ANN MAREE GOUDZWAARD |GUEST
Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series of posts on one another care in the church. To read the other posts, click here.
Most mornings you can find me curled up in the corner of my couch reading Scripture. Now, I’d love for you to think that makes me super virtuous; however, I must confess I read the news and social media first. I’m still working on my priorities.
Daily “demotions” (as I like to call them) are one of my favorite times of the day. God speaks to me through His word and I discover something new about Him and His world just about every time.
I can’t tell you how often God then uses those quiet moments with Him to equip me to minister to others. Frequently I find that the very words He applied to my soul in the morning help in a conversation with a friend or counselee later in the day. He does that. His words are our daily nourishment; however, they are also meant for us to use to sustain one another (Col. 3:16). This is just one of several ways we can prepare in advance of sharing the word with someone who is struggling. This means we need to pay attention to how God meets us with His word.
Another way is to build a counseling toolkit. A toolkit can be made up of sermons, devotionals, and/or Bible Study materials adapted for use in counsel. For instance, what was the last sermon you heard? What were your pastor’s three main points? How did he apply them? What was the main take away from your last Bible study? Create a journal with these messages and record the insights you’ve gleaned.
But you can also enhance those messages. How would YOU teach a passage? What homework can you create from the passage? What activities help you memorize the Scriptures? Can you help another woman learn to memorize? Do you draw? Can you create a visual of the text? Make the words memorable, and then make a reproducible resource so that you can give it to those you are helping.
Remember, though, that words without actions are dead (James 1:23-25). So, it isn’t enough to simply study God’s word. Knowledge requires action. So, what does practical application of Scripture look like “out of season” when you aren’t necessarily caregiving? I’d suggest the following,
Practice listening. Proverbs 18 says, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (vs. 13). How do you rate yourself as a listener? When someone else is talking, are you thinking about what they are saying and how to find out more information? Or are you thinking about what YOU will say next? Good listeners are genuinely curious about the people they care for. They ask good questions. They probe to further understand. They are “other” focused rather than “self” focused in conversation. They listen to people on their own terms and don’t presume to understand simply because they had a similar experience. Each person lives life uniquely. Practice listening to people in such a way as to find out how they experience their particular difficulty.
Practice Practical Acts of Kindness. “Count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). Who did your pastor pray for during the congregational prayer? Can you record their name in your Bible or journal and pray for them daily? Can you send a card? Email? Can you encourage them with the verses God brings to mind when you pray? Do you have a smart phone? Can you find out what times of the day someone you know is struggling the most and create a reminder to pray? People who have lost loved ones typically have particular times of the day that are worse than others. Is there a widow in your congregation you contact to find out when that is? Can you lift her to the Lord at the time of day when she is at her lowest? Proactively seek out broken or hurting people.
Practice Peacemaking. In Acts 6:1-4, Luke writes that widows were neglected in the daily distribution for those in need. Therefore, the apostles called together the full membership of the church to address the problem. Unity was so important to the early church that the leaders called together literally everyone in the church (vs. 2) to address the problem. What about your relationships? Is unity a priority? Are you at peace with everyone? (Rom 12:18). What do you do when someone wrongs you? Do you seek out offenders? What do you do when you’ve been the one who wronged someone else? Are you actively pursuing repentance and, where appropriate, reconciliation? How are you doing at peacemaking?
If we approach training as an ongoing effort and build our toolkits with the word and practical deeds, we will see fruitful results. Ladies will notice our compassion. They will hear wisdom when we speak with them. They will discover that we are safe and trustworthy and able to help with their problems. Hurting people will seek us out.
Not only will women in crisis notice; leaders will too. When pastors and elders see women in their congregation willingly partner with them to care for the flock—especially when we aren’t even required to do so—they will likely pursue us for greater responsibility.
Ok. Your turn. What are some of the ways you can prepare “out of season” in order to prepare to counsel the word “in season?” I’d love to hear your feedback!
About the Author:
Ann Maree Goudzwaard
Ann Maree Goudzwaard serves at her home church, Christ Covenant in Matthews, NC, counseling those in need and training in one another care. She is the co-author of Help[H]er, A Churchwide Response for Women in Crisis. Ann Maree is a biblical counselor, has an MDiv with a counseling emphasis from RTS Charlotte, and is a DMin candidate. She is married to Bob, mother of three, and grandmother to eleven.