Christian Counseling

 Leadership Empowerment School of Ministry


Empowering Those who Empower Others with a Knowledge of God and His Ways


1.  Introduction

ACounseling can be very rewarding and satisfying work.  However, it can also be very difficult.  Many people will not respond to counseling the way you would like.  In addition to this, the continual exposure to human need, misery, and the results of sin can be very discouraging.


BThe counselor's character is more important than his skills or gifts.


2.  Motivation

A.  Love:  a sincere desire to help people


B.  God's calling


C.  Avoid counseling for selfish reasons

The following are some personal needs that counselors sometimes seek to meet through counseling:


1.  Need for control -- likes to give advice and "fix" the lives of others


2.  Need for information -- be careful to not be overly curious as a counselor


3.  Need to overcome personal insecurities

If the counselor is an insecure person with low self-esteem, he may use the respect and power that can come with counseling to make him feel better about himself.  This should be avoided.


3.  Becoming Effective

Counseling is both a gift and a skill.  If you are gifted in this area, you should develop the skill so that you can be very helpful to people in need.  If it is not your area of gifting, you will still want to develop the skill to a degree, but you should probably also try to raise up others in the church to help you counsel.  Following are some essentials in being a good counselor:


A.  Commitment to Christ -- a growing relationship with Him


B.  Training under the supervision of an experienced, godly counselor


C.  Gain experience in helping people -- you get better by doing it


4.  Good Counseling

A.  Counsel, do not only visit

In counseling, you may visit, but there is something more.  You are working toward a goal of helping someone in a specific way.


B.  Take your time

In order to be very successful, you will need to thoughtfully and prayerfully pay close attention to what the counselee is saying.  Do not be too quick to give advice.  Do not try to solve the problem in a very rushed manner.


C.  Be sympathetic

Do not be quick to label someone, or put them in a category (ex. Catholic, sinner, proud,...).  Take an active interest in the problem, and in learning about the person.

D.  Do not be judgmental

There will be times when you need to confront sin, but follow Jesus' example of doing so in an accepting and loving way.


E.  Do not simply tell the counselee what to do

The two of you, along with the Holy Spirit, must work together as a team to solve the problem and bring about spiritual maturity.


F.  Be realistic

Do not have too high expectations for people.  It may be some time before you see positive results in someone's life, so do not be discouraged.  Most of the time you are dealing with problems that took a long time to develop -- do not think they can be solved so quickly.


G.  Be "real"

Counselors and pastors do not need to be perfect, and they do not need to make people think they are perfect.  You do not have all the answers, and it is good to admit that.


5.  Warnings

A.  Some counselees come with hidden agendas.  They ask for help with a problem, but they really want:

1.  Your time and attention

2.  You to tell them their sinful behavior is o.k.

3.  Your support against someone else in a conflict


B.  Some have real problems, but they do not allow you to help

1.  They are looking for a quick and easy solution.  The answer may be something they do not want to hear.


2.  You need to make it clear every time that the counselee has the final responsibility in bringing improvement.  You can only counsel; you cannot make decisions or live life for the person.


C.  Sexual attraction

1.  Know that whenever counseling someone of the opposite sex, the potential for temptation is there.  Remember 1 Cor 10:12:  "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."


2.  Spiritual protection

a.  Depend on the Holy Spirit to help you

b.  Guard your minds, "bringing every thought into captivity" (see 2 Cor 10:5)

c.  Find other believers with whom you can be accountable

1)These should be mature people who understand the pressures and temptations of ministry; people who will not condemn you and who will keep everything confidential.


2)Your spouse should be an accountability partner.  You can discuss these things!


d.  Pray, asking the Lord to "lead me not into temptation."


3.  Be aware of danger signs

a.  The counselee's increased dependence on you -- asking for more time and attention


b.  The counselee always praising and appreciating you


c.  The counselee complaining about loneliness


d.  Physical contact -- probably beginning with small things


e.  Thinking about the counselee between sessions;  looking forward to seeing her again


f.  Comparing the counselee with your spouse


g.  Wanting to share your own problems with the counselee


h.  Beginning to think about counselee in a lustful way


4.  Set limits:  have a strict policy concerning counseling people of the opposite sex

Agree on these policies with your spouse.  If you believe there will be times when you need to make an exception, discuss this also.


a.  Will you counsel them at all, or can another person do it?

b.  Location -- where will you counsel them?

c.  Will you counsel alone, or insist on another person to be present?

d.  Length of time (ex 1 hour session, and no more than 4 sessions)

e.  Topics -- refuse to counsel about certain things


5.  Be honest with yourself and with God.

Denying that a physical attraction exists will not make it go away.


6.  Never tell the counselee about your feelings / attractions.


6.  Confidentiality

A.  As a pastor / counselor, you have a responsibility to maintain the privacy of every conversation.


B.  Guard secrets as if they were your own


C.  Some problems:  Consider the following situations.  Would you break the confidentiality rule?

1.  Someone admits that he has broken the law (ex. stolen something from a church member)


2.  A minister from another ministry seeks your help in overcoming a sinful lifestyle, such as fornication or homosexuality


3.  Someone admits to having AIDS, and that he has a girl-friend.  The girl does not know.


4.  A husband admits to having AIDS, and the wife does not know.


D.  Guidelines

1.  Try to convince the person to share the information themselves with the appropriate person


2.  Discuss the issue (without giving away the exact person or situation) with other mature believers, and receive their input


3.  Gather all the information you can about the issue


4.  Pray, and trust that the Lord will guide you


5.  If you decide to share information yourself, first inform the counselee of your decision


7.  Burnout

A.  What is burnout?

This can be described as losing your energy and sense of purpose.  You no longer have the same compassion or desire to help people.  It is common among ministers, because of the pressures of always having to deal with people's problems.


