Pastoral Care & Counseling: Risky Business?


As the world changes and we become a litigious society, the seemingly innocent pastoral visit can become a dangerous thing.

When I have the opportunity to provide pastoral care for a church member (premarital counseling, advice for a big decision, etc.) things seem pretty cut and dry.

When I visit with a person who is not a member, however, things can get dicey. I have a Masters in Counseling Ministry and until recently, was a member of a national counseling organization. But that doesn't make me a professional counselor!

I make it clear that I am a pastoral care provider, not a Christian Counselor or even a Pastoral Counselor. Pastors are generally on safe ground if they take this approach. In addition, I came across 4 steps to take to make sure you're operating as a caring Pastor and not an unlicensed psychiatrist:
  1. Keep the Bible open and clearly in sight throughout each counseling session.
  2. Read from at least one Scripture reference during the counseling session.
  3. Assign Scriptural homework to the person being counseled.
  4. Begin and ending each counseling session with prayer.
Those steps seem obvious enough, but I've caught myself offering Biblical principles before without pointing out the necessary Scripture reference. Has your Pastoral Care ever gotten you in over your head?

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