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5 Biggest Challenges for Pastoral Counselors

Pastoral counselors are supposed to help their congregation and provide professional counseling. While the job title may sound simple, actually carrying out these goals can be a challenge. From internal conflicts to problems with an apathetic congregation, there are many challenges that pastoral counselors must face. With the right experience and approach, counselors can overcome these difficulties to provide their congregation with the help that they need.

1. Apathy in the Congregation and the Staff

Over the years, it seems like congregations have become more and more apathetic. Instead of showing up for church services every Sunday, they may show up just at holidays or on random days that fit into their schedule. One of the most difficult aspects in helping the congregation is getting them to care about their emotional, spiritual and mental growth. Apathy is also a problem among staff members who may not be the best fit for the ministry. Although it may be difficult, pastoral counselors may have to let some of their staff members go if they are poor stewards and apathetic.

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2. Managing Time

Pastoral counselors often wear multiple hats. While they may provide counseling for the congregation, many counselors are also involved in preparing services and conduct funerals. As a counselor, it is hard to say no when someone asks for extra help. Due to this, pastoral counselors may quickly become overwhelmed by conducting weddings, giving services, visiting congregants, attending meetings, running funerals and providing strategic leadership. Without strong delegation skills, counselors may quickly become burned out by their intensive role in the congregation.

3. Family Problems

Even the best families will have problems at some points. Church members often expect the counselor to play a role in mediating between family members and providing spousal support. Although this is one of the counselor's main jobs, it can become overwhelming at times. On a personal level, many counselors experience problems in their own families because they lack the time needed to manage their family's needs.

4. Stress, Depression and Burnout

With so many highs and lows in the life of a counselor, it is normal to experience stress and burnout. Over time, the strenuous work weeks can take a toll on the counselor. While lazy counselors may escape with just a few hours of work a week, dedicated professionals may work more than 70 hours in a single week. This leads to unending stress as the counselor finds it difficult to become motivated to do their job.

5. Sexual Problems

One of the most difficult things to handle as a pastoral counselor is sexual issues. It is often difficult for people to open up about sexual problems in their life or past affairs. When the counselor starts to provide marital counseling services, they may quickly become overwhelmed by mediating between couples. Some of the most common sexual problems seen by counselors include marital unfaithfulness and pornography.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, counselors earn a median wage of $42,250 per year or $20.31 per hour. To get started in this field, pastoral counselors will generally need to get a master's degree in counseling. Adding additional certifications and specializations can help the counselor to find work later on. Once the counselor has achieved their degree and certifications, they are ready to begin working in the field of pastoral counseling.