mama in a tree,” made the boys smile like nothing else. It may have cost me all my Christmas presents this year, but it was worth it.

Christmas Card 2015

Lawson is in fifth grade and now has braces; which means you won’t see him smile while showing his teeth until seventh grade. Lawson returned to Fall baseball after a season of football and became an excellent catcher, but even better team leader. He has continued his workouts and we’ve gotten 73 miles towards our goal of running 100 miles together this year (as of Nov. 1). In October Lawson made public profession of his faith and was baptized.

Marshall is in third grade and he’s shown a great boost in his competiveness; both athletically and academically he is starting to enjoy giving his best and finding out how good he can do. His dry, common sense humor still amuses Sallie and I regularly as we look over to expect to see a cranky 80 year old man embodying many of his comments.

This summer the boys and I took our #ManTrip6 to the mountains of NC (bradhambrick.com/mantrip6). This year’s adventure included mountain climbing, trout fishing, and wading a river; we chased more fish than we caught. Marshall had the quote of the trip when he said, “Papa, that was scary, but it was a fun kind of scary,” about repelling down a rock face.

Sallie is still “the best Mama ever” as both boys are fond of telling her. The boys love having her sub at their school; we know that will pass soon enough, but you can keep your Grinch comments to yourself. She continues to run Hambrick, LLC, Inc phenomenally well and hand-painted signs for all the teachers at Leesville Elementary School in trailers in her free time.

Brad got to spend his birthday in Hong Kong as part of a teaching initiative for SEBTS (www.bradhambrick.com/hongkong) and created a seminar on Post-Traumatic Stress that has become a resource for military chaplains (www.bradhambrick.com/ptsd). As usual, his favorite thing to do is coaching Lawson and Marshall’s ball teams; which included four baseball seasons and one basketball season (Lawson was assistant coach – VP over Team Morale – for Marshall’s basketball team).

Over the next year we would appreciate your prayers that we will (1) fully enjoy this sweet season when our boys are young and lay a good foundation for their future, (2) prioritize marriage and family during a very busy season of life and ministry, and (3) grow in our trust in God’s character and effectiveness at sharing His hope with others.

We want to thank you for your friendship and the unique role you have played in the life of our family. Our prayer is that this Christmas you will experience the power, peace, and joy of Immanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23) – and have the opportunity to multiply that hope by sharing it with others.

Merry Christmas!
The Hambrick Family

Video: Post-Traumatic Stress (Step 7)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Post-Traumatic Stress.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Re-Engaging Life and Relationships”
IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering.

Trauma: Step Seven, Brad Hambrick from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Lamentations 3:20-24 (ESV), “My soul remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “My soul remembers” – As Jeremiah remembered his suffering it registered with him at a level deeper than his brain.
  • “Bowed down” – The presence of the memory still, at times, created a sense of wilting in his soul.
  • “I call to mind” – Jeremiah gained the ability to direct his thoughts even when the memories of his suffering intruded.
  • “New every morning” – However persistent his suffering memories may be, Jeremiah knew God’s mercies last longer.
  • “Your faithfulness” – This is the first time in the passage Jeremiah directly addressed God (“you”). As he engaged the false interpretations of his suffering, Jeremiah was able to regain his more personal connection with God.

Teaching Notes

“In her renewed connections with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological faculties that were damaged, were deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic capacities for trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy. Just as these capabilities are originally formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships (p. 133)… The simple statement—‘I know I have myself’—could stand as the emblem of the third and final stage of recovery. The survivor no longer feels possessed by her traumatic past; she is in possession of herself (p. 202).” Judith Hermann in Trauma and Recovery

“Past wrongdoing suffered can be localized on the timeline of our life story and stopped from spilling forward into the present and future to flood the whole of our life (p. 82).” Miroslav Volf in The End of Memory

“One of the most empowering things an abuse survivor can do is to prayerfully hand shame back to his or her abuser. Theologians rarely discuss this concept, but it’s a frequent biblical theme. Biblical writers often asked God to shame their abusive enemies. Most likely, this meant asking God to do two things: (1) cause the abuser to be overwhelmed with shame for his or her sin so that they would repent, and (2) bring utter destruction on the abuser if he or she didn’t repent (p. 89)… For survivors of abuse, the most damaging definitions of forgiveness are those that conflate forgiveness, trust, and reconciliation and eliminate the possibility of negative consequences for the offender (p. 181-182).” Steven R. Tracy in Mending the Soul

