search icon search iconSearch A-Z Index Members IconMember Portal Members IconOnline Giving
Members Icon


Welcome to the First Presbyterian Church portal. Please choose an option below to see our events, small groups or to give online.


First Thoughts Blog

← Return to blog

Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction

Many of you know that I am your Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care. This means you’re likely to see me if you’re in the hospital, homebound or in a Senior Care or rehab facility. But the other part of my title is Associate Pastor for Prayer which includes aspects of spiritual formation. This includes prayer, obviously, and numerous other spiritual disciplines, such as meditative reading of scripture, fasting, and retreats. Two other responsibilities under this heading are pastoral counseling and spiritual direction, which are often confused with each other. What is the difference?
Pastoral Counseling typically involves a defined focus on a life challenge, such as a relationship difficulty or a behavior where change is desired. Scripture, prayer in various forms, anointing with oil, and theological reflection and a recognition that the worshiping church family is a resource for healing are usually included in pastoral counseling at some point. We are blessed to have an outstanding team of Christian counselors right here on the third floor at the Baton Rouge Christian Counseling Center, and typically I will make a referral to one of our licensed therapists if more extensive work is needed. Yet there are certainly times when counsel with a pastor is the right approach, or a good beginning. 
Spiritual Direction is an opportunity for intentional, set-apart, prayerful presence, usually in a one-on-one setting, where the director creates and holds open space for the directee to notice God’s presence and the voice of the Holy Spirit in a more attentive and developed way. The goal is to shape the directee into fuller life in Jesus Christ. Meeting with a director can be helpful when one is facing a new “chapter” in life, such as an empty nest, a change in jobs or retirement, or a reevaluation of life due to a dramatic life event or a ‘tug’ from God through a sermon or prayer time. My doctoral work at Gordon-Conwell is in Pastoral Theology in Practice, which focuses on these two related, but distinct, pastoral responsibilities. Consider this a friendly invitation to meet with me over coffee or in my office if you want to explore either of these options in your adventure of Christian faith, as we follow Jesus, who has come “that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10: 10).