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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Cited in David Olsen and
John DeFrain, Marriage and Family (Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 2000),
George Barna, “The Sad
Truth about Christians and Marriage,” The Barna Report (September-October
1996), p. 6.
Don Martin, Maggie Martin,
and Pat Jeffers, Stepfamilies in Therapy (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992),
Gary R. Collins, Excellence
and Ethics in Counseling (Dallas: Word, 1991), p. 24.
Saint Augustine, The City
of God, trans. Marcus Dods, Modern Library (New York: Random House, 1950),
David B. Waters and Edith
C. Lawrence, Competence, Courage, and Change (New York: Norton, 1993), p.
Richard S. Taylor, ed.,
Beacon Dictionary of Theology (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill, 1983), p. 520.
Wesley R. Burr, Randal D.
Day, and Kathleen S. Bahr, Family Science (Pacific Grove, Calif.:
Brooks/Cole, 1993), p. 8.
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
La Verne Tolbert, A
Practical Guide to Christian Education in Your Church (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 2000), p. 23.
Collins, Excellence and
Ethics in Counseling, p. 17.
Michael P. Nichols, The
Lost Art of Listening (New York: Guilford, 1995), p. 73.
Donald W. Welch, “Minister
as Counselor,” (lecture, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe, Kans., 8
Jeffrey J. Magnavita,
Relational Therapy for Personality Disorders (New York: John Wiley and Sons,
2000), p. 233.
Martin Buber, I and Thou
(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), p. 67.
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s
Search for Meaning (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 49.
Ibid., p. 82.
Henry Cloud, Changes That
Heal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), p. 189.
telephone interview with author, 7 May 2000.
Jerrold S. Maxmen and
Nicholas G. Ward, Essential Psychopathology and Its Treatment (New York:
Norton, 1995), p. 41.
* 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.
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
*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
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
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.
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):
Require that pre-engagement/marriage preparation
classes be taken before couples are married in the church.
Teach and promote the covenant marriage concept
of marriage that lasts for life.
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.
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.”
Promote/provide marriage enrichment events like
couples retreats or marriage seminars, especially when they are available in
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
or the Center for Enriching Relationships at 619-858-3105.