There are around 100 new students this year at my seminary who are seeking a Master’s Degree in Divinity. Many of them have concentrations in theology, leadership, apologetics, chaplaincy. So many in fact, that I am the only new M-Div student this year that is pursuing a concentration in pastoral counseling. I’m writing this to tell you that I find that to be a crying shame.
I can see the draw of a leadership concentration. We need good leaders who also happen to be in a pastoring role. I love apologetics. We have got to have evidences for faith in God. We need preachers who specialize in these fields.
But unless you are pastoring a mega-church with the lone responsibility of preaching the best sermon possible on Sunday, and have little to no communication with laypeople, you will find yourself counseling. In the small-medium size church that I plan to find myself serving in some day, I will be be surrounded by people that depend on my counseling skills.
It kills me that at many smaller churches across the country we offer, even advertise, counseling from our pastors when they have little, if any, counseling experience and training. Honestly, how dare we do that? When we do this we are misleading our laypeople.
If you plan to potentially find yourself serving as the lone pastor of your congregation, you will need to wear the counseling hat at times. Every church offers pre-marital counseling. We need to be equipped and ready to counsel struggling couples, hopeless teens, broken mothers, resentful fathers. What a service to offer to our congregation. What a hope we can offer. Counseling courses, potentially as powerful and important as anything, can make us better listeners. It can help us be “carers”. There is incredible value in this. Christ was a comforter and a counselor. He healed bodies, but he also healed hearts.
So take your leadership classes. Goodness knows many people pursue an M-Div because they are natural born leaders. If you are passionate about defending the faith, please take apologetics in seminary. The world could use a few more Lewises, Chestertons, and Tozers. You should have a solid theology. We need to preach the Bible, and preach it well.
But. You should learn to love people. Counseling courses will slow you down. I promise that you will not have all the answers in an entry level counseling course. You will be presented with the kinds of situations that make us sweat. Counseling really is where the rubber meets the road in ministry.
Counseling is unique in how it presents you with the necessity to be a listener, but it also forces you to be counseled. As a leader, I am not comfortable in that position. But to counsel well you must learn what it is to be counseled. Just like to learn how to be a teacher, a preacher, a pastor, you must see what it is to be taught.
Take a counseling course. You will benefit.
By Nate Roschen, Small Town Pastor / Denver Seminary Student / Blog: overproportionate.blogspot.com