International Graduate School of Ministry

International Graduate School of Ministry
Sample Thesis/Dissertation Proposal

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A Paper Presented to

The Graduate Committee of the

International Graduate School of Ministry


In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for

Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Ministry














Statement of the Problem

A. The Question

        A concern in ministry is that the selection, training, supervision and evaluation of lay counselors be the finest it can be given the excellent resources available from conservative scholars on the subject. In this regard, developing programs, current programs and proposed programs for lay counseling need to be evaluated according to well thought-out theology and practicality.

        The project is intended to answer one central questions: To what extent is the selection, training, supervision and evaluation of lay counselors effective in the lay counseling program at Crossroads Community Church? This project will look at these four areas of lay counseling to determine any possible changes that would improve the overall program. The research and conclusions will suggest applications for other lay counselor programs in other churches.

B. Rationale for the Project

        This project fits the research category of a program evaluation. The project is meant to identify areas of strength and weakness in the overall lay counseling ministry at Crossroads Community Church. It will provide evaluation and suggest other resources to measure each of the four categories mentioned above. Methods for implementing changes to the program will be developed in the research. Testing and evaluation will be made to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the program at Crossroads.

        After concentrating on evangelism and missions, busy churches have little time, money or energy to do research on lay counseling. Research is needed which has behind it the experimentation to direct church staff toward an effective, biblical, lay counseling program. By using this research project as a guide, church staff can stay on target regarding efficient use of resources. They can remain biblical, effective and flexible regarding the needs of the lay counselors and the counselees.

        A review of biblical counseling literature reveals a paucity of information regarding techniques and approaches to train church members in effective, biblical lay counseling. Some tried and proven approach to the problem must be in the hands of the church staff member in charge of pastoral care.

        Whether we are considering a large church with multiple staff and a well--developed pastoral care department or a single staff church, a minister can multiply himself many times over if he can train church members to give effective, biblical lay counseling. When a pastor, for example, attempts to counsel members himself, several outcomes are likely to occur. First, he is taking time directly away from Bible study, prayer, fellowship, administration, recreation, and family time. Second, those he counsels may eventually feel uncomfortable with him as their pastor due to how much he knows of the intimate details of their life. They may eventually leave the church or cause trouble with the pastor or other members.

        The single staff pastor, as well as the multiple staff minister in the department of pastoral care, need a concise, well developed manuscript to follow in training others to take over counseling duties. Any minister who is forced to search through volumes of counseling books and eventually develop a lay counseling manual or program, must necessarily neglect his other duties. This project will produce a list of tests and methods and their expected impact to shorten the search of the pastor who is setting up, developing or changing a lay counseling program.

C. The Basic Assumptions

        This project will examine four assumptions concerning lay counseling in the context of the lay counseling program at Crossroads.

        1. The process for selecting lay counselors is an essential ingredient for a successful biblical lay counseling program.

        2. A well-organized training program for potential, as well as existing, lay counselors is essential for a successful lay counseling program.

        3. A consistent, intense, personal supervision process is necessary in order to help lay counselors constantly improve their skills and function effectively.

        4. A regular, periodic, formal evaluation process is important to provide self--reflection for the lay counselor as well as an accountability tool for the supervisor.

D. Intended Outcome

        The intent is to apply the research of eminent scholars to the areas of selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of lay counselors in order to reveal and suggest changes to improve the effectiveness and stability of the counseling program at Crossroads Community Church. No follow-up research will be done to see if and how much these changes did, in fact, produce the desired outcome. If, over the years only a few counselors can be disqualified before they are trained or before they begin to counsel, this project will have completed its job. In the same way, if some counselors can be trained, supervised, and evaluated in a way that procures better results for the counselor, client, and the church, the research will have been successful. The project is also intended as a guide to other churches involved in setting up, changing or developing a biblical lay counselor program.

E. The Title

        The title of the project is: An Examination of Biblical Lay Counseling at Crossroads Community Church.

