Should You Pay For Christian Counseling?

People are given to believe that if a Christian service such as counseling, a travelling evangelist, or support of a pastor, requires payment, then it is less sincere than if it had not.  I will concede that the love of money and poor accountability will lead to evil and corrupt ministry, but this is not necessarily so in every case.  Unfortunately perception becomes reality, and most people perceive that payment for Christian service is a negative simply because the worst amongst us often get the most press.  Paul suffered from the same problem.  He was in constant defense of his apostleship before the early church, and one sacrifice he chose to make in order to better validate his ministry was to refuse monetary support, though he was under no Scriptural warrant to do so.  I Corinthians 9:3-14:
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Pastors, most often offer counsel for free to families as a part of their expected pastoral ministry, as well they should.  I would think it odd for a pastor to receive a wage from a church and also charge by the hour for pastoral counseling.  While the counsel of a pastor may be beneficial, pastoral counsel should be, and most often is, limited and short term.  It is limited with regards to ability.  After a certain point there are just some issues of the mental soul that pastors are not trained to handle.  It is limited also by the mere fact that after a certain time, pastors need to move on, and be available to others.  People do not need to become addicted to their pastor’s attention.  This is both dangerous and emotionally/spiritually draining.  He is gifted to the church to “equip the saints for the ministry (Eph. 4:12)” and to “preach the Word of God (Acts 6:2).”  For him to consume his time with only visiting, counseling, and administration is wrong and detrimental to the spiritual health of the church (again consult Eph. 4:12, Acts 6:2).

There will come, then, a time when the wise pastor will make a referral to a Christian counselor.  This will require, in most cases, money.  Some ministries have the liberty of offering free counsel to those who need it.  Yet, it should be noted that they can do so only because someone behind the scenes is funding it.  Again, someone is paying.  Also, it has been proven that when people have a monetary investment in counseling and education they respond better than if they had no investment in the same. 

Here is the real question.  What is it worth to you?  What is the condition of your family, your marriage, or your loved one worth to you?  Some people will buy a nice pair of jeans, but will not pay for Christian counsel.  People will buy a pair of pants and it never enter their mind that Levi and Strauss is somehow evil because they will not clothe the world for free.  Some people will fund a trip to Disney World hoping that it will relieve family stress, when three appointments to a trained counselor would have been much cheaper and much more effective than Mickey.  An investment of time and money in professional Christian counsel can be life changing.  It is a worthwhile, Biblical, and solid financial investment.  A wise Christian counselor once pointed out to me as we were discussing this very issue, “Divorce is much more costly than counsel.” 


Anonymous said…
Let me get this straight: You are telling me that a minister who is full of the Holy Spirit and has the the Word of God at his disposal can not meet the need of the mental soul? That is why I would not pay to see a Christian counselor. I did not see Christians/disciples in the bible charging for services.

As a matter of fact Paul said I do not peddle the Word of God for profit. 2. Cor 2:17.

You telling me if I can not pay my bill you would not help me? A way to make money.

Anonymous said…
I would ask only that you read the article carefully, once again. I have not said anything of which you accuse.
Diane Stockard said…
Hi Brian. I am thankful that you were called to the ministry. We give as Christians to the church, so that if someone or me ever need help, that the pastor or counselors who sit there each day will be available to help. God did not make 8 to 5 leaders. It is true that the greatest Christian leaders had others that they assigned to help them when people came to them with problems, but NO pastor/leader of God should ever turn away a hurting soul. Meet with them and then tell them that you have someone close to God and you in your presence who can help them, but it hurts when a pastor become so powerful and busy that he can't even pick up the phone and say hello. The Holy Spirit and Faith will keep Christians strong, but even Jesus Christ cried to his Father for help! I am a warrior for Christ and I can't even get religious leaders to return my calls. I feel that many will be surprised when they get to heaven...they may be somewhat short. Christian counselors should also go to Christians needing help, not set up a 8 to 5 time. We all know that night time and weekend is very crucial to the soul that may be hurting and in pain. More people need to learn about Mother Teresa and John Wesley! I am sure that there are soooo many more. Thank you.
Unknown said…
After seeing 3 different Christian counselors over a period of several years, I am disillusioned with the whole bit. Finally after this last counselor I realized that counselors are trained to teach a method, and each one seems to have a different method they are teaching. All of these methods I can read in a book for much, much cheaper. The reason I’m going to a counselor and spending lots more money than I would on a book is because I am looking for courage, encouragement, and personal help knowing how to leave or stay in an abusive marriage. Each counselor seems to have a different opinion of whether my spouse is abusive or not and what I am biblically expected to “suffer to become more like Jesus”. And none of them have been intuitive enough to ask questions that would reveal my feelings of isolation, which for some reason are too hard for me to reveal without some prodding. After the counseling is over, I am back in isolation and whatever help I received slowly slips away.

In an ideal world, support and encouragement would be free because it would come from community. It’s those of us that can’t connect to community for one reason or another that have to resort to paid counseling. But paid counseling is always temporary, and if a “natural “ support system isn’t put into place, it isn’t going to last. It’s a broken system, but we live in a broken world and so perhaps it is the best we can expect.

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