“Genuine trust involves allowing another to matter and have an impact in our lives (p. 175).” Dan Allender in Wounded Heart

“Recovery—learning not to live based on the fear—must also occur in the context of relationship. It cannot occur in isolation. Fear destroys trust. Fear inhibits love. Fear results in construction, restraint, retreat. All of these profoundly affect our relationships (p. 151)… Learning to tell ‘normal’ hurt from ‘abnormal’ hurt is a difficult process. Learning how to respond when you are hurt and either way is also difficult (p. 170)… Fear guards; love welcomes. Fear hides; love pursues. Fear shuts up; love expresses. Fear panics; love waits. Fear keeps a record; love forgives graciously. To move out of here and into love is a tremendous shift (p. 171).” Diane Langberg in On the Threshold of Hope

“Power is the ability to produce desired effects (p. 78)… Survivors also see themselves as powerless to make good things happen or bad thing stop; at the same time, they see themselves as having excessive power to calls batterer evil in the lives of others (p. 88).” Diane Langberg in Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse

10 Reasons Your Church Might Not Want a Formal Counseling Ministry (Part Two)

Every ministry we add to a church’s offerings adds some burdens. There is no such thing as a ministry that is all perks and no challenges.

I’m excited about discussing this and other topics further during a workshop we’re hosting on February 19 at the Summit Church, “Counseling in Your Local Church: Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries.” Have you registered? http://summitrdu.com/counselingworkshop

Part of making an informed decision about (a) whether your church develops a formal counseling ministry, (b) what types of formal counseling are added to your church’s offerings, and (c) how these decisions are communicated with your membership requires identifying and understanding about what these challenges are.

The difficulties listed below are not things you can “fix” or “prevent” once you understand them. While there are ways to mitigate the prevalence of these challenges, they are realities which will exist if you have a formal counseling ministry, and, over which, you must deem the benefits of a formal counseling ministry to be “better” if you pursue this option.

Note: The tone of this post (and the workshop from which it is an excerpt) is counseling-toned; meaning it presents the available options with their corresponding advantages and disadvantages, and then invites you to make a decision based upon informed consent.

This is in contrast (not contradiction) to the predominant tone of Christian teaching; which is proclamational – determining what is “best” based upon the teaching of Scripture and persuading people to make that choice.

Behind this approach is the assumption there is no “one” model for counseling, pastoral care, or one another care that is best for all churches. It is not my intent to advocate for a formal counseling ministry in every church. However, the more formal your church’s counseling ministry, the more of this tone will be present.

6. A counseling ministry will attract situations on which your church does not have an “official position.”

Is there a biblical “statute of limitations” on when a spouse can opt for divorce after infidelity, what areas of leadership or volunteering are biblically-viable for someone who comes to faith after transgender surgery, or can a church “require” someone to pursue counseling if it’s needed but not wanted? The fundamental instinct of a church to lead from its official positions becomes more difficult to maintain the deeper a church delves into the brokenness of human experience.

Advantage: New skills of care and influence are developed when our confidence about the “right answer” or “proper application of the right answer” is in doubt. These skills are still applicable when the right answer is clear and can make our ministering of these answer-applications more effective.

7. Counseling does not have a population group like other ministry areas (communications challenges).

Most ministry areas have a “population” – children, youth, young professionals, etc… People know whether they belong to the group based upon demographic information and are not offended by the designation. The church can create communication databases based upon these distinctions that prevent communication clutter within the church. These groups typically have gatherings which allow for dissemination of group-specific information. However a counseling ministry is largely devoid of these advantages.

Advantage: Your church will be challenged to think creatively about communication. The larger the church is and the more there is to communicate to the church as whole, the more “creative” and refined your communication systems will need to be in order to effectively maintain awareness of the counseling ministry.

8. Having a counseling ministry will attract “new ministries” you may not want to be a part of your church.

Everyone is extremely excited about whatever has helped them. There are many counseling related curriculums or ministries which may not fit with the doctrine or structures of your church. Navigating a conversation where you decline to offer a ministry that was “so helpful” to them can be difficult. Having a counseling ministry will increase the number of these conversations.

