This post was first posted at the Biblical Counseling Coalition
As I assign homework to teens, I keep Ephesians 3:17-19 in mind when choosing assignments:
“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
The Importance of Carefully Selected Homework
One of the most common questions I am asked about counseling teens is “what resources do you use for homework?” The connotation of the word “homework” is often an issue when counseling teens. After spending a little time discussing why homework is important, they will begin to engage in the assignments as you encourage them.
Homework for teens can include things like Bible reading and memorization, journaling, learning to use online tools to study the Bible, practical assignments related to their current issues, worksheets, etc. There are many options for homework assignments for teens, but I am focusing on just one in this article: books. There are a handful of good teen resources right now that are gospel-rich and applicable to biblical counseling, mentoring, and discipleship with teenagers.
When I assign a book for homework, I appreciate one that has small chapters and spaces to write answers or notes. This is not because teens are not smart enough for meaty content (I use only content-rich books), but because they have an overload of school homework already and I do not want to overwhelm them with lengthy reading assignments that they will not complete.
RecommendationsThe following books are my latest recommendations:
What Do You Think of Me, Why Do I Care? by Edward T. Welch
This is my most commonly assigned homework book for teens. It is safe to say that the topic of the “fear of man” is a common one in all biblical counseling sessions, and teens have their own particular struggles that manifest from this issue. Insecurity, misunderstanding their identity, peer pressure, people-pleasing, comparing and judging, and various other forms of the fear of man are often revealed in counseling. This book helps the teen to learn about the dynamic in their own hearts that tempts them towards making people the ruling force in their lives. The goal is to guide the teen towards freedom from the bondage of the fear of man. This book is an excellent tool.
This Changes Everything, by Jaquelle Crowe
Written by an exceptionally bright and solid young woman when she was 19, this book was written directly to teens. She has a passion for the gospel and challenges teens to understand that they were created for something bigger than “self.” She points them to the gospel in powerful and engaging chapters. Teens I have taken through this book have been changed as they hear the author’s perspective. They see that they, too, can live lives to the glory of God.
Face Time, by Kristen Hatton
Written specifically for girls, the author focuses on “identity” and the struggle to navigate a world where teens are continually exposed to social media and all of its good, bad, and ugly sides. Many teens are in counseling because they have misused social media, or have been bullied on social media, or simply engage in it as a continual distraction to the detriment of other aspects of life. The focus in this book on identity in Christ is why I have assigned it as homework reading for several girls. It opens the door for discussion about the lies teens believe, and the Truth that sets them free.
Get Your Story Straight, by Kristen Hatton
Because this book has quite a lot of content, I use it for teens who are going to be meeting with me for a while. It is applicable for the teen who may not yet know Christ, to the newer believer, and for a teen who is a more mature Christian desiring further growth. The content offers basic discipleship. This is a unique devotional-style book that can be adapted for your use as needed while addressing topics such as: clarifying the gospel, how our stories intersect with God’s story of redemption, and how to navigate issues of fear, worry, friendships, forgiveness, and much more. This is an excellent discipleship tool for you and the youth you serve.
Respectable Sins (Student Edition), by Jerry Bridges
I have found this book to be useful for older teens who lean towards a more studious approach to their counseling and homework. It is similar in content to the original book Respectable Sins, but geared towards youth. It is very helpful for teaching a teen the dangers of legalism and performance-based thinking.
The Gospel-Centered Life for Teens, by Robert H. Thune and Will Walker
This book is written to be used as a small group or youth group study, but can be adapted to the counseling relationship fairly easily. You might find some chapters useful as homework and discussion in your meetings with teens, and others can be used as a guide for your counseling sessions. The content is gospel-rich and helps the teen to understand the gospel and apply it to their life in practical and meaningful ways.
The Peacemaker (Student Edition), by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson
The content of this book is what you would expect from the excellent Peacemaker resources. It is very helpful in counseling youth who are in conflict with family or peers. It provides the same principles you find in the other Peacemaker books, but is written with teens in mind. I find this book to be invaluable in my ministry to teens.
