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INTENSIVE CARE
by Dr. Donald W. Welch
Be the one to prescribe God's love to kids in crisis.

* Used by permission of Children's Ministry Magazine, a division of Group Publishing Company, copyright © 2006.  All rights to this material are reserved.  Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Group Publishing Company.  www.GroupPublishing.com


 


Minister Tools & Resources

“NEW CER BROCHURE”
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“NEW FCS BROCHURE”
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“REST & INVEST”
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Click here to download 2013 brochure
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“MY THERAPIST ‘SEZ’…” is an interactive panel of trained therapists responding to your questions about important life topics. Dr. Don Welch serves as Skyline Church's counseling pastor, and moderates this event the first Wednesday of each month from 6:45 – 8:00 pm.
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Read what the Christian Examiner has to say about “MY THERAPIST ‘SEZ’…”!
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“LOCAL CHURCH RELATIONSHIP EXPERT PLACEMENT”
Please read the Christian Examiner's article and the Good News' article on how CER is placing professional psychotherapists in local church ministries. These relationship experts are assisting local churches enjoy increased relationship health and spirtiual growth. Discover how your church may participate in this vital ministry.

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Minister Counseling Tips
By Dr. Don Welch

 

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COUNSELING MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH

There has never been a greater need in the history of Christendom for pastors, theologians, Christian educators, evangelists, and counselors to work hand in hand than the present time. As people express unprecedented pain due to the modern-day complexities of life, Christian counseling has become a vital tool for mending fractured lives and nurturing spiritual health. There exists an unparalleled openness for Christian educators and Christian counselors to work hand in hand to serve the hurting masses.

We have more information and proven ways in which to organize and cope with life; yet people seem less able to manage life’s complex issues. Pastors today increasingly share their frustrations about the onslaught of needy and disconnected people knocking on their office doors asking for direction and guidance. As one pastor put it, “I have so many hurting people that I’m not sure where and how to begin; the life issues people are facing today are overwhelming.”

Although The Barna Report suggests that “marriage remains the most popular voluntary institution in our society, with about 85 percent of the population marrying at least once,”1 the rate of divorce in the church is outpacing the secular world. The Barna Report further suggests that “born again Christians are slightly more likely than non-Christians to go through a divorce. Twenty-seven percent of Christians have seen their marriage break up, compared to 23 percent of non-Christians.”2 Add to that an increasing number of children living in blended families and single-parent homes, and it’s easy to see why our society is experiencing unparalleled stress, pain, and confusion. One study reports that in divorced families, “approximately 16 percent [of fathers] manage to see their children as often as once a week.”3 With the growing number of latchkey children and our increasingly mobile society, the extended family plays less of a role than once experienced by the family. Our society’s children are expressing this deterioration of connectedness by turning on each other in anger, often with guns. Others choose to end their own lives.

Encouraging people to enhance both their individual relationships with God and their collective life relationships must be at the forefront of Christian ministry during the twenty-first century. There has never been a more demanding time in the history of the world to unite a counseling ministry with the ministry of the church. Working together to help the troubled and hurting in God’s church strengthens the entire body. Not only do people need to experience and relish God’s grace, but they also need to hone the relational skills necessary to navigate the treacherous waters of life.

BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF COUNSELING

Christian counseling, more than any other field of study, focuses on the very core of who we are as God’s creation. This helping ministry first attempts to assist people in their understanding of who they are in relationship to God their Creator. Second, Christian counseling assists those who are committed in applying their relationship with God to forming healthy relationships with those around them. Essentially, it applies God-ordained principles to relationships, recognizing “that the Scriptures are more than a description of human nature, a listing of moral principles, or a guidebook for behavior. The Bible calls for commitment and obedience.”4

The Bible contains numerous references to the importance of good counsel. From the very first days in the Garden of Eden when God counseled Adam and Eve, there was a need for objective counsel that would help people rise above their subjective outlook on life. Throughout its pages, the Bible continues to espouse the importance of wise counsel for abundant living. During the wilderness years, Moses sought God’s counsel and utilized this counsel as he led the children of Israel. Isaiah presented counsel through his prophetic announcements. Jesus, our supreme role model, frequently sought counsel from his heavenly Father throughout his earthly ministry (Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:29). From the forty days in the wilderness to his grueling moments in Gethsemane, Jesus continued to seek his Father’s counsel. Jesus also prayed for his counselees; in John 17:21, Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, as he was one with the Father. The apostle Paul provided counsel on a number of occasions. For example, he encouraged and admonished the young pastor Timothy.