Advantage: You will become aware of many good ministry initiatives you did not know existed. You will become aware of subject areas that your members feel are under-served in the church. Your sense of “status quo” will be regularly challenged by practical solutions, even if some of them do not fit the doctrine of your church.

9. A counseling ministry will create confusion for what pastors do as counselors.

This happens whenever you create a formal ministry for anything. “If there is a [blank] ministry, does that mean the other pastors don’t do [blank] anymore? Is the [blank] ministry where we’re supposed to direct anyone with who [meets blank criteria]?” Put “youth” in the blanks above. Church life is too organic to be as segmented as the job titles of its leaders. This can be particularly unhelpful for a ministry area that can be as stigmatizing as counseling.

Advantage: This can force a church to consider how ministry leaders (staff or lay) and ministry programs catalyze ministry in their area instead of doing all the ministry under that heading. Because the distinctions between formal and informal ministry in counseling are more defined than other areas of ministry, it can be a fruitful area to begin thinking through these distinctions.

10. A counseling ministry in a small to mid-sized church can change the personality of your church.

If counseling or recovery ministry is more authentic than a church’s small groups, then a competition over who is “really doing church” can emerge. 10 people in a 100 member church create more culture change than the same number in a 1,000 member church. The more niche-oriented a counseling ministry is (i.e., addiction, divorce, grief, etc…) the more commonality there will be in the people it attracts (i.e., age, key elements of life story, persistent life challenges, etc…).

Advantage: “Authenticity” should be a part of body-life in a church. To the degree that a counseling ministry challenges a lack of authenticity in a church serves the discipleship process well. As long as niche ministries do not hamper a sense that “this church exists to reach our entire community,” the de-stigmatizing message they bring that the “gospel is for everyone and God wants to begin a relationship with you where you are” is beneficial.

COUNSELING IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH:
Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries
Date: Friday February 16, 2016
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus
Address: 2335 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: $99 / person (lunch provided)
RSVP and Find More Information Here

Tweets of the Week 12.16.15

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Video: Post-Traumatic Stress (Step 6)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Post-Traumatic Stress.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Accepting Challenges to Overcome Them in God’s Strength”
LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience.

Post-Traumatic Stress: Step 6 | Brad Hambrick from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV), “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “I pleaded” – God does not condemn Paul’s desire to be free from the “thorn in his flesh.” It is good to ask for this.
  • “Grace is sufficient” – We see that God’s grace is sufficient even when it does not remove the trial we face.
  • “Boast” – Merely resisting the shame and despair commonly associated with trauma is a step in this direction.
  • “Content with weakness” – This may be a more accurate depiction of what Paul’s day-to-day boasting was like.
  • “When I am weak” – When Paul was okay with his weakness he was able to face life at full strength.

Teaching Notes

“The cross doesn’t answer all of our questions about human suffering, but it assures us of God’s compassion for human misery (p. 176)… Those who suffer often feel isolated and disconnected from others. They often feel no one really understands what they are experiencing… The beauty of the cross is that it connects Jesus with our suffering, particularly the suffering produced by abuse (p. 176).” Steven R. Tracy in Mending the Soul

“[Jesus] is a Man of Sorrows and intimate with grief. He was left alone, regarded with contempt. He is scarred for all eternity. His suffering has left its tracks across his face. His hands and feet carry marks of the violence done to him. He was afflicted, struck, crushed, stripped, and oppressed. Suffering does that, you know; it leaves its mark over those who must endure (p. 31)… Jesus was storming the gates of hell even while he bowed himself to our finitude and brokenness (p. 57).” Diane Langberg in Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse

“Even after release from captivity, the victim cannot assume her former identity. Whatever new identity she develops and freedom must include the memory of her enslaved self (p. 93).” Judith Hermann in Trauma and Recovery

“We’re more than what we have suffered, and that is the reason we can do something with our memory of it – integrated into our life story, turn it into a junction from which we set out on new paths, for instance (p. 80)…All three elements of the healing of memories – a new identity, new possibilities, and an integrated life story – drew their basic content from the memory of the Passion understood as a new Exodus, a new deliverance (p. 103)… Wrongdoing does not have the last word. If we remember a wrongdoing – no matter how horrendous – through the lens of remembering the Exodus, we will remember that wrongdoing as a moment in the history of those who are already on their way to deliverance (p. 108-109).” Miroslav Volf in The End of Memory