B.  Preventing burnout

1.  Stay spiritually strong and fresh through personal prayer, Bible study, and other disciplines.

Note this is about personal prayer, etc.  This does not include reading the Bible to get a sermon, or praying about church problems.  It is a regular time of refreshment through intimacy with the Lord.


2.  Support group

It is very helpful to have friendships with people of God who love and accept you because of who you are, not what you do.  Pastors should cultivate relationships with people who they are not constantly ministering to.


3.  Remind yourself that your worth comes from who you are in Christ, not from what you accomplish for Him.



4.  Take time off.

Regular Sabbath rests are important for maintaining your ministry.  This also includes longer times away from the church and ministry every now and then.


5.  Continue studying to improve your ministry skills.


6.  Have a sense of humor -- do not take yourself too seriously.

The ability to laugh at yourself is a wonderful help in avoiding burnout.  It also helps to realize that God could run the Kingdom very fine without all your frantic effort.


7.  Understand that even you have limitations and needs.

a.  You are not too spiritually strong to need to care for yourself in this way.


b.  The work of the Kingdom can continue without you


c.  You are in a marathon (long-distance race), not a sprint (short-distance race).

Live and minister in such a way that you will still be active and strong in 20-30 years.



Counseling Basics


It has been stated that the majority of counselors are not helpful, and possibly even harmful.  They do not follow the counseling basics.  However, some counselors are very effective.  They are compassionate and understanding, have the ability to confront in helpful ways, and are filled with the Holy Spirit.


1.  The Ministry of Counseling

A.  Pastoral care

The ministry of counseling is one of the primary ways you will provide pastoral care for your flock.  The people in your care need spiritual help as they pass through difficult times, as they attempt to learn how to live for Jesus in the midst of temptations, as they seek to develop their ministry, and in many other ways.  Counseling gives them the individual attention they need in order to succeed.


B.  "Ministry between miracles"

1.  As pastors, we love to see God working miraculously and suddenly in the lives of people.  When He does this, we rejoice with them.  However, much of the work God does in people takes the form of a process, rather than an instant cure.  This process, if handled in the right way, will lead to maturity and spiritual strength.


2.  People are often disappointed when God does not work in their situation the way they want Him to.  Counseling in such times can help them to recognize the hand of God as He actually is working.


2.  Goals of Counseling

A.  Helping people to gain eternal life in heaven (Jn 3:16)

1.  As in any ministry, the counselor's primary goal is to see people eternally saved


2.  Counseling is part of making disciples of Jesus.  It can even include evangelism


B.  Helping people to have abundant life on earth (Jn 10:10)

1.  Many believers do not experience abundant life in the now


2.  Counselors can help them in various ways.  For example:

a.  Overcome wrong attitudes


b.  Recognize and stop behavior that is harmful


c.  Teach new skills in relating to people and dealing with life


d.  Help in times of crisis


e.  Provide comfort and support through caring acceptance and understanding


f.  Help counselee to understand that the quality of his life is not primarily determined by his circumstances.  Abundant life is more about internal attitudes and devotion than about things that happen to you.


3.  Help the counselee to set goals.  It does not help to simply force your goals on them.


C.  Many people come because they simply want you to tell them what to do.

1.  It is usually best not to do this


2.  Take the opportunity to teach principles that can help them to make a decision


3.  If you do help them to make the decision, be sure that they understand that they are responsible for the results, not you.


Class Discussion:

How can you not fulfill a counselees expectations but still show that you care?


3.  The Counseling Relationship

A.  People coming for help often feel insecure and anxious about doing so

1.  It is difficult for many of us to admit the need for help


2.  Some are in awe of pastors -- they feel they are on another spiritual level totally


3.  Some fear what the counselor might ask.


4.  Some have problems that are embarrassing or difficult to talk about


5.  Christians often feel like needing to go for counseling is a sign of their spiritual failure


B.  A good counselor is aware of these difficulties, and helps the person to feel comfortable.


Class Discussion:  How can you as a counselor help people to feel comfortable and free enough to express themselves?


C.  Some helpful ideas in developing a comfortable relationship with the counselee

1.  Warmth -- be caring, respectful, and concerned


2.  Genuine -- be open and sincere; not superior or super-spiritual


3.  Empathy -- feel with the counselee in his difficulty

The ability to see things from the point of view of the counselee is very important


4.  Interest -- display a real interest in the person


5.  Fruit of the Spirit -- see Gal 5:22-23


4.  How to Counsel

A.  Give undivided, complete attention to the counselee.

1.  Maintain good eye contact

2.  Posture -- be relaxed, not tense

3.  Be aware of non-verbal communication


Non-verbal communication is the way you 'speak' to a person without words.  It includes such things as the expression on your face, where you look, how you sit, etc.


B.  Active listening

1.  Avoid expressing disapproval or judgment (with what you say or non-verbally)

Keep this in mind even when what is being said is offensive.  Consider how Jesus responded to the Samaritan woman (Jn 4), the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11), and the 'sinful woman' of Lk 7:36-50.


2.  Pay attention to the counselee's non-verbal communication.

"Listen" with your eyes as well as your ears


3.  Notice not only what is said, but what is not said.

For example, someone may complain about her husband becoming angry at her, but she does not say why he was angry.  It could mean (you do not know for sure yet) that she feels guilty about something, and wants to avoid discussing her responsibility in the conflict.


4.  Wait patiently through periods of silence or tears


5.  Demonstrate that you accept the person, even if you do not approve of his actions or beliefs.  Attempt to see things from the other person's point of view.


6.  Sometimes it is difficult to actively listen, especially if the person talks a lot or repeats things.  However, you must make the effort with God's help.