I was once taught the “80/20 rule” regarding books to recommend vs. books to toss out. The rule is that if a book has 80% great content, it is a keeper as long as you can navigate the problems with the other 20% (assuming they are not major doctrinal or theological issues, but areas where we can disagree with others in the body of Christ.) If the books is 80% problematic and only 20% good content, toss it out. It is difficult to make good use of a book that is weighted so heavily toward lack of good, useful content. I only recommend books that I believe fit the 80% great content rule. You can also use the 20% problematic content to teach discernment to the counselee as you work through a book together.
Questions for Reflection
What books do you find useful in your ministry to youth? What other types of homework assignments do you utilize with teens?
This post first appeared at the Biblical Counseling Coalition
Resistance to Authority
A 15-year-old counselee (“Jen”) informed me that she had no intention of cooperating with counseling unless I would help her to emancipate. I did not agree with her ultimatum, nor did I agree that she should pursue emancipation, but I did agree to research the ins and outs of emancipation. This was not the first teen I have counseled who has mentioned wishing they could emancipate, but this was the first one who was completely serious about it. I needed to educate myself, and so the two of us sat side by side at the computer and looked up the California legal requirements to emancipate.
We learned the following:
To get a declaration of emancipation, you have to prove ALL of these things:
It is not unusual for a teenager to want to move outside of her parent’s authority at some point during the teen years. When she googles “emancipation” she sees it means that her parents no longer have control over her and her decisions. That sounds good to a struggling teenager! Legal emancipation is unlikely in most of the cases we counsel because there needs to be a very good reason for it. Much to my counselee’s disappointment, hating your parents is not considered a good reason.
Clearly there is something deeper going on with Jen. Biblical counseling with teens must target the heart but not before we gain a clear understanding of the situation. A teen does not proclaim her independence because of hatred for her parents without cause. It is important to spend time gathering data. It is possible that a teen’s parents truly are mistreating or neglecting her in some way. This should not be assumed, but it should be investigated through careful discussions with both the teen and her parents. Often the teen is simply displaying a resistance to authority that has less to do with her parents than it has to do with her understanding of authority.
Resistance to authority is where Jen and I found common ground. This is where all of us can find common ground! At the heart level, you and I are no different than my counselee who wants to emancipate from her authority. When we avoid God and go our own way and sin, we are doing the same thing.
The Blessing of Authority
Authority truly is a blessing! My counselee certainly has not seen it this way because she has looked to her parents to meet her expectations. She considers herself a Christian, but she has not yet been discipled in many areas of her struggles. This is where biblical counseling steps in. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1).
As we talked for a few sessions, it was clear that my counselee was looking for some sense of peace, but she was looking for it in all the wrong places. She believed that peace would be found in removing herself from authority. As people continued to reject and disappoint her, she became convinced that the only hope was to get out from under the weight of the situation.
Submitting to Authority
Submitting to God’s authority is the answer to my counselee’s wish to be emancipated. As she surrenders to Him she will be able to come to know the peace that is only found in Him.
Authority is a hard concept for many, not just teens. Walking carefully through Romans 13 with a believing teenager can be impactful as it teaches that God’s call to show love, honor, and respect to others represents how God designed His kingdom to function. According to Scripture, authority ought to be submitted to, because all authority has been established by God (Rom. 13:1). This includes one’s parents, regardless how badly a teen wishes to escape this fact. A teen must also come to realize that rebelling against (or trying to run from) authority is rebelling against God (Rom. 13:2). These are hard but necessary truths when you are walking alongside a teen who wishes to emancipate.
It is helpful to teach a teen that despite what may be truly poor parenting (I am not talking about abuse here), God assures us that respect, kindness, and submission are part of His plan (1 Thess. 5:12-18), and failure to follow this plan results in further decline of the family relationship.
Rejecting God’s Authoritative Word
After counseling Jen for a few weeks, she fled. She wanted so badly for counseling to offer her an escape, but she was unwilling to receive counsel unless it would help her to emancipate. Her parents would not partner with me in the counseling process, and it seemed as if so many strikes were against Jen. Ultimately, she quit keeping her appointments and I have not heard from her since.
Pray for Jen, and scores of other teens who are suffering in difficult parental relationships and feel that there is no escape. Jen may give a verbal profession of faith, but she is still resistant to authority. In her lack of spiritual maturity, she struggles to find the purpose in her suffering and to look beyond her circumstances towards the hope found only in the gospel.
Questions for Reflection
Have you known a teen who wants to emancipate? Were you able to offer hope and if so, how? Have you seen a bit of yourself in Jen, too?
