Exploring the differences between Christian Counselling, Pastoral Care and Prayer Ministry
By Vicky McEvoy
(From the April - June 2019 issue of VOX)
One of the most common questions I have been asked over the past 25 years in my ministry as a Christian Counsellor is “What is the difference between Christian Counselling, Prayer Ministry and Pastoral Care?” Many of the people skills are the same and some are very different. Here, I take a look at each type of ministry and give an example of what it might look like it practice.
Coming alongside someone
Pastoral Care is often offered in the context and culture of the local church and provides a caring role where individuals can unburden themselves to a leader or a member of the pastoral care team and ask for help and support. Someone comes alongside to offer support ranging from a listening ear, Biblical advice, encouragement and, sometimes, practical help.
For example, Lucy is a single parent of two children who has recently become a Christian. She is lonely and struggling financially and hardly ever gets out. A member of the pastoral care team at her church begins to visit her home, listening to her story and encouraging her from the Bible. She prays with Lucy every week and organises Lucy to go for an appointment with CAP (Christians Against Poverty) to help her manage her finances. She also finds Lucy a babysitter once a week so that she can get out with some friends, and links her in with other women from the church.
Praying for someone
Prayer Ministry provides a “moment with God” at certain key stages of our walk and growth as Christians. It gives an opportunity for reflection, repentance, release and drawing near to God. It is important for people offering prayer ministry to be trained in this area. The person being prayed for may be in “receiving mode” to get encouragement, direction, a word in season or help and anointing from God for the days ahead.
For example, Lucy (now that she is able to go to church) goes forward for prayer at the end of a service. A lovely gentle lady stands beside her and (with permission) lays a hand on her shoulder as she prays. Lucy bows her head and listens as the prayer minister prays for her to be blessed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. The prayer minister sees a picture of Lucy dancing with joy and shares this with her. Lucy feels a surge of hope that she is going to be okay now she has God in her life.
NB: New Wine Ireland provides regular opportunities for training in prayer ministry at conferences such as Sligo19 and events throughout the year. Find out more at www.newwineireland.org.
Caring support to empower change
Christian Counselling provides a safe and professional space for people who are Christians and also for people in the wider community to go for an hour once a week to talk about what is happening in their lives. It is not advice giving, evangelistic or directive but encourages the client within a safe, non-judgmental and empathic space to process their past, reflect on their present and plan for their future. Professional training is essential for this role.
For example Lucy, having had prayer and practical help, now goes for Christian Counselling. She has the opportunity to reflect for one hour a week, in the counsellor’s office, to talk about her life with a professionally trained counsellor. The counsellor’s role is to listen to her story and her heart, understand her pain, loneliness, successes and strengths. Lucy has to face her challenges, dig deep into her strengths and make her own healthy choices for her future.
NB: It is important to ensure that your counsellor is accredited with a professional association. To find an accredited Christian counsellor see the listing on the Irish Association of Christian Counsellors webpage (www.iacc.ie) or the Association of Christian Counsellors in Northern Ireland (www.accni.org).
Each of these vital ministries is indeed different but one complements the other. Each one needs good training, healthy boundaries, a supportive team and great wisdom. May God raise up an army of people who are anointed to “heal the broken hearted and set the captives free”.
Vicky McEvoy was the Manager of Oasis Counselling Service in Dublin for 20 years heading up a team of 35 Christian Counsellors serving over 4,500 client appointments a year. She currently teaches a Vital Connexions Foundation Course (Strength to Strength) and a two-year part time Diploma in Christian Counselling with her colleague Andrea Wigglesworth. Next courses start in September 2019. Book your place now. www.vitalconnexions.org