By Katie Sobiech
Emerge Counseling Services, an outpatient Christian mental health care center, focuses on the inward healing of their clients by creating a safe place to express their emotions, thoughts and feelings.
Emerge’s faith-based foundation and perspective sets them apart from most counseling services in the area.
What also makes them different is that they specialize in counseling pastors, missionaries and couples through marriage counseling. Here they offer a safe, confidential place for ministers to recover from crisis in their ministry.
Who do Pastors Go To?
“One of the biggest questions is, as a pastor, who do you go to for help?” Colleen Bell, Director of Education and Marketing, and Volunteer Coordinator, said.
As many may not realize, Pastors are busy helping their congregations 24/7, and they are expected to have all of the answers. But who helps them in their time of need?
John Palmer, President of Emerge, knows what it’s like. Before becoming President of Emerge, Palmer planted, and pastored a church in Athens, Ohio for 11 years. He also pastored a large congregation similar to The Chapel in Akron, in Iowa, for 21 years.
“My primary calling is to be a pastor. I have a heart to help people realize their full potential in their relationship with God. So it seems to fit with what Emerge does,” Palmer said.
“I do a lot of coaching with young pastors and missionaries from all over the country, from California to Florida to New York. My goal is to ask open-ended questions and help draw out from within them what they want to do and how they want to work through the issue and solve the problem that they’re facing,” Palmer said.
Healthy Pastor Seminars
“We try to keep our pastors very, very mentally healthy themselves so they don’t get worn out. They hear a lot of grief, they hear a lot of problems – they hear everything. And how do they deal with that personally?” Bell said.
“Maybe something has affected them in their own lives. How do you even sort through all of the tragedy and heartache you have been told from other people as well?” she continued.
Their Healthy Pastor Seminars are designed to confront that issue.
“It’s our way of helping to keep our pastors healthy so that they can continue in their ministry,” Bell said.
Center for Pastoral Counseling
They also offer the Center for Pastoral Counseling.
“A lot of times when someone goes through something, a vast majority of them will first go to their pastors within their own churches and say, ‘Here’s what I’m going through’. Without pastors helping us out, we would be so overwhelmed with clients. So we appreciate pastors and what they can do, but from a pastor’s side, they have extremely little training on how to do pastoral counseling,” Bell explained.
The Center for Pastoral Counseling is an online class they can take that explains how to do pastoral counseling.
“It’s a certificate program, which many churches are seeing to be of value for their own pastors and leadership,” Bell said.
Leaders in the church are encouraged to get training as well, to help take the burden off of the pastor.
“A lot of times in churches, a pastor’s not even enough. They have to have other people in place because there are so many hurting people,” Bell said.
“(The course) explains when it is time to end pastoral counseling (with a church member) and (to direct them to) go to a professional counselor. We certainly believe there is a certain point where something else may be going on that needs to be explored beyond the education of what you can do through a pastoral counsel,” she continued.
Availability to Ministers
Being there for pastors and ministers has always been the heart of what they do.
“We have always made ourselves available to ministers and missionaries. Our Healthy Pastor seminars are in place to keep our pastors healthy so that they can continue. But, who does the pastor go to if something has happened? And so, we have made ourselves available,” Bell said.
Believe it or not, even pastors have their own issues.
“We are sent to pastors who have struggled with something that maybe they’re no longer in ministry at their church (because of). Or missionaries who have experienced something on their term or while they’ve been on the field,” Bell explained of the circumstances.
“There are times that pastors are unfaithful in their marriages or different things like that happen,” Bell said.
Emerge provides testing to see where a minister is at -mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Reports are often written and given back to the districts to tell whether or not they are healthy enough to go back into the ministry.
“It doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It can be that they were in ministry and they lost a child and they are having a hard time ministering to others ‘cause they’re really focused on the fact that they lost that child. Or maybe they were on a trip as a missionary and something awful happened, or they saw something awful. They can come here and talk through some things and discuss that,” Bell said.
Another crucial aspect of their care includes focusing on building healthy marriages and keeping them healthy so they don’t end up in a crisis situation.
“This is an effort to really be on the preventative side of mental health. We see people all the time that have problems within their marriage, but what if we were somehow able to prevent that? Marriage tune-up was kind of birthed out of that idea and it’s an opportunity for couples,” Bell said.
Couples are able to go through some testing and discuss where their marriage is at. They talk about pitfalls and plan out the future of their marriage, which includes creating a “marriage map”.
“They explore what steps they need to take to continue to have a healthy marriage. It’s a way to keep your marriage healthy before you get to that point where you’re calling Emerge and saying, “Please, I need to be seen tomorrow,” Bell said.
They see couples in office, and also go to churches.
“We’ll go to a church who just wants to open up to their congregation and say ‘As a church we want to focus on our marriages. We brought Emerge in to say let’s do this, so we can have really healthy couples within our congregation’,” Bell said.
If you are interested in Emerge coming to your church, or any of their services please visit their webpage http://www.emerge.org for more information!
Part 3 of this series of stories will share how Emerge is involved with/partnering with the community and their engagement in “The Daughter Project” to help fight against local trafficking.