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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Learn HOW to Counsel Married Couples and Troubled Families from Bob Kellemen

I wish I had these two books two decades ago. I'm glad I have them now.

When first became a pastor, I quickly learned how much I didn't know about counseling, especially couples in conflict. I remember many heavy hours of agonizing over what to say and do in those situations and wishing there were better practical resources available to me.

Back then, in the providence of God, I found my way to the biblical counseling movement as a rich repository of wisdom on how the Bible speaks to the problems of everyday life. I have eaten up every helpful thing I could find from that sector, eventually doing my doctorate in this field at Westminster Theological Seminary under the faculty of CCEF.

What's often missing in any system or approach is the down-to-earth, practical nuts-and-bolts training of what to actually say and do. 

My friend Bob Kellemen, a leader in the biblical counseling movement, has tried to fill that gap with a set of books that he calls "equipping guides" and "'work-books,' or 'working-books,' or 'workout-books.'” They are very practical (while not at all stilted) and aim to give training to readers in the nitty-gritty reality of counseling couples and families.

I am slowly working through them right now myself, and lightbulbs are going on for me left and right. "Oh, that's a good idea." "I can see myself doing that next time." "That would have helped me with so-and-so."

The only thing better would be to sit with Bob and watch him do this and then have Bob sit with you watching you do it, too, with his feedback. But most of us won't have that opportunity. As a next-best-thing, this is pretty good. Recommended.

Bob has given me permission to include this short essay on why he wrote these manuals and how they are designed.


Why I Wrote 
Gospel-Centered Marriage Counseling and Gospel-Centered Family Counseling

In September 2020, Baker Books released my new two-book series on equipping biblical counselors for marriage counseling and for family counseling:

Marriage Counseling and Family Counseling Are Hard! 

As an equipper of pastors and counselors, I hear all the time how intimidating marriage and family counseling are. Recently, an experienced pastor shared with me: 
“Marriage counseling? I’m clueless. I feel like I’m standing in traffic on an expressway with cars going both ways, half of them the wrong way, most of them swerving out of control. I have no idea how to move from my good theology of marriage, to actually helping the troubled couple sitting in front of me. 
Family counseling? Don’t even get me started on that. By the time family members get to me, they’re so angry that they aren’t listening to each other. And half the time, they don’t even want to listen to me!” 
Here Are Your Step-by-Step Training Manuals 

The contemporary Christian world churns out books—great books—on marriage and the family. Theory of marriage and family? Tons of books. Books for couples? Scores of books. Books on the family and parenting? Boatloads. 

However, even in our biblical counseling world, we have few books focused on the procedures—the “how-to”—of counseling hurting couples and families. 

As pastors, counselors, and lay leaders, we desperately need help in relating our theology to marital messes and family chaos. We need training manuals on the nuts-and-bolts of the procedures and processes of helping the couple or family sitting in front of us.

Gospel-Centered Marriage Counseling and Gospel-Centered Family Counseling step into this void. This two-book how-to training manual provides practical, user-friendly equipping for folks like us—pastors, counselors, lay leaders, educators, and students.

Not Your Father’s or Mother’s Counseling Books

These two books walk you as a reader through a step-by-step training manual for developing your skills and competences in marriage and family counseling. In fact, “reader” is the wrong word. “Participant” is better.   

Gospel-Centered Marriage Counseling and Gospel-Centered Family Counseling are work-books, or “working-books,” or “workout-books.” 

Thus the subtitle: An Equipping Guide for Pastors and Counselors. Chapter-by-chapter, skill-by-skill, as a participant you’ll use the questions, exercises, role play directions, sample dialogues, and much more to develop your competency and increase your confidence as a biblical marriage and family counselor. 

I Wrote These Books for You

I’m picturing you—a pastor—who perhaps had one class on counseling, and possibly zero classes on a gospel-centered, how-to approach to marriage and family counseling. 

I’m picturing you—a trained biblical counselor—who likely had one class on marriage and family counseling theory/theology. But you probably had no lab class specifically on training you how to provide effective biblical marriage and family counseling. 

I’m picturing you—a “lay person” (not a vocational pastor, a non-professional counselor)—who loves people and marriages. But you feel overwhelmed when trying to help a brokenhearted couple or a distressed family.

I’m picturing you—educators—who teach pastors and counselors in a Christian college or seminary setting. When you search the evangelical publishing landscape, you can find hundreds of books about marriage and the family. Yet, even with your level of academic awareness, you’re likely at a loss to identify Christian books that equip your students with a biblical, practical, step-by-step process for learning how to help struggling marriages and families. 

Gospel-Centered Equipping in Marriage and Family Counseling

In the secular publishing landscape, we can find many books focused on hands-on training in marital and family therapy. But we’re not interested in a worldly way to help Christian marriages and families. 

There’s a central reason I included the phrase Gospel-Centered in the title of each book. This is not a secular marital therapy manual. In writing these books, I’ve examined Scripture asking myself: 
“What would a model of biblical marriage and family counseling look like that was built solely upon Christ’s gospel of grace?” 
What motivated me to write Gospel-Centered Marriage Counseling and Gospel-Centered Family Counseling? My motivation to write is the same as your motivation to read these books. 

We each want to glorify God by growing as biblical marriage and family counselors who apply Christ’s gospel of grace to help hurting and hurtful spouses, parents, and children to become Christlike and Christ-honoring spouses, parents, and children.