F. The Definitions

        1. Lay counseling refers to those church members who are not paid staff. They are saints being equipped for the work of the ministry and in no way subservient to “clergy" or paid staff members.

        2. Counseling refers to any encounter between a church member and a counselee whether or not they have formalized the relationship by setting parameters or meeting times. Counseling has been defined by Dr. Gary Collins as "a caring relationship in which one person tries to help another deal more effectively with the stresses of life.”1

        3. Counselee refers to those who approach the church with a personal or family problem, whether or not they are taken into counseling.

        4. Biblical counseling refers to the use of biblical principles or Bible verses in the counseling milieu. It is distinguished from secular or psychological counseling by the model it uses and by the stated premises.

        5. Super-vision is defined as, " intensive, interpersonally focused, one-to-one, [or one to many] relationship in which one person is designated to facilitate the development of therapeutic competence in the other person [or persons].”2 We must not neglect the "supervisory" aspects of reliance on the Holy Spirit. This Project will research the work of two other theorists in particular who dwell on the importance of the Holy Spirit: Jay Adams and John MacArthur.

1 G. R. Collins, Innovative Approaches to Counseling (Waco, TX: Word, 1986), 73.
2 Ibid., p. 125.

G. Biblical and Theological Issues

        The biblical issue that presents itself is that of the sufficiency of Christ as opposed to "method" in counseling. The works of John MacArthur mitigate against the use of psychology and method in counseling. In the project, we must address MacArthur's concerns to see how the counseling ministry at Crossroads compares to MacArthur's demands.

        The second issue is that of being guided by the Holy Spirit as opposed to being guided by statistics and research methodology. To answer this question we will proceed along the lines of research methodology while at the same time being guided by the Holy Spirit. The question then is, "How does one know that he is guided by the Holy Spirit?" If the counselors in the program use sound, proven, biblical principles, pray and are accountable to the church and to each other and their leaders, we will assume that they are guided by the Holy Spirit. Multiple are the scriptures that speak of a sound mind which Christians are expected to use.

        A third theological issue is that of discipleship. The counselor and those involved in this project must answer the questions, "How do good Christian lay counseling and discipleship relate to each other?" Currently, lay counselors see their clients for a maximum of seven to eight times. At that time either the client is ready to exit counseling or the lay counselor refers the client to a professional counselor. If discipleship is an integral part of counseling, then we must find a way for it to continue beyond formal counseling.


Annotated Literature Review

 A. Subjects to be Addressed in Literature Review

        1. Selected program models for lay counselor training.

        2. The psychology of biblical lay counseling.

        3. Who should do counseling?

B. Resources Related to the Topic

        Literature on the subject of lay counseling naturally falls into two categories: secular and Christian. First we will note some of the secular works, then go to the Christian literature.

Secular Sources

        Few secular writers bear directly on the subject of lay biblical counseling. Many of them, however, have made important contributions of data and insight that inform this study.

Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health, Action for Mental Health. New York: Science Editions, 1961.

        This study showed that vast numbers of individuals and couples went directly to clergy for help rather than to mental help professionals.

Bergin and Lambert, "The Evaluation of Therapeutic Outcomes," Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change, 2nd ed., S. L. Garfield and A. E. Bergin. New York: 1978.

        Bergin and Lambert report that 43 to 65 percent of patients "get better" on their own with only friends, teachers, pastors, etc., helping them. Though the secular community may call this "spontaneous remission," the Christian community recognizes the value of the biblical, spiritual, and fellowship related therapeutic approaches.

Boser, E. G., "The Effect of Therapists' Training on Group Therapeutic Outcome" Journal of Consulting Psychology 30. 1966.

       This research showed that training could have no results or even have negative results if the right conditions were met.

Carkhuff, R. R. and Truax, C. B., "Lay Mental Health Counseling: The Effects of Lay Group Counseling," Journal of Consulting Psychology 29. 1965.

        These studies reported that lay or paraprofessional counseling are effective even when compared with professional counseling.

Durlak, J. A., "Comparative Effectiveness of Paraprofessional and Professional Helpers," Psychological Bulletin 86. 1979.

