I used to think that people who went to counseling were weak.
Now I think they are wise.
I unashamedly can say now that I am a regular when it comes to counseling. In all honestly, I think it should be something all adults who work with students should get into. I can tell you that I am still in ministry and still at the church I am at right now because I was forced to go into counseling.
If you were to take a look a year ago today, I was in a very dark place. I was about to quit. I wanted to take a 9-5 job at Taco Bell where the only work I took home were tacos. I was unraveling. Thankfully my team (and friends) had an intervention. No joke, walked into my office and there they all were, concerned for my well-being and all said I needed to go to counseling. I fought it at first, but I agreed to go for 10 sessions… and I have not stopped a year later.
It’s been a game changer.
I have been processing a lot and I have come to a few reasons why I think all youth workers should go to some kind of regular counseling:
It’s better to go when you don’t need it before WHEN you need it – One of the greatest things now is that I don’t really NEED to go because we have worked through (and still working through) some issues in my life, ministry and leadership. I don’t go as often as I did but I go once a month just to touch base and keep things fresh. It’s awesome to walk through situations in life and ministry and know what to do based off counseling and be prepared than go when it’s too late and you NEED to badly. It’s like changing your oil on your car. You do it because it makes things run smoothly and your car doesn’t blow up. Same with counseling.
You NEED to confess sins – WHAT?! Counseling allows you to be open and honest and have you begin to work through things you are struggling with. Yes, we go to God, but I know many pastors who don’t tell anyone else because they are afraid to lose their jobs (for real). Some seem to think we need to be perfect and we can’t be human who struggle. Just like our offices are a place where people seem to spill their guts, a counselor’s office (a licensed professional) can be that for you. We can work through and process and begin the healing of the burdens we seem to bear. Friends can work too but there is something about a professional that will help you guide and process situations and how you can move forward.
You become a better counselor yourself – I’m not a professional. Truth is, none of us are really. We do pour into our students and leaders and walk through some rough things with them but we do our best. Going to counseling has actually made me better at my job. I have learned to ask good questions, when to talk, when to listen, when to speak into something etc. Part of me sometimes wish I didn’t go to college for Theology but went for phycology and counseling and learned theology on my own for how much I seem to be counseling. I am a better pastor because of it.
You learn how to healthily process all the crap that comes with ministry – If you have been in ministry for 5 seconds, you know you have a front row seat to life change. You also know there are people who are mad at you, have said things to you and about you, you deal with disappointment, stress, anxiety, resentment, bad meetings, hard conversations and then you come home to family. It’s a lot. Counseling has helped me develop healthy habits and how to process and dump all the crap and just to vent a little bit to someone who knows how to help you to process it all so you don’t just dump it all on your spouse or friends ALL of the time.
I’m telling you right now there is NO shame in seeking help and getting counseling. I am now a firm believer in doing so. I think it’s something that can save your relationship and save your ministry. I have learned how to have the not so perfect parts of me work into my leadership and ministry and know what people I need to have around me to make sure I am at my best.
If you have been thinking about it, go. It’s worth the money. It’s worth the time.
**This post was originally on the Download Youth Ministry blog.
Justin Knowles has been a pastor for the last 10 years and is the Lead Student Ministries Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees 7th-12th grade and has an amazing team he does it all with. He hosts The Other Student Ministry Podcast, loves to write about his ministry journey and teach at all kinds of camps. Him and his wife Kristin has a baby boy named Graham and a cat named CATalie Portman. @JUSTINKNOWLES3