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Controlling the Counseling Load

I was dreaming of palm trees, sandy beaches, and snorkeling in the Caribbean when the jangling telephone transported me back to the more sober environment of northern New Jersey. I grabbed the phone and glanced at the clock; it was 4:25 A.M.

The voice of the frantic young man at the other end of the line quivered with desperation: "Pastor, I must see you this morning. I can't tell you about it over the phone, but believe me, it's important!"

This was the beginning of a not-so-unusual Monday morning after an exhausting weekend of public ministry.

Counseling is one of the most labor-intensive tasks of pastoral ministry. Four or five sessions can easily represent a full day of ministry for the average pastor. And often the circle of those involved expands: one person's problem can become my family's problem, or even the congregation's problem.

It's easy, in the midst of a counseling crisis, for pastors to feel as if they are sitting in a small boat paddling against an overpowering current inexorably ...

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