chime in: setting limits

>> July 13, 2009

Sandra, a reader and Clutch contributor, wants you to chime in:

I don't know if other pastors' wives deal with this, but I would like to know how their husbands handle counseling. A couple approached my husband today about getting weekly counseling sessions from him. This will make weekly sessions with three couples! Do other pastor husbands counsel or do they have someone else who does it? When do they fit it in? If it's "after hours" do they charge church members? Non-church members? I want to be able to help these couples, but it's beginning to get overwhelming!


Indy July 13, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer,  July 13, 2009 at 1:54 PM  

I think our church handles it great! We have a counselor/counseling ministry that partners with our church and whom we refer people to who need counseling. Our church supports his ministry financially as well as covers any of his charges, especially for our members and regular attenders. It works great for us as a smaller church, because we don't have to hire a full-time staff person to do the counseling but get the benefits of having a trained professional to refer our people to.

Just because a man is in a pastoral role does not necissarly mean he is equipped to counsel, especially on heavy issues. My husband is the associate pastor at our church and although he loves people, he will admit that he doesn't particularly enjoy counseling nor does he feel its in his giftedness and it has been really freeing for him to have that resource to send our people to.

Sarah July 13, 2009 at 2:04 PM  

My husband enjoys counseling and is gifted in that area, however, because he is not certified as a family counselor he typically focuses more on premarital counseling rather than dealing with deep-seated issues. He regularly has as many as 4 or 5 couples in weekly premarital counseling sessions, in addition to between 5 and 10 personal bible studies each week.

He does do marital or relational or personal counseling upon request, but often as a bridge to get someone started before referring them to a licensed Christian counselor who can meet their needs. This approach also protects him from potential legal issues since he is not a licensed counselor, when dealing with people who have challenging issues.

He never charges, members or non-members, and typically turns any checks or donations resulting from counseling back into the mission/evangelism fund of the church. He sees counseling as part of his call to ministry, even off-hours - since he feels that ministry is more of a constant lifestyle than a 9-5 kind of job. He feels that there's never a time when he's "off" from doing ministry.

Indy July 13, 2009 at 2:47 PM  

I feel that counseling is one of the pastoral duties our husbands have been called to fulfill especially if they are gifted in that area.

I would encourage you NOT to charge to do it as an offering to the Lord.

May I suggest starting a sroup for married couples? This would be an excellent resource/tool to your husband's ministry.

dpm July 13, 2009 at 3:00 PM  

I think Sandra's question is more about setting limits moreso than, should her PH do counseling (he already does). Like anything else in ministry (and in life) there have to be boundaries and limits, otherwise, people will bleed you (physically and emotionally) dry.

I like the idea of starting a group for married couples, though some people really need the benefit of one-on-one counseling.

I suggest figuring out, on paper, how many hours he's willing to dedicate to counseling and anyone else gets referred out, either to a Christian counselor with whom the church has a partnership or a licensed counselor in the congregation that is willing to take it on as his/her ministry.

Lauren July 13, 2009 at 3:31 PM  

This is also where the church leadership has an opportunity to protect your PH from burnout and protect your family. Maybe he could mention to the leadership that this is a lot of counseling on top of his other responsibilities. They can set limits, protecting both him and the flock as a whole. While these marital issues are important and probably time-sensitive, perhaps it would be better for him either to refer or to set a maximum number of hours for counseling per week. Then if a couple comes to him a few days after the other couples, he can say, "I meet my maximum quota for time spent on counseling. The leadership and I have an agreeement, but I will be happy to refer you..." so no one looks like the bad guy.

Just a suggestion.
Praying for you!

Sandra July 13, 2009 at 5:04 PM  

Thanks for the encouragement and ideas ladies!

Anonymous,  July 13, 2009 at 9:59 PM  

Great question! I'll have to ask my husband for specifics, but I'm pretty certain he doesn't see anyone on a weekly basis. However, he does a LOT of counseling. If he feels a person or couple needs weekly counseling he will refer them to a local professional. Personally, my husband and I both find relief in our counseling sessions from local professionals, so we encourage people to seek help outside of the pastorate!

Anonymous,  July 14, 2009 at 4:19 PM  

I would agree with heartreflections answer... my husband counseling and normally he's seeing someone at some point each week, if not a few appointments but anything that is ongoing he refers, not to get out of it, but so they can receive what they need best...

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