Pastor Doug Porter of Habersham Baptist Church in Demorest said his pursuit of a Biblical Counseling Certificate, and currently a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, has equipped him to better pastor and counsel his church.
“The desire for me was to know more and realize there are other issues besides spiritual,” said Porter. “You counsel people, you help people. I’m grateful for what seminary taught me, but I felt inadequate to some degree.”
Porter, who has been in ministry since 1985, said losing his brother at age 25 to a drug addiction many years ago played a significant role in seeking better methods of counseling.
“My brother’s death was a huge impact on my life and in my ministry,” he said. “He [Bobby] was a cocaine addict. He was saved but he could never get off the drugs. The church could not help him. They didn’t know everything they needed at the time to help him.”
Porter recalled, “I will never forget Bobby saying, ‘As much as drugs are physically and mentally addictive, they are as much spiritually addictive.’ I really had to step back and think like Bobby did. In a roundabout way, his struggles were my driving force.”
An important tool for those in ministry
When Porter and his family moved to Habersham county, he reached out to TMU to learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Biblical Counseling. “I knew it was something I wanted to do; I just wasn’t sure about how to go about doing it,” he said.
From the beginning, Porter said the opportunity was a tremendous experience. “The program is incredibly challenging but extremely helpful,” he explained. “Each class helped me work through scenarios I could use in real life. The awareness I gained from the program itself has been beneficial to my counseling needs.”
Not only were the classes helpful, Porter says the interaction with college students was valuable at his age. “The older I get,” he said, “the more I realize I need to stay sharp and be around younger people. Pursuing this has definitely kept me on my toes and allowed me to see different perspectives.”
Porter added, the “faculty and staff at Truett McConnell are incredible. They are godly people who have a heart to serve the lord and really want to prepare those in the classes to be godly counselors.”
A few more classes
After completing the Biblical Certificate, Porter said he was approached by a few faculty members about taking the next step and getting his Master of Arts in Professional Counseling.
“At the time,” he said, “my wife had breast cancer [now cancer free] and I just wasn’t sure financially if I could. After looking at what was needed to complete the degree, it ended up being only a few more classes.” Once again, Porter was amazed at how doors opened for him to pursue his master’s degree.
One of the benefits Porter takes advantage of are the night classes. “Both programs have allowed me to fit the classes into my everyday schedule and my church schedule, something I think other pastors will appreciate.”
Real world counseling
“I think fellow pastors need this, and I think most of them would say they do,” he said. “I do think that, although we [as pastors] can be proud at times, this is an area that will help. It has helped me in so many ways.”
Porter explained how the certificate alone improved the way he provided pre-marital counseling. “Biblical Counseling was extremely helpful and thought-provoking,” said Porter. “However, the addictions class was eye-opening.”
“With my brother being an addict, and so much addiction in society today, it really developed a new way of seeing people who struggle with addiction and provide an avenue to help. The desire was there, but not knowing how to counsel those with addictions was the problem.”
The next step
“I have written a lot of information I’ve gained as I take these classes; enough to where I’ve been advised to publish,” said Porter. “This program has challenged me personally to rethink things in my own personal life and how I am better equipped to help people now than I was two years ago when I started.”
Jenny Gregory is the Digital Content Specialist for TMU’s Marketing and Communications.
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