        Durlak said that counselors could do better than paraprofessionals, given the right circumstances. He concludes that "professional mental health education, training and experience do not appear to be necessary prerequisites for an effective helping person."

Dorchin, S. J., Modem Clinical Psychology. New York: Basic Books, 1976.

        Dorchin cites several potential problems with the use of lay counselors: They feel, and are nonprofessional, they may have trouble with role boundaries, they may try to do more than they are able to do, they may not know what to do next.

Hansen, J. C., Stevic, R. R., and Warner, Jr., R. W., Counseling: Theory and Process. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1972.

        These authors compile a very exhaustive book on counseling background. This book should mostly be used for reference. It is most useful for definitions of counseling areas such as secular models, processes, legal issues and values in counseling.

Christian Literature

Adams, J. E., Competent to Counsel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.

        Adams gives a convincing argument for Nouthetic Counseling. He perhaps oversells his conviction that the counselor must be almost perfect to begin lay counseling.

Adams, J. E., The Christian Counselor's Manual. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973.

        This work is a sequel to Competent to Counsel. Adams gives a reference section at the back to provide ready helps to pinpoint possible causes of an biblical solutions for the problems that they confront in the day-by-day work of counseling. He includes check lists for procedures, failure, etc. For something so subjective as Nouthetic Christian Counseling, this may be much too pedantic. Adams is open for much criticism.

Adams, J. E., What About Nouthetic Counseling? Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1976.

        This book simply answers some of the more important questions about nouthetic counseling.

Adams, J. E., Matters of Concern to Christian Counselors. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.

        Volume II answers some "off-the-wall" questions that novice lay counselors may ask: “Is Transactional Analysis OK?” and “Does the behaviorist have a mind?” are just two unlikely questions that could be asked.

Allen, C. L., God's Psychiatry. New York: Pyramid Books, 1953.

        Allen looks at the Twenty-Third Psalm, The Ten Commandments, The Lord's Prayer and The Beatitudes. He looks not at the words but at the thoughts. Much of the material in this little book could be used by lay counselors.

Berkley, J. D., Called into Crisis. Dallas: Word, 1989.

        Berkley names many of the more common crises and shows how lay persons are called to minister to these. He goes on to show how the lay person can be there for follow-up where, on the other hand, the professional would not likely be there.

Brister, C. W., People Who Care. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1967.

        Brister shows that we need to stay alert to how persons around us suffer and are threatened in daily existence. There is no one more in touch with these people than the lay counselor.

Collins, G. R., Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide. Dallas: Word, 1988.

        Collins 700-page volume is truly comprehensive. The book revolves around issues. Almost any issue likely to be covered in lay counseling is covered in this book. The lay reader would find it labor-intensive to read. It remains a must for reference work.

Collins, G. R., Innovative Approaches to Counseling. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977.

        Collins condenses much into his book. He outlines the goals of counseling plus presents an explanation for the fight between Christianity and psychology. Next, he shows us what we need to know about people in order to counsel them. He condenses good theology and practicality into a very short and easily memorized model for counseling that is even compatible with J. E. Adams or John MacArthur's approach.

Hiltner, S., The Counselor in Counading. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1952.

        Hiltner gives many case notes in this volume. Even though it was published long ago it remains valuable to a lay counselor, asking “What do I say in counseling?”

Holmes III, U. T., The Priest in Community. New York: Seabury Press, 1978.

        Holmes develops the concept of priest from the earliest roots and shows how each of us is “priest.” A must for developing the foundational aspects of lay counseling.

MacArthur, Jr., J., Our Sufficiency in Christ. Dallas: Word, 1991.

        MacArthur and many other conservative Christian authors make a strong case for rejecting much professional counseling in favor of a totally Christian and biblical approach, one usable by the lay counselor.

Minirth, F. B., and Meier, P.D., Counseling and the Nature of Man. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982.

        These two authors squeeze much into this book. The book contains a very comprehensive description of the secular models of counseling as well as a very well developed section of the skills of the Christian counselor.

