The Rev. Jerome A. Parker, like many pastors, spends a great deal of his time trying to help people cope with stress in their lives.
Now, he is taking steps to help train others to fill the role of pastoral counselor via a graduate-level curriculum accredited through Friends International Christian University. Parker’s ministry, World Harvest Christian Church, recently became an affiliate of the Merced, Calif.–based university. They are now set to begin offering classes for a graduate degree in pastoral counseling at the end of the month.
Classes will be held at World Harvest Training Institute, 989 N. Portage Path in Akron.
Parker, who earned his doctor of ministry degree at Friends, serves as president of the local institute. He is also an adjunct professor at Friends and will teach at the Akron location.
“The Lord put it on my heart to provide education that will equip people in the area of counseling,” he said. “People are drained. They are dealing with job loss, divorce, wayward children, and a host of other issues that are creating internal turmoil and the stress is leaving them without hope. We have to rebuild the emotional and mental state of people and there aren’t enough counselors to meet the need.”
The degree being offered at World Harvest has five tracks of counseling specialization: addictions and recovery; child and adolescent; crisis and trauma; grief and loss; and marriage and family counseling. It requires the completion of 30 units.
Cost for completing the curriculum is $3,600 (or $120 per unit). There is also a $110 application and registration fee and the base cost does not include books. Monthly payment plans are available.
The course of study begins with an introduction to biblical counseling, which includes the exploration of overcoming depression, surviving sexual abuse, using spiritual gifts in counseling and helping others find significance.
It progresses to include classes on faith and life; marriage and family; challenging issues in biblical counseling; emerging issues in biblical counseling; and legal, ethical and liability issues in biblical counseling.
Friends International Christian University is accredited by ACI (Accrediting Commission International for Schools, Colleges and Theological Seminaries). It is not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Sarasota, Fla.–based ACI represents more than 100 institutions on five continents and in 11 countries and 27 states.
Friends International President Melinda F. Michaelson-Thomas said the goal of the university is to provide specialized education for Christians. In fact, the school requires students to be a member of the body of Christ.
Michaelson-Thomas said the university’s student population includes people with degrees in law, medicine and psychology who enroll with Friends to answer a call placed on their lives by God.
Among the school’s alumni is Bishop T.D. Jakes, whose dissertation Woman Thou Art Loosed was published as a self-help novel that made the New York Times best-seller list and was adapted into a stage play and movie.
“We prepare people to work in the kingdom and in the body of Christ,” Michaelson-Thomas said. “Our goal is to teach each student what will help them in their calling. We are a private church school that offers specialized education. Our objective at our WHTI affiliate is to train Christian counselors.”
In addition to the graduate degree, Michaelson-Thomas said students who complete the course of study will receive certification as a Christian Clinical Counselor through the International Association of Christian Clinical Counselors. That certification allows graduates to purchase malpractice insurance and to open a Christian counseling clinic.
She said those who earn graduate degrees will be encouraged to continue in a specialty at the doctoral level.
“We believe that through a great education, taught by world renowned clinical psychologists, educators, pastors and Christian therapists and theologians, lay leaders and those with a passion for helping others can take in the role that for centuries has been reserved for pastors, rabbis and priests,” Michaelson-Thomas said.
“A lack of in-depth education in specialized areas such as post-traumatic stress disorder or legal issues facing Christian counselors may often undermine the counseling sessions. Pastoral counseling is not about just winning another soul. It is assisting those in need to become spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy.”
Way to serve
The Rev. Beulah Hamilton, an ordained minister and licensed social worker, is an example of the type of student Michaelson-Thomas referred to. Hamilton earned her undergraduate degree in education at the University of Akron and is enrolled in the graduate pastoral counseling program that begins this month at World Harvest. She plans to pursue her doctorate in biblical counseling through Friends.
Hamilton, an Akron resident, said her work history sparked her interest in counseling. She has worked with clients at the former Fallsview Psychiatric Hospital, Cuyahoga Valley Mental Health Center, Oriana House and Urban Ounce of Prevention.
“My experience working with people who needed counseling motivated me to do something that will help people who are struggling with various issues to go forth and lead productive lives,” she said. “I believe that counseling is a gift that God has given me, and I want to have the tools that are needed to help people get to where they need to be. This is about helping to make people whole. I love people and I want to be able to reach out to those who are hurting.”
Parker said that given the economic climate, more people are in need of counseling. Many times, he said, people seek comfort in religious settings.
“The economic squeeze is not only impacting people’s wallets, it is also affecting their mental health. People are dealing with anxiety, fear and depression and trying to ease their pain with drugs and alcohol,” Parker said. “If we don’t help people work through these issues, by getting to the root of the problem, things will only get worse. The Bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). We have to equip people to help with the healing process.”
Orientation for the pastoral counseling program is at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 at World Harvest Christian Church. Classes begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27
For more information about the pastoral counseling program or to apply, go to www.ficu.edu or call 209-384-7900. To reach World Harvest Training Institute for an application packet, call 330-835-1982.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or email@example.com