THE DISTINCTIVE OF CHRISTIAN COUNSELING

Although there are numerous counseling theories available to the counselor, Christian counseling begins with specific biblical principles rather than secular theories (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16). First, it is important to consider that theories can be extremely useful and that many are based on sound principles; yet not all theories begin with the same philosophical foundation. Although it goes without saying that a competent counselor will understand
and be prepared to implement a particular counseling theory useful at an appropriate counseling moment, the Christian counselor analyzes all theories through one lens—the Bible.

Second, since we are created in the image of God, Christian counseling will provide an environment by which the counselee can become more open and responsive to God’s healing touch.5 Giving respect without condemnation or unsolicited advice toward the counselee’s choices throughout the sessions is crucial. Whether or not the counselee is open and willing to change and/or willing to further develop necessary spiritual and relational skills, it is imperative to give ultimate respect to the person seeking counseling, always striving for a friendly, open, and respectful counseling environment.

Certainly one of God’s most foundational principles is that he has given humanity the ability to make choices. He never forces his way into our lives, even though he never wavers in his pursuit of us. God is the gentleman above gentlemen; he provides the space and opportunity for each person to make a choice to obey or disobey him. Counselors must do everything within their power to encourage a counselee to make biblical choices and to assist each person to take the necessary steps toward personal and relational healing and holistic change. “It is movement, not just insight, that produces change.”6 Christian counseling is not advice giving; rather, it provides an atmosphere whereby the counselee may develop his or her abilities to successfully maneuver through painful life challenges.

A third distinctive area of Christian counseling is the recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26 speaks of the Holy Spirit praying for us in ways that we are unable to conceive or understand. Without invoking the Holy Spirit to intercede within our sessions, counselors will be attempting to counsel from a purely knowledge- based approach without God’s personal wisdom leading the session. Divine revelations discovered during a counseling session and insights and ways in which to make application of these revelations are directly from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:16–17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.” Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul suggests in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we “pray continually.”

A fourth area that is unique to Christian counseling is the Bible’s teaching that God is able to free us from our past. Hebrews 8:12 tells us that our sins are not only forgiven, but they are no longer remembered: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus paid the price for our sins once and for all: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” ( John 8:36). Observing that biblical truth can enable one to sing the old hymn with vigor, “Glorious freedom! Wonderful freedom! No more in chains of sin I repine! Jesus, the glorious Emancipator—Now and forever He shall be mine.” This freedom experienced in and through Jesus Christ enables a person to journey onward, looking to the future rather than the past.

In several instances, Jesus would continue to ask a person who was in great turmoil what he or she needed from him before providing healing. The invalid in John 5:1–15 was asked, “Do you want to get well?” Jesus looked past the invalid’s obvious physical handicap and peered into the condition of his heart. Jesus demonstrated that often there are hidden issues that may need to be dealt with before forgiveness and healing can be fully assimilated. If a minister or counselor is ineffective in getting at the core of the issue, a person may superficially experience the freedom of forgiveness. Only the symptoms are dealt with, rather than the core issues.

Christian counseling sessions illuminate the gift of forgiveness. But if the Christian is unable to accept this gift, then forgiveness serves only as cognitive calisthenics. Until the counselee understands and accepts God’s forgiveness, he or she cannot truly offer forgiveness to others. One can only know God fully when God’s complete pardon is accepted. Unfortunately, many pastors and Christian counselors can regretfully name individuals who later walked away from their relationship with God because they were never able to assimilate God’s grace into their lives. They only experienced cognitive knowledge of God without receiving and enjoying the heartfelt freedom expressed in Romans 8:1–2: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

THE INTEGRATION OF THEOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY

Many well-meaning evangelical leaders have an underlying suspicion regarding the place of psychology in the church. They believe that Scripture alone should be sufficient to unlock all of the troubles within an individual. However, once they have exhausted all their efforts and the individual is no better off, they reluctantly begin to consider the limited role of psychology. What is needed is a well-informed analysis of how a sound biblical hermeneutic can help utilize what for many years was an untapped resource for pastors.

