View Cart

The Untapped Potential of Biblical Counseling in Christian Schools  

Biblical counseling at Christians schools is both necessary and possible.

Mar 7, 2024

In Jay Adams’ foundational work, Competent to Counsel, Adams addresses not only the need for biblical counseling in the local church, but also its necessity in Christian school settings. In fact, Adams spends an entire chapter on the need.1Adams, Jay. Competent to Counsel. Chapter 11, “Christian school teachers as nouthetic counselors.”, pages 252-267. He argues that Christian schools often have “more opportunity” to counsel biblically than in other settings due to the significant amount of time students and teachers spend together. In his words, there is an “untapped potential” for the ministry of biblical counseling in Christian schools. And, referring to the significance of Colossians 3:16, Adams states that principles of biblical counseling are “especially true of the teacher-pupil relationship in the Christian school.”2Ibid., 252.   

The counseling landscape in Christian schools  

Fast forward to now, In spite of there being nearly 53,000 Christian schools, around 5 million enrolled students, and a school-aged “mental health pandemic,” Christian schools are still in need of biblical counseling. Yet, many faith-based schools depend on secular organizations like the American School Counselor Association for support, even though the standards of these organizations specifically call for diversity and neutrality on issues related to religion, including issues like sexual orientation and gender identity.3See ASCA’s code of ethics here: 

Just recently, the Biden administration also made a statement dedicating “the single largest investment in student mental health in history” in an effort to train and hire more school counselors.4Gangitano, Alex. “Harris announces $285 million to boost mental health counselors in schools.” The Hill, 2024.   But, as Bible believing Christians, we have an even greater hope and resources in Jesus Christ that hurting students truly need (2 Corinthians 3:12), and in Christian schools, we can and should present these truths and counsel biblically.  

A practical path to bringing Biblical Counseling to Christian schools  

So what are Christian schools to do? Noted below are some steps our Christian school has taken to implement a biblical counseling model. We share this information in hopes it will encourage other faith-based schools to provide biblically based counseling and care for their own students.  

1.Invest in robust biblical counseling training for at least one staff member 

At least one staff member should be thoroughly trained in biblical counseling through advanced seminary degrees and/or certification from qualified organizations like ACBC. This will provide for a designated representative on campus to oversee and manage student care. In most school settings this person would be a full time school counselor, but if this is not feasible, school administrators or teachers can also be trained for this role.    

2. Train faculty and staff, especially Bible teachers and key leaders, in biblical counseling   

Christian schools often do not feel equipped to deal with the complex social and emotional needs faced by today’s youth. Unfortunately, this can communicate to students that the Bible really isn’t the place to go with these kinds of issues, and solutions must be sought elsewhere. Providing biblical counseling training to staff members can change this dynamic and build confidence in the sufficiency of God’s Word school-wide. 

Such training can easily begin with attendance at quality biblical counseling conferences such as those offered by ACBC and their training centers. Many of our school’s personnel have been blessed to attend these conferences sponsored annually by a local church. Our lead administrators, department heads, Bible teachers, guidance counselors, and admissions advisors have all received this training as part of their professional development, and it is made available yearly.  

3. Partner with biblical counseling churches and centers  

Student needs encompass a range of issues, many of which can effectively be ministered to in school settings while others require referral. At our school we have a tiered system to address these matters. A student’s parents and the family’s local church are involved in the process to provide support as needed. For situations that reach beyond the scope of what the school is able to address, we have established a network of trusted biblical counseling ministries and centers in our area. In this way we seek to meet the needs of our students in a holistic and biblical manner. 

4. Make Bible class a place to discuss social and emotional issues from a uniquely biblical perspective 

Within modern education, social-emotional learning or “SEL” has become an area where schools invest significant time and energy. Unfortunately, in the public school system, this SEL is laden with godless secular psychology, unbiblical sexual and gender ethics, critical theory, and even eastern Buddhist mysticism. 

There are two options when responding to the problem of secular SEL. First, some in Christian schools advocate for avoiding SEL altogether and simply focusing on academics. Another option is for schools to develop biblical counseling SEL programs. Although the former approach may be helpful for smaller schools with less available time, for schools that have established Bible classes, engaging in biblical social-emotional learning topics is appropriate and essential. Students should be taught that the Bible is not only academic, but is a sufficient hope and help for our social-emotional issues.  

At our school, we have invested significant time in developing social and emotional learning from a completely biblical perspective. Students take one day a month in Bible class to address a social-emotional issue using exclusively biblical counseling resources. By the time students graduate, they have investigated 30+ topics and are taught how the Bible is a sufficient source to approach life’s difficulties. Issues and emotions such as anxiety, panic, depression, trauma, anger, authority, bullying, conflict, forgiveness, rejection, stress, body image, guilt, obsession, leadership, dating, addiction, are all addressed from this perspective. 

5. Use biblical counseling as a tool for discipline and correction that addresses the heart.  

Most schools have demerit systems and complex punitive systems to address misbehavior. At a Christian school, however, we must move beyond pure behavioral methods so that the fundamental issues of the heart are addressed with the Gospel.  

At our school we have intricately connected discipline and correction to biblical counseling. In the early stages of discipline and very minor issues, students typically receive warnings and simple demerits. However, when demerits build to a detention, students must meet with a trained Bible teacher who will ask questions, gather data, and help provide accountability and care.  

If a student continues to struggle, they then meet with one of our trained faculty for biblical counseling (typically 3-4 sessions). This allows for the opportunity to counsel the heart of the student with God’s Word and prayer rather than simply addressing outward behavior. We have found this approach to be very successful, and it shows students that God’s Word is a sufficient hope and help with their struggles.  

Difficult social issues such as bullying are also dealt with from a biblical perspective with a goal of helping both the offender and the offended, and we have used biblical counseling principles and policy to resolve both student-to-student disputes, as well as disputes among parents and/or faculty and staff.  

The chief end of a biblical counseling program  

Just recently our school received an email from a parent who was encouraged by our biblical counseling program. Her teenage son experienced bullying in a previous Christian school that resulted in panic attacks, anxiety, and ultimately self harm that one our teachers noticed. The parent said that when a staff member called and said that the school can offer her son biblical counseling, she cried. She shared how it was an “answer to prayer” because she had researched how to care for her son, but was left confused by all the counseling philosophies offered in the community and churches. After her son was biblically counseled for some weeks, the mom emailed back and said her son had made “tremendous growth and the tools provided had been so sound and biblical that it was a direct answer to prayer.”  

Ultimately, this is the chief end of creating a biblical counseling program in Christian schools — that the Christian school would be a place where families are pointed to Christ and his word as the all sufficient hope and help in their time if need — and as they see God at work through biblical counsel, that they would “praise God for his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6).   

What Adams said long ago is still true today — Christian schools are a place of untapped biblical counseling potential. We have an opportunity in this age to make God and his word the center of everything in Christian schools. May Christian schools take this charge, and we pray that our simple steps to implement a biblical counseling program will encourage you as you incorporate biblical counseling into your Christian school.  

More Resources: 

Foundations High School Curriculum