I’m Certified, Now What?

I recently attended the National Association of Nouthetic Counselor's Annual Conference where a large group of people received their certification as Biblical Counselors. A significant number of new counselors are women which is a wonderful thing for our pastors and churches.

As the Executive Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center, I was thrilled to be on the platform in front of thousands of people and receive our certificate as a training center from Randy Patton. 

Later, I was approached by several women; some wanted to congratulate us, and others wanted to talk and ask questions. In the end, I had the same essential conversation with several women. Those that were certified said it gave them hope to see a woman directing a biblical counseling training center.  Others said they didn’t know what they could do with certification since their church doesn’t have a biblical counseling center, and their pastors would not allow them to counsel.   

I reminded those dear ladies to remember that biblical counseling is discipleship. It is the one-to-one ministering of the Word of God to a person in need of wisdom, insight, and understanding.  It is making application of biblical truth to the heart of a person who is looking for help to common to man problem (1 Corinthians 10:13) in her life. Your ministry to other women may be informal and take place around your kitchen table or from the booth of your favorite coffee shop. For the cost of lunch or a cup of gourmet coffee you can affect the lives of a woman and possibly her entire family. 

There are many places women can serve as discipleship counselors.  Women who have received their certification work in Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Rescue Missions, as lay-counselors in their churches, and sometimes as part of a church staff.  

If your desire is to work or serve in the church, you might begin to attend women's Bible studies and definitely let the Women's Ministry leadership know that you have received your certification.  I suggest you offer to teach or facilitate a women’s Bible study as I did when I was working toward certification. It didn’t take long for women to ask to speak with me privately as they struggled with issues the Bible raised.  They brought marriage and family problems, submission, unequally yoked relationships, rebellious children, financial problems, and many other issues and it gave me the perfect opportunity to put what I was learning to use. 

Speak with your pastor and offer to do biblical discipleship with the women in church.   In our litigious society many churches are fearful of using words like "counseling." You might also take this opportunity to let you pastor know that you believe the Scriptures are sufficient to address the problems of life. It is best to have oversight from your church and to develop a cooperative relationship with the leadership, especially as a woman.

You could request a meeting with your pastor and other church leadership to explain what biblical counseling truly is. Write up a short mission statement that outlines what you would do and equally as important, what you wouldn’t be doing.  Be very clear that you would not practice medicine or do therapy, but instead minister the Word of God to warn those who are unruly, help those who have fallen into a pit, and comfort those who are in need (Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).  Show them the materials you would use, and give them an opportunity to examine your homework pieces.

I suggest you tell them about the mission and goals of NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) or the IABC (International Association of Biblical Counselors).  Be prepared to answer any questions they may have and bring along selected paperwork from the organizations to leave with them after your meeting.

Explain the training process: the educational component, reading, theology, and the counseling and theology exams you had to take.  Let them know you have observed counseling and have gone through a practicum of 50 hours of supervised counseling by a highly qualified certified counselor.

Despite your best efforts in presentation, there are churches that will refuse to recognize the importance of this one-anothering ministry.  My encouragement is to persist in prayer for change on the part of the leadership of the church (Proverbs 21:1) and wait. Nothing will invalidate your ministry faster than rebelling against the authority of the church and going forward without their blessing.  Proceeding that way will also reveal issues within the counselor that must be addressed biblically.

There are things you can do to serve while waiting and praying. If you are a good writer, consider submitting an article for publication or be a guest blogger for another biblical counseling organization.  Some bloggers will solicit posts if they are going on vacation or to a conference. 

Join every like-minded organization you can find such as the Association of Biblical Counselors and subscribe to the news feeds from the Biblical Counseling Coalition and Christian Counselors Education Foundation.  Make connections with other like -minded people through internet forums like LinkedIn and Facebook, and make it known that you are looking for opportunities to serve in biblical counseling.  Continue to learn and grow and change and take every opportunity the Lord brings you to disciple and serve.

The best advertisement for what you do is changed hearts and changed lives. Talk about what the Lord is doing in your life and the lives of those you teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness. My encouragement is to persevere.  With prayer, patience and respectful appeals your pastor may change his view and allow you to serve in the church. Even if he doesn’t, I hope you can see that there are ministry opportunities all around you! Serve the people the Lord brings into your life every day.