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Counseling

Whoever says that leaders in Scouting are not counselors, they are wrong. Look, we are not professionals, at least most of us. But we are here because we love what we do. As a Chaplain or Chaplain Aid, you may have stepped into the role because you wanted to or you may have stepped in because you were called to do it. I know I was called by Christ himself. In either situation, you are now here. In my time as a Chaplain, I have had to deal with death of parents, teen suicide, broken marriages and substance abuse among my families.

I am a Christian counselor. It is not my job to diagnose people and I don't try to. My job is to listen actively. My role is not to condemn, but share God's grace. If I am asked for advice, I share what the bible says. As a Christian, I let people know that forgiveness is a gift of God's grace and that all they have to do is accept it and it is theirs.

What if the person I am counseling is not Christian? This is often the case. As a Chaplain, I try to understand the faiths of the Scouts and leaders in my care and encourage them to seek the answers through their own faith or through the ideals of Scouting. Bottom line though, is that the people under my care know that I am a Christian and I want to set a Christian example. Our actions as a Chaplain are becomes our best witness.

Body language is very important. You need to show and be non-judgmental. How you react will either encourage or discourage the person from seeking your guidance. You need to be very aware of the signal you are sending. Do you look surprised? Are you crossing your arms showing judgment? Do you gasp? Are you compassionate toward them? Look, I may not condone the activities that are being confessed or related to me, but if I am to give effective guidance, the person in front of me has to trust me. Most of all, you are there to listen.

Trust is the key. As a Chaplain, things may be revealed to you that are very personal and private. This needs to be locked away, never to be shared with anyone. If you think it would be beneficial to the person that you are working with to share the situation with a small group of "leaders", you need to get permission first. Once you break the trust of one individual, you will become ineffective as a counselor because the word will spread. If you think there is a problem in the troop, you can communicate that to the leadership without revealing the identity of the person you are counseling.

Youth protection guidelines must also be strictly followed. If you are working with a youth, you need to be in view of another leader. It is never okay to have a one-on-one private meeting with a youth in the program.  Also if the subject involves abuse,  be aware that in some states you may be required by law to report suspected child abuse. If not, you have a moral obligation. Check your local council's reporting policies and make sure you understand and follow them. Remember, you are not an investigator; it is not your responsibility to validate a report of child abuse. It is your job to report it. If you think a child is in imminent danger, call the police. Otherwise your council's policies will be your guide.

If you are working with another adult it's okay to take him or her into a private setting. If you are working with a person of the opposite sex, you should be aware of their feelings, vulnerability and safety. You may want to avoid closed door meetings. If you start to have your own feelings of attraction toward that person, you need to STOP. You will no longer be effective in helping that person and you are heading for trouble.

 

Helpful Tools

A series of books that I have found to be very useful is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. When working with families, I am constantly using the knowledge of The Five Love Languages. The concept is really simple. Chapman, who is a Family and Marriage couselor is also an Antropologist. After studying many cultures, he came to the conclusion that everyone sends and receives (communicates) love in five primary languages, words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Understanding a person's love language is key to meeting one's need to be loved.

The original book, The Five Love Languages is great for parents and leaders that are having marriage issues. The Five Love Languages of Teensagers is invaluable for helping parents relate to their teens. There is also a version for children, The Five Love Languages of Children. There are other books in this series, but I think that these have been the most helpful for me.

 

I would love to hear about your tools and be able to share them with others. Send your input to me at content@bsachaplain.org.


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