Note: I’m developing this blog mini-series from material in chapter five of my book Equipping Counselors for Your Church. Read Part 1: Shepherding the Transformation. Read Part 2: Christ-Centered Heart Change.
Relational Change Management
The most nurturing context for healthy change is a transformed congregation. It is from within that healthy environment that we plant and grow a biblical counseling ministry. Transformation is the seedbed for transition.
Still, change is not easy. Change is like a ship that we simultaneously sail and refit. We don’t get to stop the rest of life and ministry while we launch a new ministry. This is why we need wise, practical principles of relational change management.
Participate in Two-Way Conversations: Telling Is Not Communicating
Relational change management is a continuing conversation, not a lecture. Too many churches think that they have communicated when they have posted a notice in the bulletin or made an announcement from the pulpit. Those methods are fine first steps, but they must also include an invitation to a conversation.
As you discuss the launch of your biblical counseling ministry, commit to dialogue rather than monologue. In fact, trialogue—in every conversation invite God’s perspective through prayer, dependence upon the Holy Spirit for guidance, and seeking direction from the Word.
Communicate the Desperate Need for the Ministry: Holy Discontent
As you interact in various settings with different groups, discuss why the ministry is necessary. Your congregation will take ownership of and invest their time and money in your biblical counseling ministry if they understand the desperate needs it will address. This occurs when people become dissatisfied with the status quo, when they experience holy discontent.
Nehemiah experienced this when he heard that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates burned (Nehemiah 1:3). Hearing the report, he sat down, wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. He had a holy response to the desperate state of Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
Your congregational assessment will raise red flags of discontent. When you ask people where personal needs are not being met, they will tell you. It’s easy to respond to their feedback defensively and to see it as unhealthy complaining. Instead, view it as an open door, as an enormous opportunity to secure the congregation’s passionate support.
To do so, respond as Nehemiah did. After a detailed inspection of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:11-16), he gathered the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and others who would be doing the work and said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). The need exposed, they responded without hesitation. “Let us start rebuilding” (Nehemiah 2:18b). Instead of attempting to solve the problem himself, Nehemiah used the need as an opportunity to give ownership to the community.
Communicate the Amazing Benefits of the Ministry: Holy Celebration
We learn something further from Nehemiah. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me” (Nehemiah 2:18a). It wasn’t only holy discontent that motivated ownership, it was also Nehemiah’s holy celebration.
The NIV’s translation of their response is somewhat blasé. “So they began this good work” (Nehemiah 2:18c). We could translate the original language, “They set their hands together bravely.” “They vigorously set their hands to go about building.” “They strengthened their hands together to do God’s work.” That’s ownership!
You might be thinking, “We haven’t launched the biblical counseling ministry yet so we don’t know what some of the amazing results might be.” This is why it is important to expose your key leaders to model biblical counseling ministries in your area, around the country, and world (through personal visits, reading their materials, visiting their web sites).
Communicate the Biblical Basis of the Ministry: Practical Theology
We should not expect people to change because we said so, but because God says so. Through sermon series, Sunday school classes, private conversations, Fireside Chats, and congregational meetings, communicate the vision shared in chapter one. Develop a common commitment that the local church is a biblical counseling ministry.
Assist your people to grasp the direct relationship between biblical counseling and all the foundational doctrines and beliefs your church values. Discuss the sufficiency of Scripture. Do we have confidence that the Bible has answers to everyday life problems? Well, biblical counseling is the personal application of God’s Word to everyday life situations and relationships.
Discuss progressive sanctification. Do we believe that God wants us to grow more like Christ every day in every way? Well, biblical counseling is a one-to-one means of helping one another to become more conformed to the image of Christ.
Discuss the priesthood of all believers. Do we believe that God calls and equips every Christian for one another ministry? Well, biblical counseling empowers every Christian to speak the truth in love.
The Rest of the Story
Return for Part 4 as we explore four additional principles for Stewarding the Change Process.
Join the Conversation
Which of today’s four principles of stewarding the change process do you think are most important in your setting?