Meier, P. D., and Minirth, F. B., Introduction to Psychology and Counseling. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991.

        As far as this study is concerned, Minirth and Meier's book should mostly be used as a reference book. They do, however, give some wise counsel on limits for the lay counselor on when to refer to professionals.

Oats, W. E., The Religious Care of the Psychiatric Patient. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.

        This book is included for at least two reasons. First, everyone should read Oates. Second, Oates lists some characteristics of a healthy religious faith. Lay persons especially need to know what is healthy and what is not so that they can make a more healthy decision about referral. Stone, H. W., Crisis Counseling. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976. Lay counselors are more likely to be called into crisis counseling because they are likely to be “on scene.” Stone explains the dynamics of a crisis as well as points to a method for intervention. Finally, he cites the church as the caring community.

"Journal of Psychology and Christianity," 6, no. 2, 1987: 1-84.

        This is a special issue of the journal and has been produced to emphasize Christian counseling, though not solely lay counseling.


Design of the Study

A. Purpose

        In evaluating the lay counseling program at Crossroads Community Church, this study will look at four areas: the literature, the staff, the counselors and the program. In doing so, it will look at the selection, training, supervision and evaluation of the lay counselors as well as the whole counseling program. It will look at what the “experts” say are the main issues of concern in a lay counseling program in a local church. It will look at the needs of the counselors, the needs of the church and the community, as well as identified problems.

        The study will use two grids. A learning, psychological screen will be used to determine which elements of the program are able to be improved. A learning philosophical screen will be used to determine if these elements should be improved. This study will identify and justify what is done and why it is done.

        The approach of S. Y. Tan draws heavily from three main sources: Jay Adam's Nouthetic Counseling, Gary Collins' People Helping, and Larry Crabb's Biblical Counseling. Tan sees three major models available for establishing a ministry of lay Christian counseling: Informal Spontaneous, Informal Organized and Formal Organized.3 The design of this study is to quickly discern which model is seen at the church under study, then to evaluate how well that church follows that model using the insight gleaned from the “experts” on the subject such as Tan, Crabb, Adams, Collins, Minirth and Meier and others.

 3 S. Y. Tan, Lay Counseling: Equipping Christians for a Helping Ministry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), p. 125.

        Initial research indicates Crossroads Community Church definitely follows the formal, organized model due to its structure, training and counseling location. This study will choose at least three eminent scholars and evaluate how well Crossroads follows the “musts” of these scholars' recommendations. By selecting at least three scholars and evaluating how well Crossroads follows their model and essentials, it is hoped that an honest, worthy, broad-based evaluation will result.

        This project will determine how well the selection, training, supervision and evaluation of the counselors is done. To determine this, once again we look at the “musts” listed by at least three eminent scholars. There are two ways of doing this checking. One is to simply read the literature and then observe the counseling program at Crossroads. Another method is to administer the tests mentioned by the scholars. In this study, we plan to do both.

B. Process

        This project will focus on the process of lay counselor development. The literature indicates four essential elements in the lay counselor development process:

        1. Selection: The literature recommends a variety of tests for screening lay counselors such as the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis, the Shepherd Scale, the Spiritual Well Being Scale, the Character Assessment Scale, the Wagner-Revised Houts Questionnaire, the Spiritual Life Check-Up Questionnaire and the Spiritual Leadership Qualities Inventory.

        2. Training: Scholars such as Dr. Jay Adams, Dr. Gary Collins, Dr. Larry Crabb, Dr. S. Y. Tan and Dr. Kenneth Haugh provide extensive research on models and evaluative methods of training programs. The Project will research the training models of these authors and others to develop a criteria by which to evaluate the lay counseling program at Crossroads Community Church.

