When I started Resolved I was thrust deep into people’s lives and what I found was their lives were like mine… very messy! I did have a course called pastoral counselling when I was at Bible College but I found myself having to read and train myself on how to have a pastoral conversation with someone. How do you talk with someone and help someone when they come to you for help. Here are the 5 things that I have figured out and still training myself to do:
- Don’t preach listen
It is so easy to preach at someone especially when the solution is right there. The problem with preaching at the person is most of the time people want a feelings conversation not a solutions conversation (I have my wife to thank for teaching me the difference between the two.) People want to be heard and our job as pastors/friends/fellow Christians must be to allow them to air what is going on. That means that we have to do what I find very hard. I have to listen.
2. Seek to understand
But how do I listen? What am I listening for? When I listen to people I am trying to get at why they are doing what they are doing or why they in the trouble they are In. I am asking myself not what is the solution but what is the root cause. I am seeking to understand them and where they are coming from and then I am seeking to sympathise with them. For example, if I have someone who is deciding to go out with their mates and get drunk every weekend and they are feeling guilty I could say “You have to stop getting drunk!” But is that the Issue? Or are their feelings of belonging to a group of people and being accepted by them the real Issue? I want to listen and get at the root of the problem not the surface level problem and I want to ask questions so that the person I am meeting with will figure the root problem out for themselves Instead of me telling them that.
3. Your only tool Is the gospel
As a Christian I know that the gospel is the answer to all problems in the end. So I want to bring my friend back to the gospel and let the gospel inform how they are to deal with their situation. I usually ask the question “What is the gospel saying to you in this situation?” If It was my friend who was getting drunk I would be trying to get them to see that their Identity Is In Christ and their community Is the church and that Is what defines them and gives their life meaning not whether they are popular or not. This can take many meetings though.
4. Pray with and for them
I always want to pray for them In front of them. I want to show that their heavenly father still loves them and wants to hear from them. I also want to model through prayer that he Is In control and therefore we can trust him.
5. Follow them up
In the next few days follow them up. If you see them before you call them or email them ask how they are doing. Make sure you are on the front foot with this. I am bad at remembering to follow stuff up so I have to put It In my IPhone 2Do list app or it doesn’t get done. So remember to follow them up.
As I said to begin with I am still training myself how to have pastoral conversations. Sometimes I don’t follow these steps/rules and every time I think that I should have.
What’s your game plan for having pastoral conversations?