7.  Responding as you listen

a.  Leading -- develop the skill of directing the conversation

"What do you mean by...?"  "What happened next?"


b.  Reflecting -- Make brief comments that show you have understood and that you empathize.


c.  Questions

1)  ask questions that require more than a one or two word answer

2)  do not ask too many questions -- you do not want to make the person feel uncomfortable, or that he is being interrogated.

3)  it is usually best to not ask 'why' questions (especially, "why did you do that?")


If the counselor talks a lot, even if he gives good advice it will most likely not be followed.  Before advising, you must demonstrate that you have understood, and that you sincerely care.  This is done through active listening.


C.  Presence

1.  Many times people are looking simply for presence, support, and understanding more than for answers.  Be sensitive to their needs and desires.


2.  By simply being with the person, you bring Jesus into the situation


3.  Offer hope


D.  Teaching

1.  Watch for the right moment, when the counselee is most open to receiving teaching.  This comes through the above first three steps.


2.  Most counseling involves some form of teaching.  Remember that you are not simply there to solve the person's problem, but to make disciples.


3.  Teach the principles on which you base your advice.  In doing this, you are helping the person to be able to make decisions on his own, and not need to rely on you.


4.  Focus on specifics.

For example, it is more helpful to deal with: "How can I control my temper when my wife annoys me?" than "I just want my life to be happier."


E.  Advising

1.  Only after spending enough time actively listening


2.  Be cautious in giving advice:  think about how the person may respond if the advice proves to not be good


3.  Offer advice in a humble way, not as something that must be followed – try saying something like "maybe you should try..."


4.  Be sure that you are well informed before ever giving advice


5.  allow the counselee to respond to your advice -- what does he think of it?


6.  follow up to see if advice was followed, and if it was helpful


F.  Guiding

1.  Whenever possible, guiding is better than advising


2.  Do not allow the person to become dependant on you


3.  It is better to lead the person to discovering God's direction for himself when possible, rather than just telling them yourself.

a.  Point out relevant scriptures, and ask, "How does this  apply to your situation?"

b.  Ask, "What do you think would happen if you…?"

c.  Help them to see what their options are

d.  Suggest that you both pray over the situation, and agree on another time to meet.  When you come back together, ask what they think the best solution may be.


G.  Confronting

1.  Different from attacking or condemning

2.  Must be done in loving and accepting way

3.  Help counselee to see something he may not otherwise see

4.  Allow counselee to respond

Be aware that confrontation often brings resistance, guilt, hurt, anger, defensiveness, etc.


H.  Support and Encourage

1.  Along with whatever else you do, it is always important to build up and support


2.  Understand the value and the risk of physical touch

a.  This is a powerful way of showing support and encouragement -- many people respond very well to physical touch, and actually need it to feel emotionally strong

b.  There is also risk involved with touch.  It may be understood the wrong way, and cause the counselee either to be offended or attracted to you.  Both are extremely harmful.


I.  Discerning

1.  You do want to generally believe and trust the counselee.  It is not good to be overly skeptical.


2.  However, know that counselees do not always tell the truth, or the whole truth

Everything they tell you may be true, but they may leave out significant details.


3.  Sometimes the person does not intentionally mislead you, but he simply does not see the whole picture clearly himself.


4.  Often times someone comes for help with one problem, not realizing that there is a more serious, deeper issue which needs to be dealt with.  However, even if you see this clearly, do not ignore his expectations and the needs he is aware of.


5.  Ask yourself, "what does this person expect from me?"  Do you sense that there is something not being spoken openly?


6.  Pray for and rely upon wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit


5.  Process of Counseling

Every person who comes for counseling is unique, and every situation is unique.  Therefore, you will not always follow the same pattern in counseling.  However, there are some general steps that you will usually pass through.  Some of the items on this list will be going on at the same time, and often you will come back to an earlier step again.


A.  Connecting -- beginning to build a positive relationship with the counselee


B.  Discussing the issue

1.  The counselee tells his story, and explains the help he thinks he needs


2.  You respond with respect, concern, and empathy; asking questions where needed


3.  You may help him to see the situation in a different light


4.  As needed, you will use the opportunity to teach appropriate concepts


C.  Planning

1.  Begin to discuss possible solutions


2.  Set goals to be pursued


3.  Decide on specific action to take


4.  Are there some things that simply need to be accepted, because you cannot change them?


5.  Are there sins to be confessed?


D.  Follow-up

1.  Give support, encouragement, and direction in following through on the plan


2.  Find out the outcome of the actions taken


3.  Make adjustments where needed


E.  Stop:  counseling does not last forever.

From the very beginning of the counseling relationship, it is important to plan for the end.  This will help you to not allow the counselee to grow too dependent on you, and will keep you moving towards your goals.


Crisis Counseling


A crisis is a turning point in life that cannot be avoided.  It can be expected or unexpected; actual (like the death of a loved one) or possible (the possibility of the death of a loved one)


A crisis includes both a danger and an opportunity.  There is danger  because it disrupts life, and can be overwhelming.  Some common dangers in time of crisis include:  confusion, anger, anxiety, discouragement, sorrow, and guilt.  At the same time, a crisis presents an opportunity to change and mature.

1.  Types of Crises

A.  Sudden change or loss

These can include:  loss of loved one, having a serious illness, victim of violence, loss of job, unwanted pregnancy, war,...


B.  Development crisis

This has to do with things that happen through the normal course of life.  Examples are:  starting school or a new job, marriage, becoming a parent,...