“We do not need for all of our life to be gathered and rendered meaningful in order to be truly and finally redeemed… No need to take all of our experiences, distinct and company and bind them together in a single volume so that each experience draws meaning from the whole as well as contributes meaning to the whole. It suffices to leave some experiences untouched (say, that daily walk I took to school in the second grade), treat others with the care of a healing hand and then abandon them to the darkness of non-remembrance (say, the interrogations by Captain G.), and gather and reframe the rest (say, the joy in the struggle of writing this book) (p. 192).” Miroslav Volf in The End of Memory

10 Reasons Your Church Might Not Want a Formal Counseling Ministry (Part One)

Every ministry a church offers adds some burdens. There is no such thing as a ministry that is all perks and no challenges.

I’m excited about discussing this and other topics further during a workshop we’re hosting on February 19 at the Summit Church, “Counseling in Your Local Church: Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries.” Have you registered? http://summitrdu.com/counselingworkshop

Making an informed decision about (a) whether your church develops a formal counseling ministry, (b) what types of formal counseling are added to your church’s offerings, and (c) how these decisions are communicated with your membership requires identifying and understanding the challenges.

Here’s an excerpt from our upcoming discussion. These difficulties are not things you can “fix” or “prevent” once you understand them. While there are ways to mitigate the prevalence of these challenges, they are realities which will exist if you have a formal counseling ministry. You must deem the benefits of a formal counseling ministry to be “better” if you pursue this option.

1. A counseling ministry will not “do everything” so you will still make referrals and say “no” to some requests.

The pastoral leadership must be willing to support these referrals and “no’s.” Otherwise, the struggles a given individual faces will be forced into the categories or techniques of training the counselor has received (resulting in less effective care) and/or the church will incur liability for promising a type of care it is not equipped to provide.

This first point can also create a sense of partiality – helping some people directly and not others – which can result in hurt feelings within a congregation.

Advantage: If administrated and networked well with other resources in the community, a counseling ministry can serve as a connection point for those in need of care to ensure that those who seek help through the church are connected with the best-fit, available resource.

2. A counseling ministry becomes a lightning rod for hard cases and interpersonal conflicts.

Often those challenges that are not resolved in one’s natural relationships either have a level of complexity or non-compliance by key participants which prevent the ideal outcome. When a church has a counseling ministry the leadership can be drawn into more of these cases than they would be otherwise. The church’s authority (by way of membership and fellowship) can be sought as a leveraging point to coerce these changes for matters which do not necessarily warrant church discipline.

Advantage: These situations already exist. Having a counseling ministry does not create them. With a counseling ministry the church has more opportunity to guide its members through the process of determining who bears the personal responsibility for the changes necessary in difficult situations.

3. A counseling ministry will be misrepresented and caricatured by those who dislike the counsel they receive.

No counseling ministry bats 1.000 (for non-baseball readers, that means no counseling ministry helps everyone it sees). Those who do not benefit from counseling are prone to blame the counselor; sometimes rightly, but other times by presenting the counsel they received in a reductionistic way or by minimizing the context to which the counsel was given. Due to the constraints of confidentiality, the counselor and church are severely limited in their ability to defend themselves against these claims.

Advantage: With time, wise counsel is validated. If the church’s counsel was good, then those who hear the misrepresentation will have opportunity to see this. However, this can also be a time of refining for a counselor or a church’s leadership. If the perceived “misrepresentation” proves accurate, then the counselor or church will have gained an opportunity to identify a gap in their approach to pastoral care and counseling.

4. A counseling ministry will attract situations where liability is at the forefront of decision making.

Mandated reporting cases are not the only liability cases a church will face, but they are some of the most significant (because they involve the lives of children) and represent well many of the tensions that lead to other liabilities. So they will be the representative example used here.

When mandated reporting cases are in play, a church can feel like Matthew 18 (internal church discipline process) is in conflict with Romans 13 (honoring the requirements of the state). Also, church members may be tempted to refer mandated reporting cases to the church’s counseling ministry as a way to get around the uncomfortable step of reporting to the appropriate legal authority. This can result in a liability for the church member who did not fulfill their responsibility to report.

