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2023 Pastoral Counsellors Network

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Equipping Christian counsellors with a biblical worldview

The European Pastoral Counsellors Network is for leaders involved in pastoral care or personal discipleship ministries. The Network will focus on common pastoral issues with the aim of building basic counselling skills grounded in a biblical understanding of, and approach to, the human heart. This year’s programme focuses on the character and spiritual life of the counsellor, understanding how to truly care for those who experience evil and suffering, discipling the whole person, the power of the relationship in counselling, and other topics relevant to those involved in pastoral care and discipleship.

Applicants should be leaders involved in pastoral care or personal discipleship ministries. The Network will focus on common pastoral issues, with the aim of building basic pastoral skills grounded in a biblical understanding and approach to the human heart.

Network Leadership

Jelena Sivulka was born and raised in Serbia, where she got her master’s degree in psychology and in theology. She became a Christian 25 years ago and a few years later got involved in ministry with her husband Greg, planting churches, distributing humanitarian aid, and partnering with Joni and… Read more
Eric L. Johnson is professor of Christian Psychology at Houston Baptist University, serving in the Gideon Institute of Christian Psychology & Counseling. He taught psychology for 10 years at the University of Northwestern and counseling for 17 years at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In… Read more

Network Speakers

Heather Holdsworth (MA(SFD) DipTh BEd(Hons)) is a Bible teacher, lecturer, artist and enjoyer of deep conversations over tea with friends. Her focus is on the subject of Spiritual Formation and Discipleship for people of all ages. After graduating with a degree in education, she taught in… Read more

Eric L. Johnson is professor of Christian Psychology at Houston Baptist University, serving in the Gideon Institute of Christian Psychology & Counseling. He taught psychology for 10 years at the University of Northwestern and counseling for 17 years at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.… Read more

V. Ellsworth Lewis, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist currently teaching (Houston Christian University), consulting with missionaries (OC International), and writing. He has worked with children, families, and adults-- providing assessment, therapy, and supervision in medical centers, rural… Read more

Jay Mosser has served in pastoral roles for 40 years – about 20 years in various assistant pastor capacities and the rest as senior pastor. Through those years he has served in three churches ranging from smaller (less than 50) to larger (about 1,000). Along the way he has worked with children,… Read more

Jelena Sivulka was born and raised in Serbia, where she got her master’s degree in psychology and in theology. She became a Christian 25 years ago and a few years later got involved in ministry with her husband Greg, planting churches, distributing humanitarian aid, and partnering with Joni and… Read more

Network Programme

Sunday, 21 May

Paul speaks of the body as potentially holy, an acceptable sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). Yet, the Imago Dei has often been conceptualised in terms that exclude the body, limiting our earthly experience of “the hope of glory.” In this session, we will discuss some historical and philosophical issues in the concept of the Imago Dei, searching for a metaphysic that does not grieve the Spirit by foreclosing the power of Christ in us.

Our relationship with Christ involves our bodies, as well as our souls. One way this happens is the mutual abiding of Christ in the believer and the belief in Christ (Jn 14:23; 15:4). After considering this theme, we’ll finish with an activity.

Monday, 22 May

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart.” God personally formed each one of us. With intricate details, He “breathed” us into existence. We are His one-of-a-kind masterpiece. As we live in the world at the pace we set for ourselves, we not only don’t see our bodies as temples, we ignore them altogether sometimes. Very often this powerful picture is lost by our self-centred desires, by unmet needs, compelled by illusions about who we are and what makes us acceptable or important. In this session, we will be reminded of what is the path to healing and restoration that we desperately need. How can we help others to be “searched and known” by a gracious God, and moved toward holiness that gives God the honour and fills their hearts with worship? “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” 1 Cor. 3:16-17

Clinical Counselors have their hands full these days providing care for the situationally discouraged and depressed - the world seems to be full of them. Pastoral Counselors are sometimes called upon to provide solutions to specific or situational needs, but many times the sadness is longer-term and defies even our best "solutions." As we work with chronically discouraged and depressed people, Pastoral Counselors certainly need to be helpful counsellors, but also faithful friends to those with longer-term grief, pain, or other suffering. This session will provide a helpful paradigm on how to understand, seek to help, and be a faithful witness to truth while waiting for God to provide the help that only comes from Him.

Tuesday, 23 May

Christ’s Incarnation justifies reviewing the ways church life involves our bodies – for example, in prayer, singing, confession, and eating and drinking – assessing why they benefit us, and practicing a little to explore their benefits.

Pastoral and professional counsellors have opportunity for cooperation, deepening spiritual intervention while maintaining helpful boundaries. In this session, we will examine how to do this by looking at three fundamental areas: (1) personal spiritual formation, (2) bearing one another’s burdens, and (3) a ministry of psychosomatic healing that complements and powerfully augments professional Christian counselling.

Wednesday, 24 May

Ministry roles are often viewed as "silos" -- areas that are loosely related but rarely connected. This is especially unfortunate when it comes to Pastoral Counseling and our Discipleship ministries. Biblically understood, these two ministry categories have far more in common than they have differences. How would "Counseling" be different if we viewed it through a "Discipleship lens" and how would "Discipleship" benefit if we included a "Counseling" framework? This session will help us think biblically about how these two often-separated ministries should become friends!

As He moved among the broken in His time on our planet, the Creator quoted from an unexpected source. Christ referred to the Psalms more than any part of our sacred text. But when we need help in our living, we rarely knock on a poet’s door; our bookshelves favour method over musing, movement over reflection, yet in the Psalms, we find beauty that brings our souls from weary valleys to hilltop praise. In this session, we consider a unique engagement with the artistry and genius of Christ’s favoured writings.