A lay counseling program can encourage and guide people who are hurting or feeling lost. Getting started involves laying a risk management framework to help you select, train, and supervise lay counselors. Use these simple tips to create guidelines that help safeguard your ministry, your counselors, and the people turning to you for help.
Develop a Framework
- Ask an Attorney. Have a lawyer help you to develop a lay counseling policy and forms.
- Read the Fine Print. Learn what coverage your insurance policy provides for lay counseling programs.
- Prepare to Screen Your Team. Develop a screening program to review all potential employees and volunteers who desire to get involved in a ministry's lay counseling activities and administration.
- Tackle Tough Issues. Create administrative policies that address issues such as confidentiality, record keeping, and abuse reporting.
- Develop Support. Draft a communications plan that informs church leaders, members, and attendees about the planned lay counseling program.
Put Plans in Motion
- Pick the Best People. Look for emotional and spiritual maturity, a desire to help hurting people, and a willingness to accept supervision in lay counselor candidates.
- Train Lay Counselors Carefully. Provide biblical guidance about routine problems that counselees face, offer opportunities to practice lay counseling skills through "role play," and explain the legal and ethical issues involved.
- Offer an 'Out.' Give lay counselors guidance on how and when to refer people to appropriate professional counseling services.
- Provide Purposeful Supervision. Have a knowledgeable person supervise lay counselors, meeting with them regularly to discuss issues and conduct ongoing training. This person could be either a pastor with extensive pastoral counseling experience or a Christian licensed mental health practitioner.