In the twenty-first century, there is an increasing awareness that theology and psychology can complement one other, so a growing number of pastors and professionals are welcoming a synergistic relationship between these two fields of study. Simply stated, theology is our understanding of who God is and “the methodical explanation of the contents of the Christian faith.”7 An understanding of God is derived through the revealed Word of God and through God’s actions by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, a healthy understanding of the human experience can only be understood by articulating clearly who God is and who we are in him. Psychology, on the other hand, is a scientific approach to understanding humankind. It seeks to understand what makes people feel, think, and behave in certain ways. Answers to psychological questions are found through the five senses or empirical evidence and are analyzed using rational thought. “Thus the scientific method is a marriage of Platonic rationality and Aristotelian empirical observation.”8

Theology has existed for thousands of years. By comparison, psychology has only been an academic discipline for a little over a century. When God conversed with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, human nature was expressing itself to God through words and actions. As the Designer, God knew all about human nature and permitted Adam and Eve to remain free moral agents grappling with their decisions and consequences. It was as if God were coupling their attempts to understand and relate to him (theology) with their attempts to understand and relate to each other and to their world (psychology).

Throughout history, theologians have attempted to define who God is and how we are to appropriately relate to him and to each other. They have paved the way in answering one of the primary philosophical questions asked by all humans: “What is my reason and purpose for existing?” Too often we have mistaken theology for psychology, or vice versa. It is true that correct theology will lead us in the direction of correct and vital living. It is also true that a correct understanding of how people behave psychologically will better equip us to assist persons struggling to navigate life. Utilizing only theology or psychology is bound to limit our ability to assist hurting persons who are seeking spiritual and emotional guidance. It is best to consider the mutual benefits of these two fields of study when attempting to minister God’s grace in the life of a challenged individual or family. Pastor Richard Exley has communicated this clearly: “There’s nothing in life more meaningful than working with God in the reconstruction of a shattered life. Some call it counseling. I call it ministry, and it’s always been a team effort among the three of us—God, the person and myself.”9 The more fully counselors understand God, the other person, and themselves, the better able they will be in assisting the discouraged. “In Christian education, learning is measured by life change. This is more than just the mere soaking up of facts! Learning is a vibrant process that involves a change of mind and heart evidenced by one’s behavior.”10 Truly the consummating beauty of ministry is to experience counseling and Christian education (the process of understanding theology) as marriage partners that serve as a conduit through which God works his atoning grace and victory.

Since the Bible is very clear that we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), there is no way to come to an understanding of God without attempting to understand the plight of humanity. This understanding must begin with the history of God’s relationship with his people throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, it would be unwise to attempt to understand humanity by beginning with psychology at the expense of theology. Therefore, it is necessary to begin with God and an understanding of him before embarking on a true understanding of what it means to be a human being.

THE COUNSELING PROCESS

Christian counseling is a reconciliation process: a person seeking healing needs to be fully reconciled to God and others. Gary Collins describes it as “a long-term, in-depth helping process that attempts to bring fundamental changes in the counselee’s personality, spiritual values, and ways of thinking.”11 Although there are a myriad of areas important to the counseling process, there are three areas essential to successful Christian counseling: establishing confidentiality, building relationship, and creating awareness.

The first area is confidentiality. The exchange of information shared during the counseling session must remain confidential, or the counselee may never feel secure enough to openly work through the presenting issues. Confidentiality produces confidence towards the minister or counselor. Confidentiality also serves to turn the counseling area into a secure and safe haven; the dark secrets will remain inside the walls. Unless the information is life threatening to the counselee or to someone else, the counselor must maintain a strict code of confidentiality.

One method to assist in the area of confidentiality is to provide an intake form describing the counselor’s mode of operation. On this form, the counselor would describe his or her counseling expertise, including degrees, ordination, licensure (including the state in which he or she received it), and years of counseling. Also included on this form would be the scope of the counselor’s limitations, meaning that the work with the counselee will need to operate within the counselor’s skill-level and area of expertise. For instance, if a person in the congregation with schizophrenia seeks out the pastor’s counsel, it would be well for the pastor to advise the person that his skill level precludes him from assisting with the disorder; however, he could assist the person with spiritual issues related to the disorder. A referral would take place depending upon the severity of the counselee’s problem. Assisting the person(s) under your care to know your skill-level limits will help him or her know the specific ways in which you may assist. The intake form should also include a description of the counselee’s understanding of the counselor’s role as a mandated reporter, meaning that a report to the local authorities would occur if the counselee is believed to be harmful to self or others or to have committed certain crimes. The counselee’s signature on this form, giving the counselor the privilege to provide counseling, is essential for establishing clear boundaries.

