“Lay” is defined as of or relating to the laity1—the people of a religious faith, distinguished from clergy. Therefore, lay counseling stands apart from pastoral or licensed counseling.
Lay counselors are typically members of a church without professionalized training or specialized knowledge in the field of counseling and are also not a part of the pastoral staff.
Lay counseling and spiritual care ministries usually involve lay helpers assisting people who need hope, care, and direction to provide guidance, insight, and encouragement based on Biblical principles. In doing so, the local church attends to its people as it is encouraged to do in Heb. 10:24, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”2
Lay counselors have a spiritual desire to help others. They can be a powerful tool used by a church body to receive biblical and trusted care. Often, lay counselors bring their own first-hand experiences and knowledge to counseling, allowing them to specialize within a lay counseling ministry. Within the local ministry setting, talking with a lay counselor can be like talking to a trusted friend.
1 “Lay.” Merriam-Webster Unabridged. 2022. Accessed 1 September 2022. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lay.