Ellen was interviewed by her friends at Women's Hope Project. This time we are talking about mentoring. We hope it encourages you!
Ellen was interviewed by the Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, where she is a part of the leadership council board. Word of Hope is thankful for the work of the BCC as the counseling movement advances!
Word Of Hope is featuring Bob Kellemen, who has graciously offered a guest post about his upcoming book "Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life"
Martin Luther is famous for his Ninety-Five Thesis which launched the Reformation. So, I thought I would collate my favorite 95 Martin Luther quotes from my upcoming book: Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life (releasing August 14 by New Growth Press).
Since 95 quotes would make for a very long blog, I’m breaking these down into several blog posts. Here’s post number one…with quotes focused on Martin Luther and his trust in Scripture.
Martin Luther and Sola Scriptura: By Scripture Alone!
Church historians call it sola Scriptura: by Scripture alone. Biblical counselors call it sufficiency of Scripture—trusting in God’s Word for the care of souls.
Luther always pointed people to the Word of God as their ultimate hope and primary help in suffering, sin, and sanctification. The Scriptures, for Luther, are sufficient to comfort the hurting, confront the sinning, and cheer the saint.
Preach the Gospel to Yourself Daily
1. “You have the Apostle Paul who shows to you a garden, or paradise, which is full of comfort, when he says: ‘Whatever was written, was written for our instruction, so that through patience and the consolation of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4). Here he attributes to Holy Scripture the function of comforting. Who may dare to seek or ask for comfort anywhere else?”
2. “Comfort yourself with the Word of God, the pre-eminent consolation.”
3. “It is thus very true that we shall find consolation only through the Scriptures, which in the days of evil call us to the contemplation of our blessings, either present or to come.”
4. “Nothing helps more powerfully against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts than occupying oneself with God’s Word, having conversations about it, and contemplating it.”
5. “I have learned by experience how one should act under temptation, namely, when any one is afflicted with sadness…. Let him first lay hold of the comfort of the divine Word.”
6. “Therefore, whenever any one is assailed by temptation of any sort whatever, the very best that he can do in the case is either to read something in the Holy Scriptures, or think about the Word of God, and apply it to his heart.”
7. “If you now attempt, in this spiritual conflict, to protect yourself by the help of man without the Word of God, you simply enter upon the conflict with that mighty spirit, the devil, naked and unprotected.” Such an endeavor would be worse than David against Goliath—without God’s supernatural power helping David. You may, therefore, if you so please, oppose your power to the might of the devil. It will then be very easily seen what an utterly unequal conflict it is, if one does not have at hand in the beginning the Word of God.”
8. “Christ heals people by means of his precious Word, as he also declares in the 50th chapter of Isaiah (verse 4): ‘The Lord hath given me a learned tongue, that I should know how to speak a word in season to the weary.’ St. Paul also teaches likewise, in Romans xv 14, that we should obtain and strengthen hope from the comfort of the Holy Scriptures, which the devil endeavors to tear out of people’s hearts in times of temptations. Accordingly, as there is no better nor more powerful remedy in temptations than to diligently read and heed the Word of God.”
9. “Let us learn, therefore, in great and horrible terrors, when our conscience feels nothing but sin and judges that God is angry with us, and that Christ has turned His face from us, not to follow the sense and feeling of our own heart, but to stick to the Word of God.”
Preach the Gospel to One Another Daily
10. “No man should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn’t help, the prayer of another will.”
11. “Those who are tempted by doubt and despair I should console in this fashion. First, by warning them to beware of solitude and to converse constantly with others about the Psalms and Scriptures.”
12. “So we also labor by the Word of God that we may set at liberty those that are entangled, and bring them to the pure doctrine of faith, and hold them there.”
Scripture for the Soul, Medicine for the Body
Luther’s doctrine of sufficiency was robust enough to make room for the appropriate use of medication.
13. “Accordingly a physician is our Lord God’s mender of the body, as we theologians are his healers of the spirit; we are to restore what the devil has damaged. So a physician administers theriaca (an antidote for poison) when Satan gives poison. Healing comes from the application of nature to the creature . . . . It’s our Lord God who created all things, and they are good. Wherefore it’s permissible to use medicine, for it is a creature of God. Thus I replied to Hohndorf, who inquired of me when he heard from Karlstadt that it’s not permissible to make use of medicine. I said to him, ‘Do you eat when you’re hungry?’”
