Outpatient counseling at urban compassionate ministry centers

    -- Wayne Stark, former Love Link Ministries director, outlines his philosophy of counseling ministries

There are basically two kinds of counseling: informal and formal. Informal counseling was what Jesus did. He counseled with the woman at the well, with Nicodemus who came to Him in the middle of the night, and with his disciples while in a boat, on a mountainside, or trudging along a dusty path. Though there were no charts to fill out, no assessment tools to use, nor any weekly session appointments to keep, Jesus was the master counselor of all time.

We live in a different age today. Formal counseling has become a prominent practice. When used properly, formal counseling can be helpful. Counselors such as James Dobson have made a significant impact for good in our society. However, we must not think that informal counseling is either outdated or somehow inferior to formal counseling. The two can be used together, often with greater effectiveness than one alone.

Although I have been involved in formal counseling in a hospital setting and enjoyed it very much, presently my counseling is primarily informal. I counsel at the altar, in the sanctuary after service, in the hallway, in the dining room, and in the church yard. I counsel in my study while trying to prepare a message, in the recovery houses, in the street, in the alley, in the van while driving, in the hospital, and under a bridge. I continually encounter people who want counsel. It would be impossible to fill out forms and charts for all of those counseling sessions. As I work in my pastoral role, I find informal counseling to be the most practical and effective. I recall that in a seminary pastoral counseling class the comment was made that it is difficult for a pastor to do much counseling (thinking in terms of formal counseling).

In our situation, I can see some real value -- even necessity -- in having a formal (clinical) counseling program in chemical dependency. A ministry like Love Link needs outpatient program. It would not replace what Love Link is doing already. It would add to it, enhancing what is already being done. With an outpatient program in place we would have a combination of both formal and informal counseling. But there is a third counseling structure needed. That is a recovery house program. In a good recovery program there is a combination of informal and formal counseling.

The various forms of counseling will give a good foundation for the total recovery program. I am quite willing to work directly in any aspect of the program as needed, but cautious to not focus too much on one while neglecting another. I want to see all areas of the counseling program strong and vibrant.

Good therapy, of course, goes well beyond mere counseling. There is the impact of several recovering men living in the same house and learning to get along together while remaining sober. Helping with meals at the church (cooking, serving and cleaning up) is good therapy. Helping around Love Link with food and clothing distribution, pick-ups, maintenance, and yard work is good therapy.

One of our projects was a Native American craft shop. Elmer was a sniffer. He had been in our program a couple of times. He wouldn't last more than two or three days. This time he has been working in the craft shop and it has been a great deal of help in his battle with an addiction. He has been straight for more than a month and is doing great.

We continue to see miracles of God's grace. Yesterday morning Ross and his wife drove from Edmond to be in our morning service at First Indian Church. After service he wrote out a $100 check to put in the offering. Ross and his wife drove away in a beautiful late model Cadillac. He now has a thriving auto repair business in Edmond whereas only a few months ago we were working with him in recovery.

Philosophy of ministry     10/40 Window explanation and map     Seeking God's will?    African martyr's commitment     Mission trip fundraising    Ten ways to ruin mission trips    Nazarene Missions International resources