C.  Facing unpleasant truths about yourself

This type overlaps with the first two.  It  happens when you discover or come to believe things about yourself that are disturbing.  Examples include such thoughts as:

1.  I am a failure

2.  I will never be successful in this business

3.  I did poorly on my exams and have no idea how I will earn a living

4.  I am a widow

5.  I am going to die

6.  I do not (or cannot) have a happy marriage

7.  I am too old to achieve what I hoped in life

8.  I did not raise my children to know the Lord


2.  Counseling in a Crisis

A.  Goals in crisis counseling

1.  Help the person to cope and return to 'normal' ways of living

2.  Bring peace -- help person to get rid of anxiety and insecurity

3.  Consider Biblical teachings about the crisis, so that the person can become more mature


B.  Some things to do when someone is experiencing a crisis

1.  Make contact -- go to the person; do not wait for him to come to you


2.  Reduce anxiety

a.  Have a calm, relaxed manner -- even in the midst of a difficult situation

b.  Reassure him as much as you can ("There are ways of dealing with this."  "We will make it through this.")

c.  Encourage counselee to talk about how he feels; his fears, emotions, etc.

d.  Show approval when he does something well ("that was a wise choice")

e.  Gently correct wrong attitudes

f.  Quote appropriate Bible verses


3.  Make a plan of action:  What are we going to do now?

"We must do for others what they cannot do for themselves, but we must not do for them what they will not do for themselves.  The problem is finding the wisdom to know the difference" -- Raymond Vath


4.  Give hope

a.  Hope brings relief, because it believes things will get better

b.  Share Bible truths that inspire faith in God

c.  Help the person to begin making positive steps


5.  Follow-up

a.  Make a point to talk with the person some time later

b.  Make contact on anniversaries or special days


Spiritual Problems


Many Christians do not experience the type of abundant life the Lord intends for them to, and the prime reason for this is spiritual.  Often times the person will be convinced that the problem is a person (spouse, parent, employer), a circumstance (loss of job, sickness, conflict), something they lack (money, spouse, parent, education,..) and on and on.  But the root problem is spiritual.  The fact is, even if the problem as they see it is resolved, they still will not experience abundant life.  They will still not walk in love, joy, peace, etc.  They will still feel spiritually "dry."


As a Christian Counselor, you want to help the person with what he thinks is the main problem.  In addition to that, you want to get to the root.  You have to help people spiritually.  This does not mean that everyone who comes with any kind of problem also has a spiritual problem.  However, a lack of joy, love, kindness, etc. indicates that the problem is spiritual.  If the person is just generally unhappy or anxious, you must deal with the spiritual root.


More money will not make an unhappy person happy.  A spouse will not make an unfulfilled person feel fulfilled.  Entering the ministry will not give a confused person purpose.  A job will not give an anxious person the peace of God.  You are to be concerned with these temporal need, but you must not stop there!


1.  Causes of Spiritual Problems

A.  What we are:  being outside of Christ

There is no spiritual life for an unbeliever.  In counseling someone who is not in Christ, the first objective is to lead them to Jesus.


B.  What we do

1.  Sin

This involves both outward actions and inward attitudes.  It is not doing what God has said to do, and doing what He has said not to do.  It is both what we do and think, and is the most common cause of spiritual problems.


2.  Legalism

*Ps 50:8-15;  Is 1:11-20;   Hos 6:6;  Matt 23:23-26;  Gal 3:1-3, 5:1-4; Col 2:20-23


C.  What we think

1.  Pride:  trusting in oneself; being satisfied because of your accomplishments, position, status,...


2.  Bitterness:  Heb 12:14-16

Unforgiveness can lead to bitterness and unhappiness.


3.  Wrong values:  what is really important in life?

People answer this question by the way they spend their money, time, and energies


D.  What we lack (do not have)

1.  Understanding -- not knowing what the Bible really does say about different issues


2.  Nourishment -- spiritual nourishment that comes from time with Him and His Word


3.  Giving -- when we do not give, we are open for spiritual problems


4.  Balance

A balanced life consists of worship, work, rest, and play (finding time to do what you enjoy).  It involves family time, ministry time, work time, and time for yourself.  When people get out of balance in some area, it leads to spiritual problems (even ministers!).


5.  Commitment

Jesus commands us to take up our cross daily (Lk 9:23-26)


6.  Simplicity

Lack of simplicity refers to a life that is full of the desire for things.  Greed and the need always to have more hinder us from growing spiritually


7.  Holy Spirit's power

A person who is not submitting to the regenerating work of the Spirit will suffer spiritually


8.  Body life – being part of a church fellowship

It is harmful to attempt to live for Christ in this world without being connected to a life-giving body of believers.  Doing it on your own will lead to many problems.


E.  What we experience:  Suffering or blessing

1.  Believers often forsake the Lord when difficult times come.  However, God would rather we allow Him to use those hard times to help us grow in character


2.  Believers also often forsake the Lord when good times come.  The very blessings given by God have led some astray.


F.  What we fight

We are in a spiritual battle, and we have a real enemy.  Forces of darkness work against the people of God, trying to lead them away from Jesus.  Spiritual enemies must be fought with spiritual weapons (see 2 Cor 10:3-5)


2.  Helping People with Spiritual Problems

Some things will remain the same as with all counseling.  You will need to demonstrate acceptance, concern, and empathy.  You follow all the basics of counseling.  In addition, you will want to especially consider the following:


A.  Prayer

Pray on your own before and after counseling.  Spend some time praying for each counselee you are working with.  In addition, pray with the counselee during the session together.


B.  Modeling:  leading by example

-- Jn 13:14-15;  1 Cor 11:1;  Phil 3:17, 4:9;  1 Pet 5:3


C.  Exhorting

This is a spiritual gift which helps you to give strength to those who are weak, to win those who are wavering in their faith, to support those who are going through hard times, and to encourage those who are anxious or insecure.


D.  Teaching:  Very important to follow the Ezra model of teaching (Ezra 7:10)

1.  Counselees need not only to know what the Bible says, but they need to know how to apply it in their particular life and circumstance.


