Pastoral Care and Counseling

In the most recent Lamplighter, Dan Lehman submitted an article on behalf of the Shepherding Commission that talked about all the different things that commission does. Before going to print, he ran it by the commission for any edits, and I offered one small change. In the section about how the commission assists people experiencing conflict and crisis, Dan wrote that Joel and I “offer counseling services any time and are specifically trained to do so.” While that is technically true, I suggested he change it to “pastoral counseling.” 

My suggestion came from the thought that when people hear “counseling services” they most likely think of mental health counseling. We have a number of licensed counselors in our congregation who are specifically trained to work with issues related to mental health in ways that neither Joel nor I are equipped to do. I make this differentiation not to denigrate pastoral care, however, because spiritual health and mental health are both important to overall well-being. What’s more, issues related to mental health often overlap and intertwine with issues of spiritual health. They cannot be fully separated because we cannot compartmentalize ourselves as human beings.

But at the same time, it is necessary to recognize the limitations of those who may be able to help us move toward wellness. The pastoral care that Joel and I are able to offer can be an important part of an overall care plan and often might be a first step, but we will make referrals to mental health professionals if the need arises.

To help make that process even easier, our congregation is in the process of establishing a partnership with an organization called FaithLink, which works to destigmatize mental health within faith communities and reduce the barriers for people seeking mental health treatment. Be on the lookout for more details about that partnership. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out if you are interested in learning more or if you would like to meet with Joel or I to talk through whatever you might be dealing with.