日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【April 2019 No.402】Pastoral Telephone Counseling Service Established


by Kato Mikio, chair

                                                                    Counseling Center for the Support of Pastors and their Families

The Counseling Center for the Support of Pastors and their Families is a telephone counseling service that will begin on March 4, 2019. It will be available every Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding a lunch hour from 12 to 1 p.m., and will be operated by people with experience in telephone counseling. Both a guidance meeting for counselors and a committee meeting were held at Kamakura Meditation House, Jan. 15-16. Since 2009, the Subcommittee for Consideration of Disabled Persons has been discussing the serious problems of churches in crisis situations due to suicides and mental health issues in clergy families. With increased awareness of the urgency of the need for mental health care following three gatherings of the National Fellowship Meeting for Ministers and their Families, we were finally able to establish the Counseling Center for the Support of Pastors and their Families in 2018.

The purpose of the counseling center is to “promote understanding of spiritual ministry and mental health care in relation to issues actually experienced.” The specific problems that pastors and their families have been struggling with are not being dealt with well through the use of traditional counseling methods. However, though this is the case, we cannot turn away from the problem. Rather we should acknowledge that the effectiveness and power of evangelism has been weakened because of this. Thus it is of utmost importance that the Kyodan deals with this issue immediately.

In order to address the various issues with which people suffer, we began with the idea of phone counseling and invited church members with phone counseling experience to open our guidance meeting. At this meeting we determined ethical principles, of which the following seven are of most importance.


1. Participants must strictly uphold confidentiality by distancing themselves from politics or personnel relations within the Kyodan, church district, or local church, not making any judgments or personally following up on such issues. Likewise, counselors are not to answer inquiries from others.

2. The most important thing is to focus on the client’s problem or pain and work to share that pain with the client, but not to focus on problem resolution.

3. When necessary, call a committee meeting to share ideas on how to deal with the case and hold discussions to deepen cooperation.

4. When a counselor is faced with a case that cannot easily be handled, bring the case to the committee and work together to find the correct solution and receive necessary support.

5. Take care not to share your notes and records with others to make certain that confidentiality is maintained.

6. Even though a pastor is a fallen creature like anyone else, he or she has a special responsibility and calling. Keep that in mind during consultations.

7. Though families of pastors may not have a particular calling or special training, their role causes them to be involved in very unique and unusual situations, and they may carry burdens that are very specific to their particular situations. Keep this in mind when having consultations with them.


We have prepared for this project by trying to discern the various types of consultations we might have, but until we actually begin, there is no way to imagine every possibility. Although we may not be able to bring the problems of pastors or their families to an immediate solution, we can strive together with them in their suffering, and hopefully become a place where they will feel they can gain some loving support. And more than anything, we hope that through our service, pastors and their families will be able to receive the blessings of Jesus Christ and the joy that comes from him. If they have already lost that, we want to be instrumental in bringing them back to that state of blessedness. (Tr. WJ)

          —Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), No.4896













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