Psychological Counseling May Make Visitation Ministry More Effective

A heart-shaped wooden plate labeled as 'support' is on the hands.
A heart-shaped wooden plate labeled as 'support' is on the hands. (photo: Getty Images)
By Kristina RanSeptember 12th, 2023

During the three years of the pandemic, believers was unable to connect with each other. Consequently, in the post-pandemic era, visiting has emerged as a central emphasis of church ministry.

I found that in Central South China, every pastor is assigned at least eight visits a month. A rural church in North China immediately resumed its visits during the New Year's season, right when the pandemic ended. Three sisters in a group visited old believers and gave them fruit, rice, and some money. The pastors of an eastern city said that the church should pay more attention to preaching, management, and visiting at present.

Pastor G of a county-level church in southwest China said that even if the number of fellow workers is limited, visiting must never cease. A problem has been bothering her more and more in recent years. “We come and go and listen to them talk about the difficulties at home. But we can’t help them except by comforting them. Sometimes we can’t even give them comfort.”

It reminds me of a pastor’s ministry in my hometown. After a Sunday service, three believers approached him for prayers. One said that the divorce could not be done; another said that a lawsuit was involved with the upper-floor neighbor due to domestic renovation; the other one asked to pray for the child’s entrance examination. The pastor did his best to respond and pray for them in the limited time. However, his helplessness was obvious.

“Believers trust you so much that they want your help.” Pastor G felt that the difficulties faced by believers are complicated and involve many fields, which makes pastors overwhelmed. She added that visiting pastors can understand the difficulties of believers’ lives, and in order to help them solve problems, visiting pastors need to be innovative.

Pastor G mentioned that visiting should focus on providing believers with truthful teaching, loving comfort, and spiritual support. Moreover, psychological aid is a good way to go. “Psychotherapy has become increasingly popular in recent years,” she said. “Even my best friend, who runs a church in N City, called me last year to tell me that the pressure was too great and she wanted to buy a small yard in the country to stay away.”

Pastor G’s family is suffering from depression. On the way to finding a solution, an online companion healing app inspired her.

It is software for people who have “light psychological problems”. Users do not need professional psychological counseling. They only need to be in pairs to talk to and heal each other. She thought that most believers are in such an interval—not completely unhealthy, yet not to the point where they need psychotherapy. She thought that pastors could also play the role of light psychological helpers when visiting.

Pastor G believes that pastors can also learn psychological knowledge, diagnose the problems and needs of believers, and then provide them with corresponding methods. For example, the crux of the problem lies in epistemology, so it is suggested that people participate in Bible study more often. If there is a lack of communication and companionship, more participation in fellowship should be encouraged.

However, Pastor G also stressed that it is beneficial to learn psychological science knowledge to assist the visit, but it is by no means necessary to replace pastoral counseling with psychological science. Psychological science may help people identify problems, but only the gospel can establish a “real person” belonging to God, thus leading people out of their predicament.

“Visiting can’t just be prayers. It should be of practical help to believers, or it reveals pastors’ laziness.” This is the voice of Pastor G, and Pastor X in the neighboring city has the same understanding.

Pastor X enlisted the aid of a non-profit organization in response to the free day clinic at a church. He invited experts to the church to give medical and health training to a group of young fellow workers. After the students passed the exam, they would be awarded certificates and given medical equipment. However, they required that they visit believers’ homes and communities regularly after school, not only to do blood pressure, blood lipid, and blood oxygen tests for them but also to disseminate health knowledge.

Of course, the core of the visit is to care about the spiritual life, spiritual situation, worship fellowship, and family relationships of believers. After establishing this core, it is a good way to talk about psychological care and medical help.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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