While church-based counseling has often been the centerpiece of the biblical counseling movement, for many years we’ve seen a widening of potential models of care. What happens when Christians in local churches think creatively about how to meet the counseling needs of their community? Each day this week we’d like to showcase a different model and challenge you to think if you could do something similar to reach your community for Christ through the ministry of biblical counseling.

Bridgehaven Counseling Associates:
Leveraging the Workplace for the Gospel

There are many purposes for which a church could create a counseling ministry; one that is part of its internal ministries or a separate parachurch organization. While the basic purpose of caring for people well with the hope of Christ should be present in any church-based counseling ministry, this larger purpose does not:

  • Narrow which spheres of influence could be leveraged with the counseling ministry
  • Determine who will be utilized in delivering the counseling offered
  • Decide how those who are unchurched and seek counseling could be assimilated into the life of the church
  • Limit the number of expressions a counseling ministry can have within a single church
  • Hamper the way churches can partner together to care for and reach their community

At The Summit Church, Durham, North Carolina, we have launched a para church counseling center: Bridgehaven Counseling Associates in order to expand the possibility in several of these areas.

One of the things we wanted to facilitate with this ministry was the ability of our church members, and members of other churches in our community, to leverage their workplace for the gospel. In many professions, people from the community contact church members for guidance on issues that result in a counseling referral.

  • People ask doctors about their depression, children’s ADD, and many other struggles.
  • People ask attorneys about guidance for difficult marriage situations on the brink of divorce.
  • People ask social workers about counseling resources for various family and personal tragedy issues.
  • People ask caring professionals about just about anything whether it’s related to their profession or not.

In many of these cases, it would be unethical for the professional to say, “You should talk to my pastor” or “My church has a ministry for what you’re describing.” Beyond HIPPA and ethics, many of our people are still learning what it means to see these everyday interactions as ministry moments.

A question every church should be asking is, “What are we doing to help our people capitalize on these moments in ways that their ethical parameters and current spiritual maturity / boldness allow?” The answer will and should look different in each church and community, but this was one of the driving questions that prompted Summit to launch Bridgehaven.

Here is a brief 6 minute video we created to help professionals in our church understand how to utilize Bridgehaven in this way and to “go viral” with their Christian colleagues who may be interested in leveraging their workplace in a similar manner.

bridgehaven from Equip on Vimeo.

In the first year of Bridgehaven’s existence we have been very pleased with the early fruit of this ministry. Here is a copy of the letter Bridgehaven is sending out to the churches in our area to (a) report on the first year of ministry, (b) inform churches on our growing staff, and (c) announce partnerships with other churches in our area.

The presence of a parachurch counseling center like Bridgehaven does not, should not, and has not replaced the care and counseling ministries of members to one another or pastors to their people. An effective parachurch ministry should embolden people to get more involved in one another’s lives knowing that if a situation gets beyond their comfort level they have a more experienced and trained counselor to come alongside their care efforts.

Omar King, a staff counselor at Bridgehaven, narrates this 3 minute video telling the story of how one of Summit’s members used the resources we produce for intensive one another ministry. In this story, the ministry of Bridgehaven helped this high-capacity member care for a large number of people without experiencing burnout as she was empowered to care.

Counseling Story from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

We are still in process of actualizing the initial vision for a parachurch ministry like Bridgehaven. It is exciting to see other churches already joining us to make this a ministry of the whole Body of Christ that is able to impact more areas of our city. If you are interested in learning more about the larger vision of our counseling ministry, here is a 55 minute presentation of what our hopes and dreams were as we started.

January ’12 Equip Leadership Forums – Brad Hambrick from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Join the Conversation

  • Dream with me. How many ways can biblical counseling create to allow people to leverage their workplace for gospel influence?
  • As you think about the creation of a para church counseling ministry, do you tend to ask, “What is weak in the church that need to be strengthened,” or, “What possibilities exist that could be more effectively leveraged?”

This blog was originally posted on the Grace and Truth blog of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.