Biblical Counseling: A Pastor’s Journey to In-Depth Discipleship
By Kevin Spear
Pastor Dayton Kitterman, PhD, has seen much change since he began biblical counseling in 1990. “I began my biblical counseling training in 1990 with Dr. Bob Sommerville. He discipled me over the years to develop the skills needed. Through his encouragement, I began formal training with Trinity Theological Seminary and obtained my PhD.”
Since then, Dr. Kitterman attained certification with the Association of Biblical Counselors and became a “Fellow.” This allowed him to train other counselors. He has also trained biblical counselors through the Biblical Counseling Ministry (BCM) in Visalia, California, where he has been involved since 1990. It began as the Biblical Counseling and Educational Center (BCEC). It trained biblical counselors and established the profession in central California.
Dr. Kitterman notes, “BCM is what it is today because of the work done by BCEC in the development of a biblical counseling ministry. Each person involved in the initial planning of BCM had received their training through the ministry of BCEC through Dr. Bob Somerville and me.”
He makes a distinction between Christian and biblical counseling. “My definition of biblical counseling is ‘in-depth personal discipleship,’ he says. “Jesus gave the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. This directive should be at the heart of all Christian ministry, especially in the local church and the pastorate.” Because of this directive, Dr. Kitterman emphasizes that biblical counseling focuses on God’s Word as the source of any meaningful change.
Dr. Kitterman has been the lead pastor of Faith Community Church in Visalia, California, for nearly thirty-two years. During that time, he has also served as a biblical counselor for both the community and his church. He sees how his counseling has affected his ministry. He says, “It has helped me mature personally in my relationship with Christ. What I teach others needs to affect my own attitudes and behaviors. My congregation gains confidence in my teaching through the influence of those whose lives have been helped through my counseling ministry.”
Today, Dr. Kitterman limits his counseling ministry to his congregants. Even when he provided counseling for other churches, he limited his caseload to ensure his congregation’s ministry needs came first. He says, “I made it my policy to be available to my congregation as a biblical counselor because of my role as their pastor.”
Measure of Success
Dr. Kitterman has two categories of success in his biblical counseling career. First, he has had the privilege of training numerous counselors in Belarus, as well as this country. “God has used that training he provided through me in ways I don’t know. In that strongly Communistic and atheistic country, there is hope being given through the young people.”
His second category of success is seeing the results of those he has personally counseled. He says, “Today, there are many reconciled marriages. I praise God that his Word and his Spirit influences people to change and become more Christlike. There are those who were living fruitless and empty lives because of addictive behaviors. Today, they are loving God and living lives for his glory and full of hope.
Advice for Pastors
Pastor Kitterman remarked, “Not every biblical pastor will be a counselor. But every pastor should have a solid grasp on in-depth personal discipleship.” He emphasizes both callings require a solid knowledge of God’s Word.
For those who feel called to be a biblical counselor, he advises first to pray for God’s direction in the matter. If he leads you in this direction, he then advises you to find a trained biblical counselor and ask to sit in on one of the sessions. Then contact organizations such as the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors or the International Association of Biblical Counselors.
Several Bible colleges offer biblical counseling training, but he advises this discipline is not the same as Christian counseling or a psychology degree. He says, “Biblical counseling focuses on using God’s Word as the primary source for information. It is genuinely in-depth, personal discipleship.”
For those who don’t feel called to a biblical counseling ministry but are pastors, he understands that the demands and urgency of a congregant in need can be overwhelming. He recommends finding another local pastor or ministry that can help. He comments, “BCM functions in this capacity. We provide biblical counseling for pastors and churches that cannot presently provide that for their flock. So, I suggest that a pastor research biblical counseling resources in their area and become familiar with how to refer one of his flock to them.”
Kevin Spear has worked for Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. He is a ministry partner with his wife Paula, an ordained pastor in the Church of God.