When I became a NANC certified counselor thirty years ago, I was number thirteen out of thirteen women certified. There were previously about 100 men and they had to have been pastors and ordained to even qualify. Not long before I was certified, no women were allowed to be certified. NANC was in new unchartered waters. There was never an issue about women counseling men. Actually, I don’t think it ever occurred to any of us. It seemed to me that some things were biblically self-evident.
I worked for eight years with Lou Priolo at the Atlanta Biblical Counseling Center, and I only counseled women. On occasion, Lou and I would team together with a couple who needed our help, but Lou was in charge and he took the lead. Out of eight years working with Lou, I can only remember a couple of times that a husband sat in with his wife during one of my sessions. That was very unusual, and the wife clearly needed her husband’s help. I counseled her and her husband would, hopefully, encourage his wife along the same biblical lines when they got home.
Today, influenced by the universal demand for equality of the sexes in the secular world, the overwhelming influence of the liberal churches for equality in the pulpit and other ministries of the church, and the natural “tickling of the ears” of those who want to serve in this way, some even Bible-believing Christian pastors and women are breaking down a perceived barrier that was previously thought to be biblical and self-evident.
In thinking about this issue, we have to go back to God’s sovereign intent. Does God intend for men to lead in this area? Should women have authority over men while counseling them biblically? What should the church’s position be? Obviously, women can be well-trained biblically and gifted as teachers and exhorters. In fact, they can be really good counselors! That is not the issue before us. The issue is—should women counsel men?
Well, I have to say an unequivocal, “no.” It seems to me that when a counselor is counseling, that counselor has assumed a role of authority over that person. We all know that our counselees don’t have to obey us, but when we exhort using the Scriptures, God’s Word is authoritative, and we take on that flavor. Scripture clearly puts the men in charge whether in the home, the church, and I would also include a parachurch ministry such as ACBC.
God is sovereign and He determines the roles of men and women in the home and in the church. If you study the pastoral epistles, (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus) the Apostle Paul clearly lays out the qualifications for the pastors/elders and the deacons of the church. They are men. There is no getting around it—“husbands of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2 and 12, Titus 1:6). These pastors/elders are to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
God is also sovereign over the roles of women in the church and in the home. It is not because they are less gifted; but if they really want to glorify God and obey Him, they will gladly take on the role that God has given them. Paul clearly instructed the women to “… quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 3:11-12). He bases his instruction on God’s original intent, not on the Roman culture of his day. “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). Then he explains why. “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14). That last verse makes many women fighting mad and some twist the Scriptures to mean something other than what it plainly says. But it seems to me it could not be clearer.
Christian women of every age are to use their gifts and training to help other women and children. In addition, the older women (that’s me!) have a special mandate to teach and admonish the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). It seems to me that if we follow those mandates, we have no shortage of ministry opportunities. That has been my experience.
I think I must mention that a woman counseling a man could easily take a “liking” for that man and begin to be drawn to him emotionally through their conversations. That could result in her having “feelings for him” and him for her. So many ministries at whatever level have been destroyed. It is devastating for the reputation of the Lord, church or parachurch ministries, and the people that suffer terribly under either a counselor’s adultery or adultery in their hearts. Counseling is very personal. It is not worth taking a chance just because a woman is gifted and her pastor desires for her to counsel men.
Christian women who are trained and experienced biblical counselors through the ACBC certification should counsel women and not take on the “flavor” of authority over counseling men. Clearly it is God’s will that women serve other women and remain under the authority of their elders, and that their elders protect themselves and the women under their ministry. Through ACBC policies, they are protected. Some things are biblically self-evident.