A second area essential to the counseling process is relationship. Those in counseling need to know that they are not being judged or condemned. The counselee needs to sense early on that the counselor is an unbiased therapeutic listener. This is necessary to a healthy relationship. Michael Nichols says, “The real issue in listening isn’t whether we do or don’t give advice but whether or not our response is focused on reading and responding to the other person’s feelings or is simply a way of dealing with our own.”12 Focused listening has been referred to as “mirroring” or “attending.” Deciphering eye contact, hand gestures, and the differences between a closed or open stance on the part of the counselee may reveal nonverbal communication. This interpretation skill is a continual process as the counselor seeks to understand the developmental, social, environmental, economic, and overall functioning of the counselee.

Ideally, the counselor should not attempt to counsel someone when he or she is also dealing with personal issues similar to those of the counselee (s). A professor of pastoral counseling illustrated this by saying, “If you are moving through some difficult times in your marriage, it is important to remember that you should not be attempting to help those who are also moving through a similar and difficult time in their marriage.” 13 It would be impossible to differentiate between the difficulties in your own marriage and those in the counselee’s marriage. This can produce “countertransference,” where the listener becomes the subject rather than the objective listener.14

Although listening is essential to providing an atmosphere whereby the counselee can feel safe and is able to work through life challenges, building rapport is also very critical. A person experiencing trauma is tentative and prone to withdraw. Determining the types of questions that probe the sensitive areas without being threatening will usually begin to soften the clenched heart. Permitting God’s compassion to flow through counseling is a tremendous gift to the person searching for health and wholeness. Martin Buber expressed this best by saying, “Relation is reciprocity.”15

If a person believes the counselor is sincerely interested, reciprocity will occur. And if a person feels cared for, hope may open the way for healing. As one put it, “The greatest gift I ever received was another person who believed in me.” Viktor Frankl learned a prevailing truth that revealed itself through his experiences in the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Dachau: “The truth— that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”16 Since love is God’s greatest command, a Christian counselor will only be effective as his or her love relationship with God is extended to others in need.

Awareness is a third area essential to Christian counseling. It is a catalyst for the healing process to begin. Viktor Frankl quotes Spinoza as saying: “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.”17 Another way to look at this is to consider that we cannot change something of which we are not aware. In Mark 10:51 Jesus looked past the blind man’s eyes and into the man’s heart when he asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” This question revealed that there was more than just a physical need—there was a spiritual need as well. Until this question was asked, the blind man may have been unaware of the great chasm inside his heart. Jesus was giving him the opportunity for this realization.

An ultimate concern for the counselor is helping people recognize the source of their personal pain. Once a counselee recognizes and embraces the pain, Christian counseling provides a safe place where the counselee can discover and implement more useful ways for confronting and dealing with the source of the pain. Defenses can often disable a person from facing threatening challenges. Henry Cloud suggests, “If people can’t admit their faults, they can’t bring their real self into a confessional relationship with God and others. They can never resolve their critical conscience, and they can never emotionally reach the state of ‘no condemnation.’”18 

THE CHRISTIAN COUNSELOR - A SKILLED HELPER

A minister is perhaps one of the more likely and best qualified persons a Christian will visit in order to discuss life’s challenges. Therefore, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility in Christian counseling. Unfortunately many ministers graduating from Bible college, university, or seminary may have had only one or two courses in Christian counseling. Consequently, some ministers may feel insecure about their lack of formal skill and methodological development for dealing with complex human issues. Although exposure to formal counseling methodologies may be minimal for many, if not most, ministers, the experience of pastoring does provide opportunities and relationships valuable to a helping counselor. For all in the field of counseling, there are four basic components that can greatly enhance effective counseling.

First, the minister or counselor must have a daily relationship with God and a love for Scripture. Nurturing this personal relationship with God through Christ on a daily basis is the most important and significant skill for counseling. Living in a constant prayer life with the Master Counselor is essential for cultivating the skills and wisdom necessary to care for people at their deepest needs.

