One of the biggest challenges that biblical counselors face is what homework to assign their counselees. I believe there are a few reasons for that. First of all, there may be a lack of confidence on the part of the biblical counselor in knowing how to apply scriptural tools to the life issues of the counselees. I believe another reason is that some biblical counselors may lack the knowledge of resources available to them to use as homework assignments and then I believe that at times we all fall into the habitual patterns of assigning homework without giving a lot of strategic or visionary thought to the assignments.
One of my favorite parts of biblical counseling is the equipping and the assigning of homework to a counselee. What I have found so helpful to me in regards to giving homework is to realize how intimately homework is related to the mechanics of discipleship in the life of a counselee. Knowing this has really helped me categorize my homework in such a way that I can strategically pick assignments that are intentionally designed to grow my disciple in each area of their walk with Christ.
There are many characteristics that make up a fully mature disciple. So many that I could list them in this article and extend this article for another five pages and even then maybe not list them all. Rather than do that, I would like to categorize all of the qualities of a mature disciple into four main areas. Each of the areas centers around the gospel. Here they are: The Word, Prayer, Community and Missional living or evangelism. Notice that the first two speak directly to our relationship with Christ while the other two speak directly to our relationship with others. If we are truly going to make disciples who make disciples we need to address these areas in the lives of those we counsel. These become targets then for the homework assignments we give.
When I give a homework assignment to a counselee I am thinking in terms of developing the characteristics of a gospel centered disciple therefore the Word, Prayer, Community and Missional Living become the grid through which I think about and assign the homework. Each time I assign homework I give assignments out of each of these four areas. Doing this will ensure that you are helping them apply truth and gospel living to all four areas. Let me demonstrate…. Someone comes to me who is struggling with fear, here is how I would assign the homework.
- Read Philippians 4:4-9 one time daily and answer these 5 questions:
- Where do I see God’s character?
- Where do I see God’s actions?
- Where do I see God’s promises?
- Where do I see myself?
- What does God want me to do?
- Write Phil 4:6-7 on a notecard and keep it with you everywhere you go and memorize this passage.
- Read When People are Big and God is Small (biblical principles around passage)
- Prayer –
- Pray individual prayers of thanksgiving, repentance and intercession all throughout the day.
- Pray together with your spouse asking them to pray with you through your fear and you pray for them as well about whatever they want you to pray for.
- Keep a prayer journal of God’s answers
- Community –
- Have your advocate hold you accountable for your thoughts throughout the week.
- Attend community group and church services looking for a way to bless someone else.
- Share your struggle with your community group
- Step out of your comfort zone and find a way to serve someone you may see as your adversary this week.
- Share with a friend, spouse, children or coworker the passage you are studying, or verse you memorized, why you are studying it and what it means.
- Be prepared to teach me (the counselor) what you learned from your reading this week and teach me how to apply what you learned.
As you can see from this demonstration I am addressing each quadrant of discipleship with the counselee and giving them ways to grow in each area. They are gaining a head and heart knowledge, learning how to apply it and then share it with others. Its all about making disciples who make disciples. Ephesians 4:11-16 comes to life as you counsel through the grid of the characteristics of a disciple. It has been a joy seeing people experiencing Christ in real ways and growing in him in a way that is building them as strong mature disciples. Next time you find yourself wrestling with how to give homework I would encourage you to use this tool. It’s a blessing to serve together!