Are Churches Healing Places?
By Patty E. Shaver
Biblical Recorder

Many churches neglect the need for counseling ministry, even though every church has "walking wounded" whose lives are affected by divorce, abuse, addiction, unemployment or other issues," says James H. Ballard, founder and president of Healing the Hurt Ministries.
Ballard started Healing the Hurt Ministries after more than 40 years as a pastor and counselor. He combines a whole-person healing approach - physical, emotional, and spiritual - within a Christian framework.
In 1986, as associate pastor/minister to singles and singles again at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, Ballard discovered that many church members were hurting both physically and psychologically. Often the physical pain came from deep spiritual and psychological issues that had not been faced and resolved - issues of rejection, abuse, and abandonment.
Ballard found that when spiritual and psychological pain was dealt with, physical complaints were often resolved. He helped clients realize who they are in Christ - that they are special and loved by God.
"As my ministry grew, it sensitized my spirit and opened my eyes to the multitude of other members within the congregation who were putting on their 'pretty faces' along with their Sunday clothes as they suffered deep emotional and physical pain resulting from issues surrounding family of origin, broken relationships, divorce and separation," said Ballard. Those needs led him to establish the Counseling and Health Enhancement Ministry of Hickory Grove Baptist.
Ballard recruited professional counselors and interns to help minister to hurting people within the congregation and community. He established support groups to facilitate healing. Many of these groups were led by people who themselves had experienced spiritual victory via similar crises.
Ballard recently retired after more than 20 years on the Hickory Grove staff, and established Healing the Hurt Ministries. By leading conferences and seminars and making individual contacts, Ballard hopes to sensitize pastors, churches and associations to the growing number of people who need a Christ-centered biblical based counseling ministry.
The first step in developing a counseling ministry is to determine what counseling needs exist, he said. Ballard suggests that churches:
Consider developing a questionnaire that can be inserted in the church bulletin. Emphasize that it is anonymous and ask questions pertaining to what counseling needs are present in the individual lives.
Form a committee to review the survey/questionnaire.
Determine the best methods for meeting counseling needs.
Hire a counselor on staff.
Find people within the church who are qualified in counseling, either staff or church members.
Research outside options. See what other local churches are doing and consider combining efforts. Associations may be able to help. Utilize interns and seminary students. Develop and keep on file community organizations for referrals. The Department of Pastoral Care at Baptist Hospital, which can be reached at (336) 716-9776, sponsors counseling centers throughout the state. Colleges, seminaries, and divinity schools can offer assistance and possibly provide Christian interns and counselors.
Determine if and/or what support groups might be utilized.
Recruit and train volunteers.
Ballard sees counseling ministries as a priority for evangelism. By helping to fulfill a hurting person's emotional needs, that person can become whole in Jesus Christ, he says.
Ballard will lead a breakout session called "Integrative Medicine: A New Day in Counseling and Medicine" at the American Association for Christian Counselors (AACC) World Conference in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 12-15.
For more information about Healing the Hurt Ministries, go to or send e-mail to
(EDITOR'S NOTE - James H. Ballard is a Certified Reality Therapist, speaker, and author of Healing the Hurt: Processing the Pain of Past and Present and A Christian Approach to Wellness.)

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