2.  This teaching must come from both your study of the Word, and your experience of living the Word in your own life.


E.  Expelling demons

This ministry is covered in depth in the SPIRITUAL WARFARE course.  For now, it is important to realize that in some counseling (not all!) there will be a need to expel demons as part of the ministry to that person.  Getting rid of demons is not the end, however.  You still must continue with the other counseling tools learned in this course (see Lk 11:24-26).  It is very important to provide counseling to people who have been delivered.




1.  Introduction

A.  Definition:

Self-esteem is what one thinks about himself in terms of his worth, his competence, and his significance.


B.  Someone with poor self-esteem compares himself with others in a negative light.


C.  The way to a positive self-esteem is to not compare ourselves with others at all (2 Cor 10:12)


2.  The Bible and Self-Esteem

A.  Common misunderstanding

Many people think that having low self-esteem is holy.  They confuse this with humility.  However, a poor self-esteem is rooted in comparing oneself with others.  It is a form of self-centeredness.  Genuine humility, on the other hand, is not focused on self at all.  It is an awareness of your absolute dependence upon God.


B.  The Bible and human worth

1.  We are created in the image of God

2.  Even after the Fall, God sees us as valuable (see Ps 8:3-8).  He proved this by sending Jesus to die for us.  You are worth Jesus to God!


C.  The Bible and sin

Sin breaks our relationship with God, but it does not make us of no value.  We are not worthy of His love, but because of His love we are not worthless.


D.  The Bible and pride

1.  Pride is a strong desire to win the notice and praise of others


2.  It is also an arrogant view of oneself in comparison with others -- it is thinking you are better than other people.


3.  It is an attempt to get for yourself the glory that is due God


4.  It is failing to realize your complete need for God (Jn 15:5)


E.  The Bible and loving yourself

1.  The Bible assumes that we love ourselves (Mat 22:39; Eph 5:28-29)


2.  We can love ourselves because God loves us


3.  Causes of Poor Self-Esteem

A.  Bad theology -- not understanding the Biblical view of human value


B.  Sin and guilt

We are in fact guilty of sin and many failures.  This knowledge can lead to poor self-esteem when we do not believe in and receive the forgiveness of God.


C.  Past experiences

1.  People who do not seem to achieve much in life are more likely to have poor self-esteem


2.  When others expect us to fail, it can lead to poor self-esteem


D.  Relationship with parents

1.  The basis for self-esteem is generally formed at a young age


2.  Parents can build positive or negative self-esteem.  Some things that parents often do that can lead to poor self-esteem include:

a.  Criticize, shame, or reject often

b.  Set unrealistic goals for the child

c.  Express that you think the child will fail

d.  Punishing more harshly than the offense deserves

e.  Imply that the child is a bother or stupid or unable to do well

f.  Avoid hugging and showing affection

g.  Overprotect or dominate the child


E.  Unrealistic expectations:  consider the following harmful attitudes:

1.  I must meet other people's expectations and standards in order to be accepted


2.  If I fail to reach my goals or expectations, I deserve to be shamed or punished


F.  Wrong understanding of what brings value

1.  The world (and often the church) teaches that your value is based on such things as

a.  intelligence

b.  physical appearance

c.  education

d.  money

e.  power

f.  position

g.  achievements


2.  The Bible teaches that you are valuable because of who you are, not what you have or what you do.


4.  Effects of Poor Self-Esteem

A.  Lack of peace


B.  Low confidence


C.  Isolating yourself -- not reaching out to people and enjoying relationships


D.  Conflict with other people

If you are always comparing yourself with others, it is very difficult to truly care for them.  People with poor self-esteem often feel better about themselves when someone else fails.


E.  Depression


F.  An unhealthy drive to get power or control over others


G.  Inability to accept compliments


5.  Counseling People with Poor Self-Esteem

A.  Understand that self-esteem is something that builds over a long period of time.  It is unlikely that it can be changed around quickly.


B.  Give genuine acceptance and approval

This must be genuine.  If you are too eager to give praise or approval, the person will know it is not real.  It is best to give mild but sincere approval for a clear achievement.


C.  Seek understanding

Help the counselee to think about the causes of the poor self-esteem.  When did it begin?  You may need to go back into the past a long way to discover such things.  Always encourage the counselee in this that he need not be a prisoner to his past.


D.  Encourage him to share honestly and openly about his feelings and thoughts about himself


E.  Teach the Biblical view of self-worth.


F.  Teach new skills.  These may include things like:

1.  Avoid dwelling on the negative side of things.  Be positive.

2.  Give encouragement, compliments, and respect to others

3.  Meditate on God's Word -- especially passages that deal with who you are in Christ


G.  Teach Counselee how to deal with sin


Counseling and AIDS


1.  Effect of AIDS

A.  Emotional difficulties people with a terminal illness face

1.  Anxiety

2.  Depression

3.  Hopelessness


B.  Specific problems due to the nature of AIDS

1.  Guilt

2.  Embarrassment

3.  Strain over knowing how the sickness effects your family

4.  Rejection or being avoided


C.  AIDS and the judgment of God

1.  Not all people who live sexually immoral lives get AIDS -- many seem to prosper


2.  Some people who get AIDS are moral and even godly people


3.  It is better not to assume people are being judged. 


2.  Counseling the AIDS Patient

A.  The counselor

1.  Do not fear AIDS


2.  Be willing to serve and comfort in the midst of pain and death


3.  Be informed about AIDS

a.  Know how it is spread -- and how it is not spread

b.  Know community resources available for helping patient

c.  Work with a doctor to provide treatment and medicines

d.  Know typical symptoms and stages of the disease


4.  Be willing to discuss sexual matters openly


5.  Do not be judgmental or unforgiving -- but do not compromise the truth, either


6.  Do not fear to get emotionally involved with someone with AIDS and his family


B.  Goals in counseling

1.  Encourage patient and family to openly talk about their feelings, fears, etc.


2.  Be aware of common misunderstandings concerning AIDS, and provide good information


3.  Help the patient to focus on the future

a.  Discuss death openly

1)  Talk about salvation and eternity

2)  Lead patient in forgiving and seeking forgiveness

3)  Talk about saying good-bye to children; family

b.  Talk about how life can still be meaningful


4.  Encourage involvement with other people

People often withdraw from people, but this can be very harmful.  Help them to overcome fear, shame, or whatever would keep them from positive relationships.  Show them the value of staying connected to people.


