5 Steps for a Gospel-Empowered Ministry of Counseling
When the Lord called me to direct women's ministries at my church, I had no blueprint or past experience to lean upon. This was good in that it helped me recognize my complete and utter need for God's Spirit to lead, provide, and empower me for a role I was incapable of doing apart from Him.
But a lack of experience also presented challenges that only time, experience, and godly counsel have helped me navigate. And nothing has reminded me more of my need for wisdom, discernment, power, and the help of my leaders than the women who have come to me for counsel. Because while I have never been academically trained in this area, the reality is that many women look to me for counsel.
Thus, as one whose Personal Trainer is the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ, through His sufficient Word, here are five ways we can counsel women in alignment with God's purposes and the mission of His Church.
1. Define your vision and mission for gospel-empowered ministry to women.
Before we can even begin to discuss the role of counseling, we must determine God's purposes for ministry to the women in our church. I say this because, unless you clarify this and establish goals and strategies that will help you accomplish this, your time will likely be driven by women who seek counsel. To that end, here are three suggestions.
- Seek the Lord's wisdom through prayer, God's Word, and trusted resources. Two books I highly recommend are Women's Ministry in the Local Church (J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt) and Word-Filled Women's Ministry (Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman).
- Get direction and clarity on your leaders' expectations.
- Regularly evaluate and realign your time and resources toward accomplishing your overall mission.
2. Remember that you can't give to others what you don't own yourself.
It's helpful to keep in mind that anything useful we have to offer women will ultimately flow out of our personal relationship with Christ. All ministry, whether it's training leaders, establishing programs, speaking, writing, or offering counsel to women, will find its source of power and effectiveness through the Spirit's ongoing work in our own lives. This means:
- Our time in God's Word and prayer must be vibrant and growing.
- We must surround ourselves with godly women who will faithfully pray and encourage us.
- We must learn to preach the gospel to ourselves before we try to proclaim it to others.
3. What many women think they need is not what they most need.
If your church is anything like mine, most women are struggling with something. If you've been in leadership any length of time, you know that the needs range from those who simply feel lonely and disconnected to women who are in crisis and need immediate care.
How can we best serve women who have given their emotions more authority than God's Word? What do we have to say to a woman whose husband has been unfaithful, a single who feels forgotten?
It's easy to feel inadequate for the role we have been assigned and, in fact, we are! Yet through the power of God's Spirit and His Word, we are equipped and empowered to give the one thing that every woman needs, whether she is lonely or bleeding emotionally—the gospel.
Years ago a young woman came to my office with tears streaming down her face and shared her husband's unfaithfulness to her. After listening and weeping with her, I found myself without words of comfort. It was in that very moment that the Spirit prompted me to remind her of the truth and hope of the gospel.
As I recounted God's sovereignty over all our circumstances, the problem of sin that's at work in all of our hearts, the love of God who sent His Son to rescue us from the wrath of God that we deserve, and the grace of God that has awakened us to see our need for Him, the ridiculous thought that, This is not what she wanted to hear, jumped into my mind and caused me to stop speaking.
Mumbling something like, "This might not be what you want to hear right now," she said something that forever changed my understanding of the gospel's power. With tears streaming down her face, she said, "Actually, this is the most helpful thing I have heard in two weeks!"
The gospel is the only true hope we have to offer.
4. Four things we can do.
Ladies, whether you have been professionally trained or not, here are four gifts you can give the women who come to you:
- Listen and hear their story asking clarifying questions. (This allows us to identify their suffering in light of what Christ suffered for us.)
- Bring the gospel to bear on their situation by reminding them of who they are in Christ and what He has accomplished on their behalf. (This is the opportunity to ask questions that can reveal where sin is at work in them, point out what they do and do not have power to control, and remind them of God's sovereignty over their circumstances.)
- Encourage them to leverage their pain for a more faith-filled walk with Christ. (Here you might suggest a small group gospel-centered Bible study, a mature woman to meet with,Revive Our Hearts' resources, professional counseling, or—in rare cases—calling upon the civil authorities put in place by God for our protection.)
- Pray using Scripture that proclaims God's power, goodness, and authority over their lives.
5. Rest in the Lord's faithful care for your women.
It's easy to carry women's burdens home with us. And sometimes that is simply part of the cost of ministry. But here are four things that will bring us peace, whether ministering to our own family members or the women in our church.
- God is God, and we are not.
- He ordains our circumstances to accomplish His purposes for our eternal joy.
- Our job is not to rescue women but to point them to the Redeemer.
- Every thought or burden is an opportunity to pray, knowing that God loves His precious daughters even more than we do.
May you find great joy in using your leadership role as an opportunity to proclaim the realities of the gospel, which has power to set us free even in the darkest of circumstances.
by Linda Green
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