On the other hand, when convinced that an issue was spiritual in nature, Luther did not hesitate to call for spiritual, rather than medicinal cures. Scripture is God’s prescription, God’s choice medicine, for soul sickness. Luther writes to his friend John Agricola concerning John’s wife:
14. “Her illness is, as you see, rather of the mind than of the body. I am comforting her as much as I can, with my knowledge. In a word, her disease is not for the apothecaries (as they call them), nor is it to be treated with the salves of Hippocrates, but by constantly applying plasters of Scripture and the Word of God. For what has conscience to do with Hippocrates? Therefore, I would dissuade you from the use of medicine and advise the power of God’s Word.”
Join the Conversation
These are just a summary of many more Luther quotes on the sufficiency of Scripture from Counseling Under the Cross.
Of these 15 quotes, which ones resonate the most with you?
How could Luther’s confidence in God’s Word make a difference in your trust in God’s Word for your life and ministry?
Luther, LW, Vol. 49, p. 16.
Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 63, emphasis added.
Luther, LW, Vol. 42, p. 124.
Luther, The Large Catechism, p. 187, in Krey, Luther’s Spirituality.
Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, pp. 175-176.
Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, p. 178.
Luther, Commentary on Romans, pp. 179-180.
Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, p. 179.
Luther, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 333, 126.
 Luther, LW, Vol. 54, p. 78.
Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 117.
Luther, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 333, 126.
Luther, LW, Vol. 54, pp. 53-54.
Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, p. 402.
We Can Counsel Our Friend
“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
The word “counseling” conjures up certain images in our minds. We might envision a professional setting of some sort. We might picture the counselor as someone we don’t know very well, if at all. In state licensed therapy, therapists are expected to adhere to guidelines that say not to counsel people with whom they have a prior or current relationship outside of the therapy context. There are provisions for cases where this is unavoidable, although even then the therapist is expected to maintain strong boundaries.
This is a foreign concept to biblical counselors, because they are not required to follow such guidelines. In fact, our philosophy of care is quite the opposite. We often engage with our counselees not just in the counseling session, but also at church, at social functions, and other places our lives intersect. This is not seen as a detriment to the counseling. In fact, it is considered a strong asset.
Licensed therapy requires that the relationship remains clinical. Once counseling is over, the relationship is also over. As biblical counselors, we often counsel friends, and sometimes we become friends with our counselees after the counseling ends. Our counselees are not just “clients”, they often are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are given instructions in Scripture regarding how we are to relate to our siblings in Christ. The many one-another passages apply to our friendships and to our counseling relationships alike. Biblical counseling is not clinical or professional-to-client. It is one-another ministry. It can be done in a variety of contexts such as informal sessions at one’s church, in a parachurch’s office, at a Starbucks or a restaurant, in a living room, wherever the counselor ministers. This dynamic is why we can counsel our friends and often become lasting friends during the process.
When someone who is already a friend of mine seeks counsel, it will look a little different than when a stranger or simple acquaintance asks for counseling. Because we already have a relationship, we can enter into deeper discussions more quickly as we also continue our friendship. I have never turned a friend away from counseling because we are friends. In fact, I am happy to do it because it is, simply put, what the Bible requires of all believers no matter what we call it. We are meant to engage in community, which includes applying all of the one-another scriptures. A faithful friend will care enough to help.
Considerations When Counseling a Friend
It might help to lay some ground rules. It is important that you agree to transparency and complete honesty. However, you must guard against becoming your friend’s secret-keeper. An example of that is when your friend confesses that she is committing adultery, but she has not told her husband. She would like you to keep that secret. If you keep her secret, you are now a part of her sin against her husband. In order to counsel her well, she must be admonished for the sin and called to repentance. She must also be honest with her husband, immediately. (These are complicated scenarios, and sometimes it is wise for you to bring a pastor or male counselor in on the discussion about how to help her move forward with her husband.)
Be aware that your friendship dynamic might change, at least for a little while. That does not end your friendship, it just changes it for a season. You will likely be offering counsel more than you might otherwise in just a social context. It will be worth it. In many cases, the friendship will be stronger because you have loved your friend so deeply.