        3. Supervision: This researcher assumes that Crossroads Community Church has a well-established supervision program in effect. This project proposes to look at some of the outstanding work that has been done on the subject, then pass Crossroad’s supervision program through this grid to determine what changes should be suggested. Some of the supervision models discovered in the literature include: the Minimum Intervention Model, the Vertical Supervision Model, the Professional Training Model and the Implicit Trust Model. Dr. Gary Collins indicates that good supervision will inherently contain some “discipleship training.”4 This study will look for evidence of discipleship at Crossroad’s supervisory training meetings.

        4. Evaluation of Lay Counselors: There has been little research done in the area of evaluation of lay counselor effectiveness. Dr. S. Y. Tan suggests that evaluation of lay counselors should be conducted by all leaders involved in the training and super-vision of lay counselors, with an emphasis on knowledge and skill acquired through the available program. Tan suggests several methods for evaluating lay counselors, including the Hill Counselor Verbal Response Category system and the Personal Orientation Inventory, which rely on self-reporting, written responses by the lay counselors to counseling situations, peer ratings and professional counselor ratings.5 Another useful tool may be the Counselor Training Program Questionnaire (CTPQ) as a pre-training and post-training questionnaire. The Helping Relationship Inventory may also be a useful tool for evaluation. Dr. Gary Collins indicates that he knows “...of no competent research study that investigates the effectiveness of lay counseling among Christians.”6 This study will examine the lay counselor evaluation process at Crossroads Community church.

4 G. R. Collins, “Lay Counseling Within the Local Church,” Leadership, 1, 1980, p. 78.
5 S. Y. Tan, Lay Counseling: Equipping Christians for a Helping Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), p. 162.
6G. R. Collins, “Lay Counseling: Some Lingering Questions for Professionals,” Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 6, no. 2, 1987, p. 7.

C. Procedures

        This study will examine some of the procedures used at Crossroads Community Church to accomplish the process of selection, training, supervision and evaluation of lay counselors. Procedures to be examined will include the following methods discovered by this researcher as of the writing of this proposal.

        1. Selection: The selection process includes a general announcements of 12-week biblical counseling classes, a conscientious seeking of potential lay counselors by the instructor in the 12-week biblical counseling class, various letters sent out to those who complete the 12-week class, and interviews with potential lay counselor applicants.

        2. Training: The training program includes an initial 12-week course on biblical counseling, ongoing monthly supervisory training sessions, and winter retreats.

        3. Supervision: The only supervision discovered to date is the monthly supervisory training sessions.

        4. Evaluation of Lay Counselors: The majority of evaluation seems to happen at the monthly supervisory training sessions.

        Other procedures will be included in this study as they are discovered through the process of research.

D. Program Evaluation

        The major intent of this Project is evaluation of the lay counseling program at Crossroads Community Church. Methods to be used for evaluation are described in the following:

        1. Selection: The study will rely on interviews with members of the pastoral counseling staff as well as students involved in the initial 12-week class.

        2. Training: This researcher will attend the 12-week biblical counseling class, review teaching curriculum and interview both staff and students.

        3. Supervision: This researcher will attend several monthly counselor supervisory training sessions and interview both staff and existing lay counselors.

        4. Evaluation of Lay Counselors: This phase of evaluation will rely on interviews with staff and existing lay counselors.

E. Projected Appendices

        1. Churches With Lay Counseling Programs

        2. Post-Counseling Questionnaire

        3. Sample Biblical Counselor Lesson

        4. Sample Counseling Department Policy Statement

        5. Counseling Release Form (other forms used in program)

F. Uniqueness of the Project

        Many authors claim that little, if any, research has been done on the effectiveness of lay counseling in the local church. Furthermore, even less research has been done at Crossroads. Development of the lay counseling program at Crossroads has proceeded along the lines of good church management and growth, but at several levels, staff members, as well as counselors, have lamented that if they were to develop a lay counseling program from scratch, they would do it differently. Interviews with those staff members and others need to take place to determine what these differences are.

        This project takes the best from the more prominent authors and applies it to the lay counseling program; namely, examinations and tests of the potential lay counselors, the training techniques, supervision and evaluation procedures. Examination of dissertations done in the last twenty years in the western states shows nothing close to this research method.