Month: February 2023

Counseling and caring for your people

Pastoral ministry is more than preaching sermons. There are other responsibilities that demand your attention. One of them is shepherding your people through personal crises. You must learn to navigate the complex world of human brokenness. 


At times you must wear the hat of a counselor. The demands of this responsibility can overwhelm you if you’re not careful. How much counseling you do and when you do it is an important consideration.


I learned this lesson the hard way. Some people in your church would talk to you about their problems every day of the week if you’d let them. There is more emotional suffering in your church than you personally have time to address. 


I recommend you consider the following:


Be willing to meet with anyone at least once.


A willingness to meet shows your people you care about them and that you’re not just preaching to them. I would discourage you from becoming the kind of pastor who is too busy to meet with people about their problems. Think of it as an extension of your pulpit ministry.


Limit your pastoral counseling to one day a week.


Counseling is emotionally regardless of the form it takes. When you walk with someone through their darkness, their emotional wounds will impact you at on emotional level. 


I limit my counseling to one afternoon a week—typically Sunday afternoons. (I’m already drained from the morning services, so I figure I might as well block it all together.) Sundays might not work for you, but find a day that does work and schedule it all together.


Limit the number of meetings early on in the process.


For the vast majority of pastoral counseling, the first session provides enough clarity for what needs to happen next. At that session or shortly thereafter, I will create a plan that schedules up to four or five other sessions to address their needs (key words being “up to”). Most of the problems you’ll encounter can be addressed in one to three sessions.


If you don’t set limits, you’ll find that people are happy to meet every week for as long as you’ll let them. Avoid that trap by creating a well-defined counseling plan that has a start date, an end date, and concrete goals. Be wary of committing to anything indefinite when it comes to pastoral counseling (although there are exceptions to every rule). 


Know when to refer someone out for long-term or professional counseling. 


If their needs are greater than what five to six sessions can handle, I refer them out to a professional who can commit to their needs long term. Usually, those professionals will serve them better anyway, given the complexities of their situation. It’s important you learn who the great counselors are in your area. Only refer your people out to counselors you trust. There’s a lot of junk out there that’ll do more harm than good.


Usually, I’ll know after two to three sessions whether something long term is going to be required. Most people are understanding and grateful for the investment of time you give them. At the end of the day, it’s about what’s best for them, not what makes you feel most important.


In my many years of pastoral ministry, I’ve broken each of these four rules. That’s why I commend them to you without hesitation. Every time I’ve violated these rules, I’ve paid the price and done a disservice to the people I’ve been called to pastor.


Think of it as a tension to hold, not a problem to solve. You must be there for your congregation. They need more than preacher. They need a counselor.


However, in your desire to care well for your people, make sure you also take care of yourself. Find a balance. Have a plan. Enforce it with grace. You’ll be glad you did!

‘Bikes & Bibles’ giveaway is leading many to Christ in North Texas town

On a Roll

Nearly a decade ago, a group of men from First Baptist Church of Celina went through a discipleship program together. As the two-year program came to an end, participants were challenged to dream up a servant leadership project that would allow them to touch the lives of others in Jesus’ name.

The idea that grew out of that meeting is not only touching lives, but eternity.
This past December, FBC Celina (in partnership with the Dallas-Fort Worth-based ministry called Grace Bridge) hosted what has become an annual event known as Bikes and Bibles. The name almost says it all—bicycles and Bibles are distributed to area families in need. This year, 118 bikes were distributed to children, and Bibles were handed out to their families.

Oh, and 15 people made a first-time decision to trust Jesus and their Lord and Savior. Is there a greater Christmas gift?

“One of the things we always want to do is share the gospel,” said FBC Celina pastor Kevin Lykins, who was a member of the discipleship group. Deacon Pat Hunn, also in the group, had the initial idea to hand out bicycles as part of the servant leadership project, while Lykins pitched in the idea to also give out Bibles.

Grace Bridge—which has extensive experience in the distribution of goods ranging from food to disaster relief supplies—handles a portion of the administrative load. Its president and CEO, Carter Morris, came to the table with a lengthy database of area families in need, as well as contacts with a large corporation that offers bicycles for purchase to the church at a deep discount. For his part, Lykins has contacts with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which provides the Bibles.

Pictured from left: Bill Elliott, Jeff Gravley, Pastor Kevin Lykins, Carter Morris of Grace Bridge, Patt Hunn, David Seay, and Choc Christopher. The group of men were part of the original Bible study group that developed the idea for Bikes & Bibles.

“It’s a lot of moving parts for the body of Christ here, but it has become something our whole church takes part in.”

“[Grace Bridge] knows how to organize and facilitate things like this very efficiently,” Lykins said, “but over the eight years of doing this, we’ve gotten a lot better and a lot more efficient.”

Said Morris, noting that people come to Christ almost every year through the giveaway: “This story is just a total God story. … We do this because Jesus loved us first. He is the greatest gift anyone could ever get for Christmas. We want to love these families well, but we want to let them know why we love their families well.”

Bikes and Bibles has become an all-hands-on-deck undertaking at FBC Celina. One group of church members is needed to set up the church gym for the massive distribution, an effort that includes labeling the bikes and Bibles for the incoming families. A team of men works to tighten bolts and check hardware on each bike as it comes off the truck, making sure each one is safe for the children to ride. Yet another group prepares refreshments for the families and facilitates a Christmas cartoon that is played in the church sanctuary while families wait.

The church is not only putting its muscle behind the effort, but its money. Bikes and Bibles was initially made possible through fundraising efforts on the part of church members. Today, it’s anchored into the church budget.

“It’s become such a big part of our church, our church’s ministry,” Lykins said. “It’s a lot of moving parts for the body of Christ here, but it has become something our whole church takes part in.”