Informing church leaders and members of the congregation about a lay counseling program will be important to the successful implementation of your lay counseling program. As is the case with most other ministry initiatives, lay counseling ministry supervisors will need to communicate with leaders and the congregation on a regular basis.
The way you promote your counseling ministry matters. If you are providing pastoral or spiritual counseling, it is likely a good idea for your ministry to explicitly inform staff, attendees, and counselees, that the service (a) provides only a biblically based counseling service according to, and based on, Christian principles, and (b) is not based on any clinical training or state-established standards for licensed counselors. Both the counselor and your ministry could be at risk if you imply that you’ll be providing services from a state-licensed practitioner which requires a higher standard of care, like board-competency exams, clinical training hours, and a certain level of education.
Effective communication will be key to gathering ministry-wide support needed to implement and maintain a successful lay counseling program. While developing your communications plan, consult your attorney for help in identifying any state or local legal requirements that you need to address in your communications.
Use the following framework to help you build a customized plan that fits your situation.
Who’s Your Audience? Have a clear understanding of each audience in your congregation so you can customize your communications to meet specific group needs. Potential audiences include:
Church leaders (elders, church board, trustees, administrators)
Ministerial and non-ministerial staff responsible for other church programs and ministries
Paid and volunteer ministry supervisors, program coordinators, and workers
Children’s ministry, day care, and preschool teachers and staff members
Members and regularly attending non-members
What Do You Tell Them? Most of your communication efforts will include the same information, but what you emphasize or provide in greater detail will depend on the audience. General information you can provide to most audiences:
Background information about lay counseling ministries
Purpose of the program
Benefits of the program
Explicit statement that the lay counseling ministry is biblically based counseling service based on Christian principles
Qualifications for lay counselors
How to receive counseling help
Details to consider for specific audiences:
Leaders—details supporting the need for a lay counseling program, organization and staffing, identification of lay counselors and training procedures, program costs, risk management issues, and the communications plan
Ministry and non-ministry church staff—how lay counseling potentially integrates with other ministry needs, program organization, staffing, supervision, lay counselor identification and training, and screening procedures
Ministry volunteers and lay counselors— qualifications, program procedures, resources, supervision, protections for lay counselors, screening procedures, and training
Congregation—general information about the program (biblically based on Christian principles, policy, benefits, screening procedures, confidentiality, and connecting to the program as a volunteer lay counselor or counseling recipient)
How Do You Tell Them? Use a variety of methods to reach all potential audiences and develop other communication methods, as needed. Consider these possible methods for each audience:
In-person, small group presentations—to church leadership, staff, ministry workers, parents
Letter to congregation, ministry workers
Special meetings with congregational groups, ministry groups, etc.
Specially developed brochures, flyers
Posters, strategically placed
Update and Communicate Regularly. The time to begin communicating is before you implement your lay counseling program. Develop a schedule for regular communication—one communication will not be enough. Keep the members of your organization updated with any changes in the program.
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