5.  Keep informed about the medical status of the patient -- work with doctors and care-givers


6.  Urge patient to not spread the disease


3.  AIDS and Healing

A.  Does God heal AIDS?

1.  Obviously, He does

2.  See the following:  Mat 10:7-8;  Mk 16:17-18Jer 32:17;


B.  Praying for healing

1.  Come with a pure heart -- Ps 66:18

Includes having pure motives and being free from unconfessed sin

2.  Make a relationship with the Lord a priority -- 1 Jn 5:14-15

3.  Surrender completely to the Lord:  1 Jn 3:22

4.  Believe that God will do it

Even if you have prayed for many who have not been healed, keep praying and believing!


C.  Pastoral concerns

1.  Teach the Church to not be judgmental towards someone who is not healed

Immature believers often assume they know the reason someone is not healed.  They may blame it on lack of faith, or sin, or something else.  However, they usually do not really know the reason.   Even if they do know the reason, a judgmental attitude is not helpful.


2.  Why are some not healed?

a.  Lack of faith (Mat 13:58; 17:14-21; Jam 1:6-7)

b.  Sin not dealt with (Jam 5:16)

c.  Not God's timing

d.  Unknown reasons -- we do not know everything!

1)  2 Tim 4:20;  2 Cor 12:7-10

2)  It is not important to know everything.  Simply trust God, and continue to love and support the patient through everything.


3.  Fear of death is not a valid reason to seek healing.

a.  Praying from a position of fear makes faith impossible.

b.  Even when praying for healing, seek to be sure the person is prepared for death.


4.  Pray for healing, and at the same time be a support to the one who is dying.

It is necessary to teach the believers about these issues, so that they can help you in loving and supporting the patient.  Show them how to pray in faith.  Also show them how to face the reality of death in faith.


4.  Living above the Pain

Is it possible for an AIDS victim to live a life of contentment and meaning?  To live above the difficult circumstances of life; above the pain, rejection, fear, and misery?  For the believer in Jesus, it is possible.  Consider the Biblical characters of Joseph, Daniel, and Paul.  These are men who went through hard times, but their faith in the Lord sustained them.


A.  Perspective:  Having an eternal perspective can lift someone above circumstances.

1.  There is a life after death, and this is full of hope and promise for the believer

See Jn 5:24; 1 Cor 15:42-44, 50-57;  Rev 21:3-7

2.  The wonders of heaven make any earthly problems seem small:    2 Cor 4:16-18;  Rom 8:18


B.  Preparation

It is not enough to know that there is life after death;  we must be prepared for it.  The only way to do this is to make Jesus the Lord of your life (Jn 1:12).


C.  Reality of Heaven

1.  Many believers do not live as though heaven is real.  They hold on to earthly goods and pleasures, as though that is what life is all about.  See Phil 3:18-21.


2.  Without the reality of heaven in our hearts, we will not be able to help those facing death.


3.  Relatives and friends also need to be taught about the reality of heaven, and the assurance of the believer in Jesus.


D.  Support from family and friends

1.  Strong support from those who are important to the patient enables him to overcome the fear of rejection and being abandoned.


2.  This support must come from the moment the person knows he is HIV positive.


E.  Be genuine

1.  Patients are very sensitive, so you must be careful about what you say and your facial expressions.


2.  Patients can easily discern who truly cares and who does not.  You cannot 'fake' it.


3.  If you promise to pray for the patient -- be sure to pray with them also.


4.  Light conversation and other forms of relating helps the patient to feel important and maintain his sense of self-worth


5.  Simple deeds such as preparing food, trimming hair or nails, or giving a pillow are helpful.


6.  Smiling and giving direct eye-contact reveals true concern


F.  Read Scripture

The Psalms especially are full of encouragement for people who are suffering.


G.  Spend time listening

1.  What is their mood today?  How are they feeling?


2.  Determine what is best for the patient;  do not just fulfill your agenda



"It is this sensitivity to a patient's emotional and spiritual needs that differentiates the welcome visitor from the one the patient has to endure." -- Derrick Kiboneka


H.  Affection

A minister tells the story of a visit with an AIDS patient:

Once while I was praying for a patient I had an image (spiritual impression) of me hugging the patient.  Being conservative, I interpreted this to mean I was so show some visible affection not necessarily a hug.  Therefore, I settled for a warm handshake.  Later this lady had a visit from a couple from our church.  The wife, on entering the hospital room, went straight to the young lady and hugged her, sores and all.  This left a lasting impression on the patient which she mentioned as a memorable experience.  I learned that the Lord had actually wanted me to hug the patient.  Will you give a hug in Jesus' Name?


I.  Spiritual support:  This is the most important of all

1.  "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad" -- Prov 12:25


2.  Prayer, Scripture reading, and counseling all help to lift a person above his circumstances


3.  Ask the patient for prayer requests



Pre-Marital Counseling


Many people resist the idea of pre-marital counseling.  They assume that "marriage problems come to other people, but they will not come to us."  However, many couples are simply not able to deal with the storms that will confront their marriage.  As a result, they live together without experiencing the fulfillment, security, and joy that a strong marriage can bring.  For this reason, many ministers require pre-marital counseling before performing a wedding.  It has been said that we spend so much time and resources planning our wedding, but very little on planning our marriage.