Second, the Christian counselor must commit to counsel others only when his or her life is both biblically and emotionally sound. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the effectiveness of the counselor is greatly hindered when the counselor is attempting to counsel someone about an issue that the counselor is also facing in his or her personal or professional life. It is a difficult task to help someone else when one is facing a similar challenge. Confusion and pain only increase the trauma that one is attempting to manage. Referring people to support groups can be helpful to those struggling with life’s challenges.

Third, it is essential for the Christian counselor to learn early on where his or her expertise begins and ends. Since the health field contains many varied and uniquely qualified health professionals in the area of counseling, it is pivotal to learn the art of referring. One very successful minister who has a Ph.D. in an area other than counseling has said, “I am spiritual counselor only. I am definitely aware of where my abilities begin and end.”19 Wherever ministry leads one, there will be health professionals who may assist in counseling ministry:

  • Psychiatrists are trained medical physicians who diagnose and treat mental disorders. These doctors have completed a residency in counseling; they diagnose the health condition of persons by utilizing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), a tool of the American Psychiatric Association. They are board-certified in psychiatry for specific areas such as adult, adolescents, geriatrics, or in all three. The psychiatrist may also prescribe appropriate medication for behavioral stabilization.

  • Another clinician who may be of assistance is the clinical psychologist, a person with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in clinical psychology and holding licensure in his or her respective state. These professionals study the science of emotions, behavior, and the mind and will typically specialize in certain psychological treatments for depression and personality disorders. They are able to perform tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), which “is the most widely used objective personality test,”20 the Taylor- Johnson Temperament Analysis Profile (T-JTA), the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI), the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R), and the Weschler Intelligence Scale (WISC) for children. They are also capable of interviewing and analyzing for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).21 They apply diagnostic treatment from the DSM-IV and typically do not prescribe medications.

  • Many states license marriage and family therapists (LMFT) and licensed professional counselors (LPC) who are masters-level counselors. The LMFT is skilled in assessing individual and family issues, whereas the LPC typically focuses on treatment to individuals. Both the LMFT and LPC utilize the DSM-IV in order to prescribe treatment. They are skilled in working collaboratively with other medical professionals but are not able to prescribe medications.

  • The licensed social worker is another health field professional who works with families and assists in improving the overall social condition of the family. Their expertise includes skills related to working as a liaison between the counselee (s) and local and state health facilities.

Finally, the Christian counselor should not work in isolation. Each person is uniquely different in the image of God; consequently, there are no set techniques that work in all circumstances. Ideally, the Christian counselor should work in collaboration with other counseling professionals, perhaps even placing himself or herself under the care of a licensed supervisor for advice and perspective on challenging issues. Consultation is key to giving the best care possible to a troubled and traumatized human being. In Hebrews 10:24–25, Scripture is clear that Christians are to encourage each other and support each other as they face the challenges of life.

CONCLUSION

As we move into this new millennium, the complexity of life has never been greater. God’s church should be a place where people find healing and wholeness. A Christian counselor’s duty is to facilitate a nurturing environment whereby hurting individuals and families may receive and express God’s grace. Christian counseling is a way to help people become transformed into God’s image.

It would behoove Christian counselors to learn more about Christian education (which includes methods for coming to an understanding of who God is and how to nurture a relationship with God) and about psychology (knowing and understanding the human spirit). The union of these two very important fields of study will greatly aid in discipleship enhancement. The new millennium presents grave challenges unparalleled in previous centuries. Pastors, theologians, Christian educators, evangelists, and Christian counselors, working together, can make a difference.

NOTES
  1. Cited in David Olsen and John DeFrain, Marriage and Family (Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 2000), p. 6.

  2. George Barna, “The Sad Truth about Christians and Marriage,” The Barna Report (September-October 1996), p. 6.

  3. Don Martin, Maggie Martin, and Pat Jeffers, Stepfamilies in Therapy (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992), p. 9.

  4. Gary R. Collins, Excellence and Ethics in Counseling (Dallas: Word, 1991), p. 24.

  5. Saint Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods, Modern Library (New York: Random House, 1950), p. 407.

  6. David B. Waters and Edith C. Lawrence, Competence, Courage, and Change (New York: Norton, 1993), p. 40.

  7. Richard S. Taylor, ed., Beacon Dictionary of Theology (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill, 1983), p. 520.