Advantage: Having a counseling ministry forces a church to think through issues of liability and mandated reporting prior to a crisis event. This learning process allows church leaders to understand and navigate these incidences much better when they arise in the life of a church (and they will).

5. A counseling ministry will attract situations where your elders may not be the experts.

Decisions regarding the usage of psychotropic medications, the process of restoring a marriage after instances of domestic violence, or when in the process of overcoming a severe addiction it is wise to expect someone to begin engaging more with their child who is failing out of school. These are just a few examples of situations that are regular occurrences in counseling but likely not areas that most elders would speak to with confidence.

Advantage: This is a healthy recognition for church leaders, or any other type of leader. Being a student of life can make one a much better teacher-leader. Navigating these difficult situations can be an excellent way of bringing refinement and tender-humble tones to how difficult subjects are addressed in a church’s preaching-teaching.

Note: The tone of this post (and the workshop from which it is an excerpt) is counseling-toned; meaning it presents the available options with their corresponding advantages and disadvantages, and then invites you to make a decision based upon informed consent. This is in contrast (not contradiction) to the predominant tone of Christian teaching; which is proclamational – determining what is “best” based upon the teaching of Scripture and persuading people to make that choice. Behind this approach is the assumption there is no “one” model for counseling, pastoral care, or one another care that is best for all churches. It is not my intent to advocate for a formal counseling ministry in every church. However, the more formal your church’s counseling ministry, the more of this tone will be present.

COUNSELING IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH:
Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries
Date: Friday February 16, 2016
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus
Address: 2335 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: $99 / person (lunch provided)
RSVP and Find More Information Here

Video: Post-Traumatic Stress (Step 5)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Post-Traumatic Stress.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“I Will Trust God with My Tears”
MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort.

Trauma: Step Five, Brad Hambrick from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Zephaniah 3:18-19 (ESV), “I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. Behold at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame, and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

    • “I will” – God is voluntarily involved. You do not have to beg. God is more eager to help than you are desperate.
    • “You who mourn” – God has a special compassion for those who are mourning (Psalm 56:8).
    • “Suffer reproach” – God understands that your grief comes with all the challenges and stigma we’ve discussed.
    • “Deal with all your oppressors” – You can trust God with whoever was involved in your trauma: actively or complicit.
    • “Lame… outcast… shame” – God knows your experience: feeling powerless, rejected, and embarrassed.

Teaching Notes

“One of the surest signs an abuse survivor is healing and coming alive is that, after staring straight into the ugly vortex of his or her past trauma and pain, he or she can mourn the losses and yet look toward the future with hope (p. 154)… Morning loss is an honest response to what has actually happened, and it’s also necessary for thorough healing (p. 154).” Steven R. Tracy in Mending the Soul

“Too often ‘prayer’ is indistinguishable from thought life. ‘God’ becomes blended with chaotic mental processes, rather than existing as a distinct person (p. 24).” David Powlison in “Why Me?” Comfort for the Victimized

“A godly response in the face of abuse is to grieve—for the perpetrator’s sin and for the damage done to our soul; but the natural response is to cower in shame, condemning our own soul for being so foolish as to hope, want, or risk (p. 65).” Dan Allender in Wounded Heart

“She lost the opportunity to be a child, the knowledge that her parents loved her no matter what, a sense of safety in her own body, a sense of competence, a sense of moral integrity. All of these losses need to be grieved (p. 164)… Hope is a new thing for the survivor. What little has grown up with in her during the course of therapy is usually not strong enough to carry the weight of grief (p. 166).” Diane Langberg in Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse

“The survivor needs help from others to mourn her losses. All of the classic writings ultimately recognized the necessity of morning and reconstruction in the resolution of traumatic life events. Failure to complete the normal process of grieving perpetuates the traumatic reaction (p. 69).” Judith Hermann in Trauma and Recovery

“The telling of the trauma story thus inevitably plunges the survivor into profound grief. Since so many of the losses are invisible or unrecognized, the customary rituals of morning provide little consolation. The dissent into morning is at once the most necessary in the most dreaded task of this stage of recovery (p. 188).” Judith Hermann in Trauma and Recovery

What Changes for a Church when Counseling Becomes Formal?