1.  Reasons for Pre-marital Counseling

A.  Unrealistic expectations

Through counseling, couples can express and discuss what they expect from marriage.  When one person expects one thing, and the other something else, problems can develop.  If these are seen during counseling, they can be resolved ahead of time.


B.  Personal immaturity

1.  Someone who is not responsible before the wedding will not be responsible after


2.  Immature people tend to be self-centered


3.  Counseling can uncover areas of irresponsibility and selfishness that can put a strain on the marriage.


4.  Couples can be taught:

a.  How to resolve differences

b.  How to be sensitive to the other person

c.  The importance of meeting the other person's needs (and how to do so)


C.  Changing roles

1.  If the couple do not have the same ideas about who is responsible for what in the marriage, problems can develop.


2.  Biblical teachings:

a.  The husband must love his wife "as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" -- Eph 5:25

b.  The husband must lead the family as a servant and with wisdom

c.  The wife must submit to and respect the husband  (Eph 5:22,24,33)


3.  Husbands and wives are equal in importance, but they do have different responsibilities


4.  These roles should be discussed and agreed upon


D.  Helping the couple stay sexually pure

1.  Sometimes believers have sex before marriage.


2.  The Bible calls sex outside of marriage fornication, and it is sin (Rom 1:29; 1 Cor 5:1, 6:13; 10:8; Gal 5:19;  Eph 5:3;  Col 3:5;  1 Thess 4:3


3.  Discuss these issues with honesty, and teach the couple how to stay pure.


4.  Encourage the couple to be honest with each other about their past sexual history


E.  Circumstances that can lead to unhappiness

Sometimes a counselor will notice problems that need to be dealt with before marriage.  These may include serious immaturity, emotional problems, no financial security, sinful lifestyle, different cultural backgrounds, differences in education, knowing each other for a short period of time, etc.  Sometimes these issues can be resolved in counseling; other times the counselor will advise that the marriage be postponed or even canceled.


2.  Purposes in Pre-marital Counseling

A.  Determining if couple is ready for marriage


B.  Teaching Biblical principles for marriage

May refer to the following:  1 Cor 7 and 13;  Eph 5:21-6:4;  Col 3:16-21;  1 Pet 3:1-7


C.  Helping the couple to evaluate the relationship

What are some strong points, and what needs more work?  What immaturities need to be overcome?


D.  Helping the couple to develop good communication skills


E.  Showing the couple possible areas of stress, and how they can deal with it

These can include many things, including:  in-law relationships, finance, different friends, sex, emotions, etc.


F.  Providing information

This might include topics such as family planning.


3.  Counseling Format

A.  Number of sessions:  decide on this beforehand


B.  Begin well in advance of the planned wedding -- several months


C.  Be flexible according to the needs and issues faced by each couple


D.  One possible plan

1.  Session 1

a.  Talk about purposes and goals of counseling

b.  Encourage couple to talk about themselves.  Focus on listening for now, and resist the urge to begin dealing with problems that you see.

c.  Ask why they want to get married

d.  Discuss expectations

e.  Ask questions about their spiritual lives, and how that effects their relationship


2.  Session 2

a.  Teaching about the Biblical view of marriage (Gen 2:18-24; Matt 19:3-9)

b.  Give Biblical principles of marriage (see above point 2-B)

c.  Do not lecture or preach, but make this a discussion

Have them respond to what you say.  What do they think about these Scriptures?  What questions do they have?


3.  Sessions 3-4

a.  Consider some practical issues of daily living with someone

1)  What do you expect to get out of marriage that single life does not offer?

2)  How is the couple different from each other?  How are they the same?  How will this effect the marriage?

3)  What are the families' attitude towards the marriage?

4)  Do they have a financial plan?  Who will be responsible for this?

5)  How will they make decisions?

6)  What are their attitudes toward children?  How many?  How about philosophies of raising and disciplining children?

7)  What does it mean for the man to be the spiritual leader?  How does that work out in practice in their relationship?


b.  There are many things which can be brought up.  The discussions will not be completed during counseling, but the couple can continue them on their own time.  Ask about this at the next session.


c.  As you discuss these issues, notice how the couple communicates.  Use this as a time of modeling and teaching good communication skills.  Communication is a skill that is best developed by practicing.


4.  Session 5

a.  Continue the above discussions


b.  Also talk about the sexual relationship

1)  Family planning questions

2)  Responsibility of husband and wife in meeting sexual needs (1 Cor 7:3-5)

3)  Spiritual implications of relationship:  becoming one flesh  (see Gen 2:24; Eph 5:31-32)

4)  Making meeting the other person's needs your priority -- serving your spouse through the sexual relationship; not selfishly thinking only of yourself


c.  If this is a difficult subject for you, or if for whatever reason it would not be wise for you to counsel this couple about such matters, refer them to a godly couple who can help.  One of the Biblical responsibilities of older people is to teach younger ones about family life (see Tit 2:1-4).


E.  Follow-up

Plan another session a few months after the wedding.  Check up on issues that were raised in pre-marital counseling, and see how things are going.



Marriage Counseling


1.  Some Causes of Marriage Problems

A.  Other issues:  often times marriage problems are just symptoms of something else, such as selfishness, bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, sin, etc.  We call them "Marriage Problems," but they often are actually just unresolved personal maturity problems that show up in the marriage.


B.  Bad communication

1.  Probably the most common problem in marriages


2.  Communication involves both spoken and non-verbal

If your spoken and non-verbal communication do not agree, you will have a problem.  For example, if you tell your wife that she is the most important thing in your life under God, but you never spend any time with her, she is receiving two different messages.


