Archive for July, 2016

Summit Counseling FAQ’s (4 of 9): How Do I Know If Bridgehaven or the Graduate Intern Program Is a Better Fit for Me?

This is the fourth post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me? (This Post)
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

Let’s begin by making sure you understand what each option shares in common. Both Bridgehaven and the graduate intern program offer high quality, pastoral counseling for individuals and marriages. With that in mind, we should also ask, “What is the difference between the two?”

The counselors at Bridgehaven:

  • Have completed a masters or doctoral degree in pastoral counseling
  • Are well-experienced in the areas in which they offer counseling
  • Offer counseling as their ministry vocation; meaning they offer appointments throughout the week

The counselors in the graduate intern program:

  • Are completing a masters or doctoral degree in pastoral counseling
  • Are well-supervised for the counseling they offer to ensure a quality of care is provided
  • Offer counseling one night per week

Based on these similarities and distinctions, there are five questions to consider in determining which is the better fit for you.

First, is a pastoral counselor the best fit for your area of need?

If your counseling need involves the possibility of medication, then you would need to know our team does not carry the qualifications to prescribe or oversee a medical regimen. We would be happy to serve as a supplemental care to a physician or psychiatrist.

If your counseling need involves court proceedings, you need to know that a pastoral counselor is viewed differently than a licensed mental health professional. In these instances, we believe it is the best investment of your time to meet with a licensed counselor who can serve both your counseling and legal needs (e.g., providing expert testimony or evaluations the court would recognize).

Second, does a weekly session format serve your area of need well?

If you need counseling that requires meeting more frequently than weekly (i.e., intensive outpatient counselor) or desire casual social interaction (i.e., mentoring), then neither Bridgehaven nor the graduate intern program would be a good fit.

Third, what is the depth of your struggle?

The more crisis-oriented your struggle is, the more experience you will want your counselor to have. Based on this criterion, the more crisis-oriented your struggle, the more likely Bridgehaven would serve you better than our graduate intern program.

There is one helpful point of clarification in this area. Many people hear the title “intern” and think “early 20’s kid just out of college.” For a frame of reference, the average age of graduate interns is 35; this number will vary from year to year.

Fourth, what are your financial constraints?

For a variety of reasons, life struggles often coincide with financial struggles. If you are not in a position to be able to make a donation for counseling, then in order to ensure the frequency and duration of care necessary to serve you well, we recommend selecting the graduate intern program.

Fifth, what is your scheduling flexibility?

Formal counseling is rarely a single meeting. Your counselor needs to get to know you, your struggle, and build trust with you. The two of you will need to establish goals and develop biblical strategies to reach those goals. That takes time.

One of the advantages of the graduate intern program is that this counseling is offered in the evenings between 6 and 9pm; a time when most people are off of work. Bridgehaven does offer some evening appointments, but the majority of their appointments are during the normal work-week hours.

As you walk through these five questions, hopefully it has become clear which option would serve your needs best.

Summit Counseling FAQ’s (3 of 9): What Are the Differences Between a Summit Small Group and a G4 Group?

This is the third post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group? (This Post)
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me?
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

Let’s start with the question, “What does a Summit small group look like?

A small group usually consists of 7 to 15 Summit members who meet on a regular basis in someone’s home to study and discuss the Bible, pray for one another, care for one another, and do ministry together. These groups meet all across the Triangle on various nights of the week.

We can use this description to begin to draw some distinctions.

  • G4 groups meet in one location and on one night; the Blue Ridge campus on Monday nights.
  • G4 groups meet for a more narrow purpose, to address a particular life dominating struggle or major life transition (life of active groups here).
  • G4 groups are a place to get life back in order more than “do ministry together.”

This is because a Summit small group focuses on general discipleship – the overall spiritual maturity of a group of believers who are facing a variety of challenges and opportunities – while G4 focuses on particular discipleship – setting aside a season of life to overcome a particular life-dominating challenge with people facing a similar challenge.

G4 is a ministry that provides a peer-support setting for individuals to invest several months overcoming a life dominating struggle… for the purpose of fruitfully enjoying life and ministry as part of a general small group.

“G” is for Gospel-Centered Groups: Often recovery or support groups are criticized for centering an individual’s identity in their struggle. We want to provide the benefits of peer support, subject-specific groups while emphasizing that our identity is not found in an issue, but in an individual – the person of Christ.

