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Christian Counseling: Can anybody be a lay counselor?


Training Category: People Helping Ministry

In some regards, yes, any believer fulfilling the one another commands of Scripture not only can, but will be a counselor. Undoubtedly a significant portion of professional counseling could be eliminated if the church was committed to living out the ‘one another’ commands of Scripture.

. . . admonish one another . . . bear one another’s burdens . . . build up one another . . . care for one another . . . comfort one another . . . confess faults to one another . . . encourage one another . . . spur one another on

Surely, in this kind of dynamic atmosphere, healing and change would occur. People would find the church to be a safe place, among those who accept one another.

The intent of this post, however, is not to provide a dissertation on the pros and cons of professional counseling. Nor is the objective to provide in-depth coverage of clinical counseling or abnormal psychology. The intent is to help church leaders and workers to more effectively counsel in the normal course of ministry — pastoral, lay, or peer counselors.

Spiritual Gifts in a Lay Counselor

While we can can be involved in counseling others as we live out the one another commands of Scripture, there are those who are gifted to come alongside of people in a more concerted or intentional way. People with the gift of exhortation may find themselves in this role more than those without that gift.

Qualities in a Good Counselor

ability to empathize
ability to listen

People Helping Ministry Manual - Help with Christian Counseling
(Click image to learn more about this resource.)

The People Helping Ministry Manual includes a section on counseling with this content as well as some input on each of the above qualities. Other topics in that section:


13 Replies to “Christian Counseling: Can anybody be a lay counselor?”

  1. I am a person of faith who holds a PhD in psychology and certifications in behavioral therapy and applied behavioral analytics. I currently provide behavioral consultation to private clients, schools, and am a developmental disability center clinical supervisor. I was wondering what the process would be for me to become a christian counselor. There is a need and people are asking for a christian based therapist and I would like to be able to provide that service for clients and my community. I often find myself reference biblical passages during therapy and consultation currently and want to professionaly identify as a christian therapist.

    • Hello, Paul. This post deals primarily with being a lay counselor. Your interest is more professional. While it may not fully answer your questions, you may find the post, So You Want to Become a Christian Counselor, helpful. Be sure to also read the comments in that post. In reality, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are already a Christian counselor. To be identified as such, you just need to make it known by promoting your therapy as such or perhaps connecting yourself with a Christian Counseling Center.

      • Thanks for your help. Coming out for the professional world I didn’t want to mis lead anyone or cause a possible liability to myself. The post you referenced helps and thanks for your time

        • You are welcome, Paul. I’m glad that post helps. I believe the key is in how you promote yourself. Some people might find reference to Bible verses during therapy, or praying with them, offensive. If you advertise yourself as a Christian therapist, they should expect that some of that might happen. The choice then lies with people on whether or not to seek your services. Likewise, I also believe you need to be upfront about the type of therapy (i.e., behavioral therapy) you provide so those who do want a faith-based approach know your approach to working on issues and can decide on whether they are comfortable with that.

  2. good piece i am a pastor/psychologist and i would like to have additional material to train our church workers as lay counselors thanks Jane wambugu

    • How good that you wish to train church workers as lay counselors. In addition to what you read in this post, check out articles and books listed on the People Helping Ministry Resources page under the Counseling tab. Also be sure to check out the resources at the American Association of Christian Counselors which is listed on the page mentioned above in that tab under Organizations. We are not associated with them but list them due to the good training resources they provide. I will take time to pray God gives you wisdom as you plan this training.

  3. I would like to be a Lay Counselor. Can you help me with a certificate?

  4. Hello! Thank you so much for your posts on Christian Lay Counselling. I’m 51 years old and about a year ago, I knew that God was leading me toward being a Christian counselor. Before that, I was a teacher for the church. At my age, the idea of going to school to get a Masters seems…crazy. So I’d like to do lay counseling. I’m an ordained minister as well. My question is, I do a lot of free help for people online on various websites and I’d like to offer to do lay-counseling for them to help resolve their problems (so many people are hurting). If I’m not charging anything and I make it clear that my advice is not professional, do I need to worry about someone trying to sue me? I doubt anyone would but I just want to do my due diligence.

    • Hello, Misty. I praise God for your desire to help people through counseling. Unfortunately in today’s world liability can become an issue. Suppose you provide excellent counsel to someone who is suicidal and they take their life anyway — no fault of yours. Grieving family members may need someone to blame and since you were trying to help, they target you. So, yes … it can happen. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed, particularly if you sense this is of God. But, certainly do follow 2 Corinthians 8:19-20. — “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” — While that deals with the handling of finances, the principle is there for us to do whatever we can to to avoid even the possibility of ethical or legal impropriety. Even though you are offering the counseling free of charge, you would still be putting yourself out there publicly. Indeed, as you wrote, you need to make it clear that your advice is not professional. You may want to consider having a disclosure statement that makes everything very clear that people electronically sign so should something go awry, you are better protected. With all that said, let me make sure you understand that what I wrote is not legal counsel. You might want to seek actual legal counsel, at least to affirm that however you do your disclosure statement could hold up. Taking the extra steps, while perhaps not absolutely necessary, could avoid a lot of trouble in the unlikely case of something going wrong. I pray God gives you the wisdom needed in how to proceed.

  5. You made a good point that empathy is a very important to look for in Christian-based counselors. I’d like to start looking for that kind of counseling soon because I’d like to get my life back on track now that I found out that I am pregnant. I think a lot of lifestyle changes will have to be made so that I can properly transition to being a mother later on.

    • Yes, Alice. It is important for counselors to seek to empathize. Unless they’ve been in your exact situation, they may not be able to fully understand what you’re going through but that shouldn’t stop them from trying. What a counselor often can truly empathize with is the core need. We all have basic needs that we seek to meet. Our situations, however, may vary. For example, we all have the need to be comforted at some point in our lives. According to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, we comfort others with the comfort we have received from God, rather than being able to fully understand what the person goes through. A counselor should be able to empathize with your need to get your “life back on track” whether or not they understand transitioning into being a mother spurring on that desire.