When a person sits down with you and asks you to give them wisdom on something they are facing in their life, it can be nerve-racking.
What do I say? Will they like me and trust me? Can we build rapport fast so I can speak the truth in love?
These and the questions will plague the mind of a new counselor as they strive to take on their first case. While these are valid questions, we must remember the goal of giving biblical advice through loving relationship, for the sake of lasting change.
I constantly remind myself, that while I desire to be liked, the Bible is the source by which I provide all counseling. It is not just a filter by which I pass all my theories and thoughts. Rather, the truth I impart comes solely from Scripture, and in doing so, I will provide biblical and practical care for my counselees. The following are six biblical strategies I use to develop a caring relationship with my counselees so that I can impart truth:
I will develop a caring relationship with counselees by praying for them.
The Bible tells me that I am to pray continually (1 Thes. 5:17). I will commit myself, daily, to pray for those who have been placed under my care (James 5:16), and make sure they know I pray for them regularly. I will pray for each of them by name, following Paul’s example in many of his letters, request Christ to be their continual strength, and the Word of God be their guide. I will also pray with them at the beginning and end of each session. I want them to remember that God is the change-agent and that I am simply an under-shepherd providing care.
I will develop a caring relationship with my counselees by encouraging them.
I want to be one of the most uplifting voices in my counselees’ lives. I will let them know what I see in their lives that they are doing correctly. I’ll use my words to build them up (Rom. 14:9) and encourage them to keep on the path of obedience (Heb. 10: 25). While we may spend a lot of time talking about what is wrong or painful in their lives, I will strive to save time, in each session, to talk about what is good, right, and pleasing to God.
I will develop a caring relationship with my counselees by comforting them.
Life is full of pain and hardship. I will comfort them with the Word of God (1 Thes. 4:18, 5:11) and help them find hope in Christ. I know that there are some hardships that will never be solved by counseling. In these areas, I will help them find peace, joy, and comfort in the one, true God and the power of the Spirit in their lives.
I will develop a caring relationship with my counselees by taking their counseling seriously.
I will strive to not allow sarcasm, lightheartedness, or flippancy be a mark of my counseling. I want my counselees to know that I consider their issues genuinely. I want them to know they are important to me, because they are important to God. I will show tolerance for them (Eph. 4:2) when they are weak and accept them as image bearers of God (Rom. 15:7). I will manage my time so I can promptly start each session on time and end each session in the appropriate length of time.
I will develop a caring relationship with my counselees by listening to them.
I will listen before speaking or imparting what I believe counselees should do (James 1:19; Prov. 18). I know many of the people who sit in front of me in counseling feel like no one listens to them or values them—I do not want them to feel that around me. I will strive to not be prideful, thinking that I have all the answers on my own. When I speak, I will lace my words with the wisdom of God and the Spirit of God. I will wait until I have a full gathering of information in any given situation before imparting judgment.
I will develop a caring relationship with my counselee by sharing my life with them.
I value authenticity with my counselees. As they open up their lives to me, I should be willing to do the same, to the extent that is appropriate for each occasion. I will strive to show them what it means to be honestly genuine (Col. 3:9). By sharing my life with them, I will carry a similar posture as the Apostle Paul when he wrote, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). I will share God’s grace with them (2 Cor. 12) and identify with them as Christ did for us. This will develop rapport and show my patience with their brokenness (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13).
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