“4″ designates that four types of groups are provided:

  1. Recovery – Groups helping individuals recover from addictions or other life dominating struggles. Examples: addiction, anger
  2. Support – Groups for those needing encouragement and support during a period of suffering or major life transition. Examples: grief, divorce recovery
  3. Therapeutic Educational – Groups providing education to navigate specific life issues. Examples: blended family principles, parenting an addict
  4. Process – Groups for those needing help processing problematic emotions or traumatic experiences. Examples: depression, trauma

To see the list of the current group topics visit summitrdu.com/G4.

So, which is for you?

  • If you are looking for a group of people to do life with as you grow in general discipleship and find ways to reach your community, a Summit small group is the place for you.
  • If you feel like a life challenge is preventing you from engaging relationships authentically or are part of a Summit small group and need more intensive care in a particular area, then a G4 group would be an excellent fit.

G4 Overview from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

 

Summit Counseling FAQ’s (1 of 9): What Is the Difference Between Meeting with a Summit Pastor and a Member of the Summit Counseling Team?

This is the first post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team? (this post)
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me?
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

Sometimes people call our office and want to “talk to a pastor” and other times they call wanting “counseling.” Often, however, people don’t realize there is a difference or are not used to attending a church where a formal counseling ministry is an option.

The result is that some people request “counseling” and feel awkward when they’re given intake forms to fill out in order to make an appointment. Others start a conversation with a pastor wanting a more extended, in-depth helping relationship than that individual pastor has the capacity (by training or schedule) to offer.

So, what is counseling?  Counseling exists on a spectrum.

  • On one end of the spectrum, counseling is “every helpful conversation.” Any time we hear someone’s struggle, express compassion, offer perspective, and make suggestions we are “counseling.”
  • On the other end of the spectrum, counseling is an “artificially paired helping relationship based upon experience or expertise.” In this scenario, one person – the helpee – identifies a need in their life and seeks out someone else – the helper – because they believe the helper is uniquely qualified to help them.

That defines counseling, but begs a second question. What does a pastor do? A pastor definitely offers “every helpful conversation” counseling. A pastor may be an excellent fit for problem-focused, expertise-based counseling.

And now a third question, how do I know if I want my pastor to be my formal counselor? For that I will look at six contrasts between the broad role of a pastor and the narrow role of a counselor. As you read these, you can ask yourself, “Am I wanting a pastor to be my formal counselor? How would that impact my week-in-week-out relationship with the church? Am I okay with it, if my pastor indicates that he does not believe he is the best fit to serve me in the area I’m seeking guidance?”

  1. Pastoral interactions are not exclusively problem-focused. Counseling interactions are problem-focused. You talk to your pastor about more than your struggles. A pastor is part of the community you “do life with.” Formal counseling is an intentional relationship predicated upon overcoming a challenge or navigating a life transition.
  2. Pastors offer ongoing relationships. Counselors offer short-term relationship. A pastor doesn’t cease being your pastor when a particular goal is met. However, a counselor does cease being your counselor when your counseling objectives are met.
  3. Pastoral relationships are mutually beneficial relationships. Counseling relationships are singularly beneficial relationships. A pastor is a member of the church who benefits from the body life of the church as much as any other member. It is as much the responsibility of church members to encourage and support their pastors as it is for their pastors to encourage and support them. A counselor does not ask for support from the counselee. The relationship exists to benefit the counselee.
  4. Pastors speak out of personal experience and biblical principles. Counselors speak out of biblical principles and advanced training. Pastors are not expected to know the “best practices” for various life struggles. Their criteria for ministry qualification is based upon character and doctrine more than counseling competence (I Timothy 3:1-7). Members of our counseling team hold at least a master’s degree in counseling and receive supervision to ensure a quality of care while they serve you.
  5. Pastors adhere to informal relational protocols. Counselors adhere to formal relational protocols. Conversations with a pastor may be had on the sidewalk at church, over the phone, or in a small group setting. The constraints of conversation are guided by basic moral principles – avoiding gossip, being edifying, situational appropriateness, etc… By contrast, conversations with a member of our counseling team are by appointment, adhering to confidentiality principles as defined by the informed consent on our intake forms, do not occur in casual social settings, etc…
  6. Pastors shepherd an entire congregation as a team of elders. Counselors offer private ministry and have a limited caseload while receiving supervision. Your pastoral care may be handled by multiple pastors at your campus. You don’t have “one pastor” who is in charge of all your pastoral care needs. By contrast, a member of our counseling team sees particular individuals-families and has a limited case capacity based upon the times they are available for appointments. Members of our counseling team receive supervision, but you would not receive counsel from a “team of counselors.”