What does it mean for a church to have a “counseling ministry”? It is one thing to say “we all do counseling every day when we hear each other’s struggles and seek to offer comfort or guidance from the Bible” and another thing to say “our church has a counseling ministry and we would be happy to help you schedule an appointment with a member of our counseling team.”

Most churches and pastors can intuitively sense a difference in these two statements, but have a hard time articulating the difference… and an even harder time understanding the implications. This is a primary reason why churches most often avoid doing anything that is called “counseling.”

A significant transition does occur when we move from one-another ministry to formal counseling. One another ministry happens organic, helping conversations emerging from a naturally-paired relationship.

  • People get to know one another because they are in the same small group, serve on the same ministry team, or have kids the same age.
  • Conversation begins with the day-to-day events of life and moves towards confiding the struggles of life.
  • Trust is established on the basis of shared-life and respect for how each other approaches life.

Formal counseling, by contrast, occurs as a result of an “artificial pairing.” A struggle in life causes an individual to seek out a helper with particular qualifications. Key markers for a church to be aware of (both for liability and good member-care reasons) about this change are:

  • A request for counseling is made by the helpee.
  • The church assigns or recommends a helper who would not otherwise be a part of the helpees life.
  • The helpee comes to the helper with the expectation that counsel will be provided on the basis of helper’s training, role, or experience.

When a church facilitates a counseling-related artificial pairing it has a responsibility to both the helper and the helpee. To the helper (those they enlist as volunteer lay counselors or those they refer to for professional counseling) the church should ensure:

(1) there is a reasonable opportunity for success on the part of the helper and

(2) that the helpee comes with accurate expectations of type of help being provided.

A church should know the scope of care possible by a given ministry or individual and only refer individuals to that ministry who are a good-fit for what that ministry provides.

To the helpee the church should provide clear information about:

(1) the type of care a given ministry or counselor provides;

(2) the level of training a counselor or ministry leader has completed;

(3) the type of curriculum or activity that will be involved in the counseling process; and

(4) an estimate of the duration of the helping relationship.

When these ministries are provided through the church, this requires clear information on a church’s website, a well-informed receptionist who fields call about counseling inquiries, and quality intake forms.

The question could be raised, “If one-another ministry is counseling, then why treat formal counseling more stringently?” A parallel with missions is helpful. Every Christian should live missionally by seeking opportunities to share the gospel and advance the cause of Christ. However, almost every church or missions agency screens formal missionary candidates to make sure they are a good fit and properly equipped before sending them to do mid-term or career mission work.

In this sense, the words of Stephen Neil about missions would be applicable to counseling, “When everything is mission, nothing is mission.”[i] Passing out communion or being a positive influence in a community sports league is different from taking the gospel to an unreached people group.

Similarly, when everything is counseling, nothing is counseling; the word “counseling” loses any meaning as an activity distinct from “doing life together.” The immensely beneficial interaction of a small group to provide an experience of safe relationships is different from someone understanding how to guide another through the traumatic effects of childhood sexual abuse. A friend listening to the chaos of a marital argument is different from guiding a couple through a decision about separation during an ongoing affair when children are “taking sides” in order not to lose contact with the less involved parent.

But that does not in any way downplay that essential nature of one-another ministry. The sexual abuse survivor needs a small group in which to experience healthy relationships while learning how to cultivate them. The couple recovering from adultery needs friends to call when they’re discouraged, tempted, or confused. However, without the training and formality of higher levels of competence, these situations could overwhelm the small group and friends to the point that the one-another ministers withdraw.

When counseling does involve an artificial pairing, the counselor should seek to return or involve care from natural pairings as early as possible. An excellent model to allow for this is the advocate system developed by Garret Higbee.[ii] When this is not possible, then part of “graduating” to formal counseling should be a discussion of how to best involve the counselee’s one-another relationships to solidify the progress made in counseling.

More information to help your church mobilize an effective counseling ministry will be available at the following conference:

COUNSELING IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH:
Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries
Date: Friday February 19, 2016
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus
Address: 2335 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: $99 / person (lunch provided)
RSVP  Here

 

[i]Stephen Neill, Creative Tension: The Duff Lectures, 1958 (London: Edinburgh House, 1959), 81.

[ii]Excellent resource to help churches pair formal care with informal care to allow for this transition is Garrett Higbee, Uncommon Community (available at www.store.harvestbiblechapel.org) .