Every once in awhile when I can take a break from the busyness to reflect, I am amazed by what Redeemer’s counseling ministry has become. Only a year after the beginning of Redeemer Church, the counseling ministry began. By 1998, when I joined the staff of six, Redeemer Counseling Services (RCS) was well established as an extension of pastoral care. Not surprisingly, we experienced our first wave of growth after 9/11 and our staff doubled. Today, we are a staff of more than 30 counselors overseeing 300 individuals, couples, and families each week, and offering services that include group therapy and medical management.
It is quite remarkable for a church to house a counseling ministry of this magnitude. However, it’s not surprising given Redeemer’s vision. As long as I can remember, the emphasis has been on the gospel movement that goes beyond being a church for ourselves and becoming an agent of renewal for the city. So, in line with this greater vision, RCS did not remain just as an extension of pastoral care at Redeemer.
Now more than 20 churches in the city refer their congregants for counseling care at RCS. Five churches have partnered with us to establish satellite locations. RCS even launched an independent counseling ministry in Philadelphia that is modeled on much of our DNA. However, the most exciting progression has been to observe the growing number of unchurched people seeking care at a Christian counseling center. In our own way, we have been engaging the culture with a unique brand of counseling that seeks to care for the city while making the Gospel relevant in the process.
Among some people there may be a perception that Christian counseling is limited to serving only the Christian population or that it is subpar to psychological approaches that make it less than “professional.” Thus, it was important to Redeemer that RCS as a Christian counseling center assert creditability as a legitimate professional service, while maintaining that we are very much Christian. In an effort to continue to engage our culture and legitimize our brand of counseling as an effective option, we are currently participating in an outcome study in partnership with Yeshiva University.
Traditionally, there has been too great of a divide between pastoral counseling and what our culture deems as “professional” counseling. Not that I think there are no distinctions at all, but our aim for RCS is to become a context in which we can offer the best integration of both pastoral and “professional.” As I’ve shared, we have over 30 counselors working at RCS. Some are clinically trained and others are seminary trained. From our perspective, they are both professionals, as understanding humanity holistically requires that both theology and psychology be integrated.
The diversity of our staff is very much valued. Our varying backgrounds and training have enabled us to help one another expand our perspectives and sharpen our skills. However, we also recognized along the way that in the midst of diversity, there had to be a common core that makes us unique as counselors at RCS - that without this, we would be no different from any other group of independent practitioners working together in one setting.
Therefore, we spent the last few years defining our core as what we are calling the Gospel-Centered Approach. This is our attempt to come up with an integrative framework in which the conceptual core (our understanding of human nature, our definition of the real problem and the solution) is formed from our understanding of Scripture. In addition, we believe the process of counseling must be contextualized to the client. In order to do this well, the theories, empirical data, and interventions that psychology offers are invaluable. The work of integrating is difficult and best accomplished when we seek to do this as a team.
I believe much of our progress can be attributed to our team who are invested in our mission to restore lives with His Truth and Grace and pursue a vision to transform people from all walks of life through the redemptive power of the Gospel. Upon reflection, His grace and faithfulness is undeniable and affirms Redeemer’s vision of the Gospel Movement throughout our city and beyond.