Hopefully, it is clear that the content (biblical substance) of the interaction with a member of our pastoral team and a member of our counseling team should be very similar. In this sense both forms of care are “ministry,” they are Bible-based forms of care intended to help navigate the challenges of life with the hope of the gospel in order to experience the full life God intended.

However, the nature of the relationship (duration, focus, formality, etc…) is different between our campus-based pastoral team and counseling ministry. One is informal, the other is formal. One is based upon life experience; the other is based on having particular training. One is an open-ended relationship, the other is a short-term, goal-focused relationship.

As you seek to identify who is the best person for you to reach out to at this season of life – a pastor at your campus or a member of our counseling team – we hope these distinctions help you identify what type of care is the best fit for your current need.

Tweets of the Week 7.20.16

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.

 

Gospel Wheel Evaluation: Spoke Character

The Gospel Wheel is a discipleship tool developed by The Summit Church to help believers identify how balanced their Christian growth is and how rooted their efforts to spiritually mature are.

The Wheel

Click here for the spoke character.

This evaluation examines four areas:

  1. The beliefs that under gird gospel-based character change
  2. The practices that support gospel-based character change
  3. The avoidance of aggressive character flaws
  4. The avoidance of passive character flaws

The six evaluations below (each 30 questions and self-scoring) are meant to be tools you can use to assess your Christian walk and understanding in each of the six key areas identified by The Gospel Wheel.

When using The Gospel Wheel as a discipleship tool, it is recommended that you seek to grow in the areas that are currently weakest rather than “maxing out” in your areas of strength. Each spoke should be developed in proportion to the other spokes in order for growth in one area not to compromise growth in other areas.

How to Find a Good Counselor in [Name of City]?

I often get asked the question, “Do you know a good counselor in [name of city]?” This post summarizes the guidance I give when the answer to their question is, “I’m sorry. I don’t know someone I can personally recommend there.”

In this post, I will assume you are seeking counseling. However, often times when I am asked this question, it is for a friend or family member. If that is the case, you can simply change the pronouns from “I” to “my friend.”

  • Step One: Make a list of trusted churches you know in that area. This choice may be denominationally-based for you. Or, perhaps there is a network of churches that aligns with your beliefs. Maybe there are several pastors in that area you’ve heard preach and you appreciate how they teach the Bible.
  • Step Two: Call these churches and ask, “Who do you recommend for counseling?” At this point, you do not have to provide a significant amount of personal history. You might clarify by saying that you are seeking “marriage counseling” or “personal counseling” or “addiction counseling.” As you call multiple churches, take note of any counselor(s) / center(s) that are repeated among your trusted churches.
  • Step Three: Call the counselor / center that was most repeated among your trusted churches. This is the phone call where greater personal disclosure is advised: “I am seeking counseling for [describe in a concise 2-3 minute summary]. I have contacted several churches I trust and they recommended you. I want to know if you have training in my area of need. If not, is there another Christian counselor you would recommend for this type of life struggle?”
  • Step Four: Schedule an appointment. At the end of this process, you will have identified a trusted counselor who is recommended by the Christian community in this area, and/or allowed that counselor to direct you to someone who is well-trained in your area of need.
  • Note: If you are calling for a friend or family member, you will not be able to schedule an appointment for them. But you will have identified a best-fit counselor for needs that you can recommend to them.

Additional guidance on how to interview a prospective counselor is provided by the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). I hope this post helps you (or your loved) one find a quality Christian counselor in [name of city].

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on the Church and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.

Tweets of the Week 7.13.16

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.

Tweets of the Week 7.6.16

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.

What Are You Afraid Of?

I was recently rereading Leslie Vernick’s book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong in preparation for this Fall’s seminar on Overcoming Codependency when I came across this excellent quote from Francois Fenelon about our fears of following God whole-heartedly in hard times.

“What are you afraid of? Of following too much goodness, finding a too-loving God; of being drawn by an attraction which is stronger than self or the charms of this poor world? What are you afraid of? Of becoming too humble, too detached, too pure, too true, too reasonable, too grateful to your Father which is in heaven?… I pray you, be afraid of nothing so much as this false fear — this foolish, worldly wisdom which hesitates between God and self, between vice and virtue, between gratitude and ingratitude, between life and death.” Francois Fenelon in The Royal Way of the Cross

This is an excellent reminder of how our fears distort the character of God in our imagination.

Note: Some may be concerned that this quote would indicate that we will approach the subject codependency from purely a responsibility-based paradigm. In the “Overcoming Codependency” seminar we will examine how to both wisely withstand the suffering side chronically broken relationships and the responsibility-side of valuing the approval of people more than the approval of God.