  8. Wesley R. Burr, Randal D. Day, and Kathleen S. Bahr, Family Science (Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole, 1993), p. 8.

  9. Richard Exley, The Rhythm of Life (Tulsa, Okla.: Harrison House, 1987), p. 41, cited in Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling (Dallas: Word, 1988), p. 589. (Collins’s italics.)

  10. La Verne Tolbert, A Practical Guide to Christian Education in Your Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), p. 23.

  11. Collins, Excellence and Ethics in Counseling, p. 17.

  12. Michael P. Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening (New York: Guilford, 1995), p. 73.

  13. Donald W. Welch, “Minister as Counselor,” (lecture, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe, Kans., 8 September 1999).

  14. Jeffrey J. Magnavita, Relational Therapy for Personality Disorders (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000), p. 233.

  15. Martin Buber, I and Thou (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), p. 67.

  16. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 49.

  17. Ibid., p. 82.

  18. Henry Cloud, Changes That Heal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), p. 189.

  19. Jacob Blankenship, telephone interview with author, 7 May 2000.

  20. Jerrold S. Maxmen and Nicholas G. Ward, Essential Psychopathology and Its Treatment (New York: Norton, 1995), p. 41.

  21. Ibid.

* Used by permission of Baker Academic, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright © 2002. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. http://www.bakerbooks.com

Ministering to Children
By Kimberly Nelson

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Balancing Technology with Creative Play

Recently I was in one of the Pacific Rim Elementary school classrooms when the kids were asked, “what is your favorite thing to do?” A few of the children answered arts and crafts, soccer, skiing, other sports and activities but the majority said that their favorite thing to do was watch TV, play the Wii, play their X-Box or some other electronic device. Did I mention that this was a kindergarten class? My child was one of the many who cited electronic entertainment as the favorite thing to do. I get concerned about my kids getting addicted to the electronic toys of the 21st century. Many parents I talk to also struggle with this issue. Our children are immersed in a technologically driven culture. As parents of school aged kids it is important to balance the use of technology for leisure activities (DS,, PS-3, I-phone to name a few) with the use of our children’s imaginations, physical energy and creativity. This balance is difficult to maintain. While searching for ideas to help my kindergarten twins in this area I compiled a list of suggestions that hopefully will assist other parents.

*Set limits with electronic devices and stick to your limits.
The recommendation for TV/technology used by the American Academy of Pediatrics is typically no more then 1-2 hours a day. When a child doesn’t have limits in this area they tend to over utilize technology leading to weary eyes, headaches, lack of focus and lack of exercise (except with the Wii). Recently my son didn’t listen to me when I told him his electronics time was up. I took away all electronics the next day. He ended up making a fort with is friends, playing freeze dance and wrote about what a great time he had the next day at school.

*Keep the TV set out of kid’s rooms. If the temptation is there to watch TV they will take it. Kids who have televisions in their rooms watch more TV then kids who do not have bedroom TVs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently suggests that "pediatricians recommend to parents that they limit children's total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day and to remove television sets from children's bedrooms”1

*Encourage creative and imaginative play. Create a file of imaginative and fun activities (many ideas can be found in publications such as the Family Fun magazine) for the kids. When they say “there is nothing to do” have them pick out something from the file to try. If they don’t like the options after looking at three activities they need to come up with their own idea, try it and write it down for the file. This is great for the summer. The Boes’ family, of Vista, have their kids play outside 30 minutes for every 15 minutes of computer/game time. After awhile the kids forget to come in for their technology time because they are having so much fun outside.

*Encourage physical exercise. We started a community play date on our street. At 3:00 p.m. on Fridays the kids all meet in front of the “host house” The mom provides a snack and the kids play. The moms visit while the kids go on the slip-n-slide, bouncy, make things with chalk, have an Easter egg hunt, put together a lemonade stand etc. The only rule is that everyone stays outside. I know of one neighborhood where the kids go in each other’s garages and play but not in the houses unless the parents know each other well.

*Get your kids involved in extra curricular activities. Sign-up for sports, music, art, ballet etc. Encourage them to pursue the things they love. Expose them to a variety of activities. Help them unwrap their areas of giftedness.