If your friend is not seeking your help, be sensitive in how you approach her if you feel that she needs help. We are called to admonish one another, true, but that is to be done gently and in love. You want to maintain trust in your friendship, and being too pushy (even if your motive is to help) is a sure way to push a friend away.
Under the Spirit’s leading, you are called to help your friend so that she can be restored to Christ. Check your motives and remember that our desires drive our motives. If your desire is selfish in any way, rethink things. Our desires for others should be gospel-centered, wanting our friend to find hope and healing. If you desire to help your friend become more like Jesus, that will be a very good start.
“Better is an open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:5-6”
We Are Set Apart
Counseling our friends and becoming friends with our counselees sets us apart from other forms of counseling and therapy. This is because as we counsel, the kindness of God is on display as the body of believers relates to one-another as God intends. God has graced us with a family, siblings in Christ, so that we do not have to struggle to exist in this broken world alone.
“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15″
This first appeared at Biblical Counseling For Women
For? Or, Against?
If you spend much time on the internet reading blogs and Twitter feeds and Facebook conversations, you might notice an overwhelming tone of negativity from Christians.
Many Christians use their online activities to express their views about the things they oppose. Lately, it seems easier to find posts that are about what the writer is against rather than what the writer is for. For example:
In the past few minutes, I have found online posts about what the Christian (who is posting on their social media) is against. Here are the topics that I just came across on my own Facebook and Twitter feeds, stating that the writer of each is:
In our current political climate and culture, people don’t have to guess or wonder about what Christians are against. We are quite vocal about those things. I wonder, though, if they know what (or Who) we are FOR?
We feel frustrated because our viewpoints are so often squashed in this culture. I wonder if part of the problem is US, and our tone. Would we speak the same words that we are willing to write? To someone’s face? If so, what would the tone of our voice be, and what would our facial expressions reveal? Would someone see Jesus or just an angry Christian? Consider this:
Our written word should be consistent with our spoken word.
Ephesians 4:29 (CSB) “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”
What if we made our tone more winsome, less negative, or more redemptive? Rather than simply posting and commenting and tweeting about what we are against, what if we focus instead on using redemptive language? Redemptive language would be gospel-motivated and gospel-rich, bringing the reader’s attention to Christ, and to God’s Word. We have a hope that is far greater than today’s current political, cultural, and moral climate. If we simply state what we are against, without giving a reason for the hope that we have, then isn’t our gospel witness hindered?
I am not suggesting we stop speaking to culture’s downfalls, or speaking against the things that are infringing on our rights. I am suggesting that we be more careful about our tone. Name-calling and nastiness are not winsome, and people stop listening around the first paragraph or at the first nasty remark. Loving and godly concern and hope are attractive, and I think people are more likely to listen and keep reading.
Why does this matter?
Our spoken words (and therefore our written words) reveal our hearts. If we tend to be negative and critical online, it is time to get honest about our motives for using the online platform to express our opinions. Many of our posts sound less like hope and sound more like this:
Matthew 15:18-19 “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
When we are spoken to negatively, we will tend to remember that feedback more clearly than anything positive said to us. For example, we may feel insecure after public speaking. Ten people said things like “you did great” or “great job”. One person said, “you really should work on your speaking, I didn’t follow it at all.” We will tend to think of that one loud negative voice more often than the ten affirming voices.
It stands to reason that when we post in a negative tone on social media, it will stick in people’s minds more than the occasional post with a positive tone. You may think that you have accomplished what you set out to do – to prove your (negative) opinion is right. What you really did was reveal what you are against, without speaking enough about what you are for. This hurts our witness for the gospel because we are not addressing what, and who, we are FOR.
Consider using your online activities in a redemptive manner. If you are compelled to share an opinion about something you are against, forgo name-calling and instead offer a winsome and compelling argument that is connected to the gospel in some manner. That will offer the reader HOPE. If we offer hope instead of just criticism, we may keep our audiences longer. If you have any kind of online platform, use redemptive language.
We have a hope that is far better than TV shows, politics, celebrity, and all of our opinions. Jesus is better.
Hebrews 10:23-24 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
Have your written words been more negative than positive lately? How can you correct that? Will you purpose to post with a more hopeful tone?
This post first appeared at Biblical Counseling For Women
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