Sometimes Pastors Need Personal Counseling

Pastor Olaf KormannshausPastors versed in counseling are themselves also in need of counseling. They too can become mired in conflicts and be subjected to serious temptation. They too need to be built up and encouraged.

Pastor Olaf Kormannshaus noted this at a seminar held by the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists’ (RUECB) Pastoral Department from September 14 to 16 at the Rucheyok children’s camp in the vicinity of Moscow. Ten pastors responsible for pastoral counseling participated in the seminar.

Kormannshaus, Lecturer for Counseling and Psychology at the Theological Seminary of Germany’s Federation of Evangelical-Free Churches in Elstal, added: “Our perceptions of a conflict are subjective – our own perceptions always need to be supplemented with the views of others.” It can be sobering to admit that one’s own view may well be insufficient or warped. It is therefore vital for others to convey their perceptions to me. One good means for doing so is the “Heilsbronn Model for Collegial Counseling”, which was presented to the group by the German guest. It involves sessions with six to eight pastoral colleagues in which they discuss in 10 steps a problematic situation described by one of the participants.

The listeners explain what has struck them most during the description of the situation and what they could see as the most positive solution. During these initial stages, the listeners do not address the presenter directly – he also does not have the right to interrupt his colleagues. This creates a healthy distance to the presenter and the presenter is confronted with the honest views of his colleagues. Only in the final phase do presenter and listeners engage one another in conversation. This model is strongly democratic in nature, for the person supervising is rotated throughout the entire group. All participants also serve as supervisor and all confront each other clearly as equals.

Kormannshaus also reported on his experiences in Germany. Such “supervision” sessions involving only myself or a group of colleagues meeting with a “supervisor” or expert from elsewhere have become commonplace. Many other pastors meet regularly to discuss their problems even if a supervisor from elsewhere is not available. The main topic in these sessions must be one’s pastoral work. These sessions can help to expose a hidden conflict as well as the role which the pastor is taking within that conflict. This so-called “collegial counseling” also helps to protect the pastor from being “infected” by the counseling cases he is working with among laity. The topics he addresses in counseling – money, sexuality, alcohol, power, the drive for personal recognition – are themselves often enough strong temptations for the counselor himself.

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Source: William Yoder, ASSIST News Service

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