*Go on a nature walk, to the park or the beach. My kids don’t always want to go but they end up having a great time. One of the kindergarten classes has a Thursday play date right after school at Poinsettia Park. The kids play and get their energy out and have fun.

*Put the kids in charge of dinner (this works well when you have nothing in the pantry). Give them a budget, make a menu, make a list, go to the store, have the kids pay with the money budgeted and supervise while they make it. Kids will be more likely to eat what they helped create.

*Be an informed consumer. There are websites with information on the content in movies (www.pluggedinonline.com) and TV, and games (www.commonsensemedia.org). Kids don’t always watch/play age appropriate things and parents can be aware of the content and help guide them and set the ground rules for shows and games they are allowed to watch/play.

Many parents of school aged children struggle with the balancing the use of technology and imaginative play. Although the balance is hard to find we can be intentional and help our kids discover many of the exciting ways to use their imaginations and have fun without even turning on a game or TV.

Kimberly Nelson MS, MFT
Kimberly Nelson is a Marriage and Family Therapist and mother of twin kindergarteners who can be reached at 760-434-2370 or knelson@FCSsandiego.com

References

Jordan, Amy B PhD, Hersey, James C PhD, McDivitt PhD, Heitzler, Carrie C. MPH “Redefining Childrens Television-Viewing Time; A Qualitative Study of Parents and Their Children.” Journal od Pediatrics Nov. 2006: e1303-1316.
 

Christian Examiner
By Dr. Marcial Felan

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TOWARD A DIVORCE PROOF CHURCH

Rev. Dr. Marcial Felan, LMFT, Pastor of Family Ministries, Shadow Mountain Community Church, El Cajon, CA.

It is sad to say that research shows the divorce rate among those who call themselves evangelical Christians is as high as for those who do not identify themselves in this way. All of us who are married, especially those who are Pastors, can do something to change this sad reality. But what?

I am convinced that it starts with us Pastors, the shepherds, and the state of our marriages. If you are a Pastor (as I am) your relationship with your wife is the most important message on marriage that your church will hear you NOT preach. How you prioritize your marriage will speak volumes to your church. Pastors, your marriages must be more important to you than your ministry. The same holds true for all of the married couples in the Christian community. We all, lay people and Pastors, must start by putting our relationships with God first followed by our spouses and children. If you are a deacon(ness), elder or other lay leader in your church make sure that you take care of your Pastor and his wife and family. See that he takes his vacation time, days off, and gets away with his wife, at the church’s expense, once or twice a year. By investing in the emotional health of your Pastor and his family, it will save you more than what it will cost you to replace him.

In 1981 Joe Aldrich wrote in his now classic book Lifestyle Evangelism, the following words: “The two greatest forces in evangelism are a healthy church and a healthy marriage…The Christian family in a community is the ultimate evangelistic tool…When love is seen, the message is heard.” For churches to be healthy, the relationships within the churches need to be healthy. We can help the health of marriages and families by seeking to strengthen marriages and if you will, divorce-proof our churches by making sure the following are available. If we cannot provide them we can refer those needing help to where they can get help if your church cannot provide them (more on that later):

  1. Require that pre-engagement/marriage preparation classes be taken before couples are married in the church.

  2. Teach and promote the covenant marriage concept of marriage that lasts for life.

  3. Provide marriage counseling and/or marriage mentors for couples in the pre-marriage stage and for couples with troubled marriages. Each church can prepare and provide a list of pro-marriage Christian counselors for referral.

  4. Offer marriage and parenting classes designed to be preventative by strengthen marriages and families before crisis hits. There is much truth to the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

  5. Promote/provide marriage enrichment events like couples retreats or marriage seminars, especially when they are available in your area.

These are just a few ways that we can strengthen marriages and in doing so work to see an end to divorce in the church. As Jesus said: “Let your light (excellent marriages) shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works (excellent marriages) and glorify your Father in heaven.” If your church would like assistance in this area, the Center for Enriching Relationships of San Diego, consisting of trained marriage and family pastors/therapists, would like to help you with your marriage ministry. To find out more you can contact Dr. Marcial Felan at 619-590-1747 or by email: mfelan@shadowmountain.org or the Center for Enriching Relationships at 619-858-3105.





 

 





 

 

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