C.  Tension in some area of the relationship.  Possibilities include:

1.  Roles -- a disagreement on who is responsible for what

2.  Sex -- differences in desire and expectations

3.  Not being flexible -- one or both not willing to change

4.  Spiritual -- are they both believers?  Do they share the same degree of commitment to the Lord?


D.  Pressures from outside

1.  Family (in-laws)

2.  Children -- sometimes they can bring division to a couple if not careful

3.  Crises

4.  Job demands

5.  Finance


E.  Boredom

Some people complain of boredom in marriage, so they try to look outside for excitement and fulfillment.  It is good to keep 'romance' in your marriage.


2.  Counseling for Marriage Problems

A.  Attitude of the counselor

Are you overly critical of those who experience marriage problems?  Do you think it is a sign of weakness for them to come to you for help?


B.  Special concerns in counseling couples

1.  Comparing -- do not allow someone to compare you to their spouse


2.  Should you counsel them alone or together?

a.  Often the best answer is 'both'

b.  May have issues which can be helped through individual counseling

c.  May help you to see things in a different light to see them alone

d.  It is a relationship problem, so the two will have to be together at least some of the time to work things out


3.  Time limit:  stages in marriage counseling

a.  Three stages:

1)  Evaluation -- what is the true state of the marriage?  What problems need to be dealt with?

2)  Problem-solving -- practical steps to bringing about a solution

3)  Ending -- lead the couple to the point where they no longer need you

b.  Not best to continue counseling for months and months -- set limits


4.  Working with another counselor

a.  A husband and wife can make a wonderful counseling team

b.  Must be sure to model a good relationship


C.  Set goals together

Ask, "How would you like your marriage to be different?" or "What do you hope to get out of counseling?"


D.  Focus on the People

1.  Seek to understand the couple as individuals.  Do not simply look at their problems, but learn about what is important to them, their feelings, frustrations, etc.  See things from their perspective.


2.  Understand that very rarely are marriage problems the fault of only one.  Try to see both sides, and help them to see the other side also.


E.  Face the problems

After getting a good grasp of the problems, begin moving towards finding a solution.


F.  Focus on process

This focuses not simply on what the couple disagrees about,  but on how they deal with the disagreement.  Ask yourself the following questions:


1.  How does the couple communicate?

2.  How do they handle disagreements?

3.  What do they do when they understand things differently?

4.  Do they build one another up?

5.  Does one dominate the other?


Watch the couple as they relate with each other.  Point out what you observe, and show them how they could communicate better.  Maybe there are things they could practice between sessions.


G.  Getting God involved

1.  Marriage is more than anyone can handle alone:  We need God!


2.  God's love (see Rom 5:51 Cor 13:4-8)

a.  More powerful and enduring than romantic love


b.  Love is unconditional

Love spouse whether they deserve it or not


c.  Not looking for something in return

Do not love in order to change your spouse.  This will result in frustration.  Love because God's love for her is in you.  God commands you to love your spouse.


d.  Lays down right for justice when hurt:  forgiving


e.  No marriage is hopeless when you invite God in.


3.  Pray about ways to get God's power and grace and love into the relationship


4.  Keep doing what is right.... encourage them to fight for their marriage  (Gal 6:7-10)



Financial Counseling


1.  Biblical Teachings on Finance

A.  Money has limits

1.  It is temporary -- Ps 49:10-12; Prov 23:4-5;  1 Tim 6:7

2.  It does not satisfy or bring happiness -- Ecc 5:10

3.  We should therefore be content with what we have -- Heb 13:5;  Phil 4:11-12


B.  Money and possessions are provided by God -- Mat 6:25-34;  Phil 4:19

It is very important to distinguish between needs and wants.


C.  Money can be harmful -- Mat 6:24;  Mk 8:36;  1 Tim 6:6-11


D.  Money should be managed wisely.  It should be...

1.  Gained honestly -- Prov 11:1, 17:23, 28:20

2.  Invested carefully

3.  Spent wisely

a.  Keep out of debt if at all possible (Rom 13:6-8; Prov 22:7)

b.  Do not spend money in a wasteful way

4.  Shared with joy -- Prov 3:9, 19:17;  1 Cor 16:2;  2 Cor 8:14-15, 9:7


2.  Causes of Financial Problems

A.  Wrong values

1.  Materialism -- Lk 12:15


2.  Greed (envy, covetousness):  always a desire for more, even if others are made poorer as a result of you getting more -- Ex 20:17;  Rom 13:9


3.  Desire to get rich quickly -- Prov 20:21;  28:20,22


4.  Pride and resentment

The rich easily become proud; and the poor often resent those who have more


Financial problems are caused more by wrong attitudes than by not having enough.


B.  Bad financial decisions

1.  Buying things you do not need

2.  Bad investments -- attempting to get rich quickly

3.  Laziness


C.  Not having a budget (a spending plan)


D.  Not giving  --  Prov 3:9, 14:21, 19:17;  Mal 3:10;  Lk 3:11, 12:16-21;  Gal 6:10


3.  Counseling Someone with Financial Problems

A.  Help counselee see the problem and be determined to find a solution

1.  God does supply our needs, and it is possible to take better care of your finances


2.  Emphasize that the solution depends less on how much you earn than it does on your attitudes and how you handle money.


B.  Seek God's wisdom together

God has all you need, and He knows your need:  Mat 6:25-34;  1 Pet 5:7


C.  Teach Biblical principles

See the above notes (section II) and the BSM course Financial Stewardship


D.  Help counselee develop and keep a financial plan

1.  Get the facts

Write out his assets (what he has:  salary, possessions, land,...) and his expenses


2.  Establish realistic financial goals


3.  Set priorities  (remember to decide what is a need and what is a want)


4.  Develop a budget:  a spending plan that helps you to manage and control spending

This includes making a plan of what you intend, as well as recording how you actually spend


E.  As a counselor, be sure to keep good track of your own finances.