My daughter and I recently traveled to San Francisco and decided to tour the USS Pampanito (SS-383). The retired WWII submarine once deployed on 6 combat tours in the Pacific. Since my father served on a submarine, I have always been fascinated by both the ships and the stories of those who served. I realize the Pampanito was different than the USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608; my father’s assignment), but something struck me on the tour – expertise.
Submarines have relatively small crews. I remember my dad telling me that he had to know every value associated with the reactor by number, location, and function. As I walked through the Pampanito his words rang in my ears. The men had to be experts in their jobs. The fate of the ship and the crew was in the balance.
The tour gave me a greater sense of appreciation for the sailors’ service. My dad once told me of an incident where his boat almost sank. Being inside the Pampanito and imagining that moment was intense. I could feel the tension in my muscles as I thought about the men desperately trying to save the ship and crew. Of course, they did. They took the actions necessary because they knew them. They were experts of the ship.
This expertise got me thinking about biblical counseling. What does it mean to become an expert? What is the analogy associated with knowing every value, where it is, and what it does for the counselor?
I want to suggest 5 ways to continue growing to become a biblical counseling expert.
#1. Study your Bible with counseling in mind
Our world thinks we need to be experts in the latest diets, exercise programs, therapies from secular psychology, and accepting of cultural norms. These things do not make one an expert in biblical counseling. We need to be experts of our Bibles. We need to know chapters, verses, ideas, stories, and theology. The more you know the text, the more you can help. That involves reading with questions in mind, meditating how certain passages could relate to certain problems, and memorizing passages.
#2. Conduct regular self-evaluation for sin and annoying habits
Biblical counseling has always stressed the need for counselors to exhibit proper Christian character. Sin and pride can come from anywhere. We must evaluate our own hearts and seek to change to be like Jesus. I also, on occasion, encourage you to record a session and listen to it. When we listen to ourselves, we might learn that we do something annoying. I know that I must be careful with, “Does that make sense?” I have caught myself saying it 10 times in a single session!
#3. Seek regular training from others
Continuing education is part of staying sharp. I once heard Ed Welch give a talk on blended families. One sentence from that talk has helped me throughout my ministry (“everyone lost something”). We need to hear from others because if we are not careful, we can counsel people using the same passages, progression, and discussion. We stagnate. It is like we know 10 valves, when we must know 50. Continuing education helps us learn passages, strategies, and thoughts about wise ministry.
#4. Discuss cases with another counselor
We must care about confidentiality. However, we can discuss cases with other counselors without giving away identifying details. Verbal processors often learn a way to improve merely by explaining what they have done. Other times, another counselor has an idea that we did not consider
#5. Teach someone else
I like to teach because it forces me to express what I believe in clear terminology. Before teaching another, my explanation can be confusing. When people ask questions, it allows me to determine whether there are errors in my system that I did not consider.
Touring that submarine and hearing that 24% of the US submarines and their crews were lost in WWII, reminded me of one other matter – people’s lives are in the balance. That is a good reason to pursue expertise.