Our story is a fun one to tell! The Lay Counselor Institute (as we know it now) began as a way to facilitate one lay counselor in one local church. Barbara Giuliano discovered her gifts as a lay counselor with the help of therapist and author, Dan Allender, in Florida. When she moved to the Northern Virginia area, she needed a new supervisor. She contacted Dr. Bill Clark, Ph.D, who had studied under Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Larry Crabb in Indiana, and had a private practice at Reston Presbyterian Church.
After seeing fruitful ministry occur through a gifted lay counselor, a surprised Bill was convinced that lay people could effectively counsel individuals with significant issues. Bill and Barbara began to train others in a Sunday school class at Reston Presbyterian in 1989. The two part model (teaching and experience) was born.
Then, one fateful evening Bill and his wife, Debbie, went for a walk with Barbara and her husband, Lou, to discuss the possibility of taking the “show on the road” and looking for lay counselors at other churches. The “Lay Counselor Institute” was born.
We started teaching the The Glorious Mess training at different churches in the DC metro area and selected certain participants to invite to Level 2—our more intense group training program. Word slowly spread and a number of churches began forming lay counseling ministries. Reston Bible Church was one of those churches that sought to establish such a ministry in 1997. McLean Presbyterian, Alexandria Presbyterian, South Potomac in Waldorf, MD and Mt. Oak Methodist in Bowie, MD were a few of the early churches to get on board.
An LCI participant gave a generous gift in 2001 in the hope that LCI could incorporate and become a non-profit organization. We did, and the first official board meeting was held in the fall of 2001. Since then many other churches in Maryland and Virginia have hosted LCI trainings and over a dozen of these churches now have counseling ministries. Participants have come from as far away as New York and North Carolina.
Many of our early lay counselors have gone on to pursue graduate degrees and are now professional counselors in the area or throughout the country. Several of these professionals have linked with LCI to provide training and supervision to the current lay counselors.
Several years ago, LCI added our workshop dimension offering specialized trainings for lay counselors, pastors, professionals, and interested others. We are also utilizing local professionals to offer in-service training in areas in which they specialize.
LCI works because of the need for counseling, the passion of its founders and those now doing the lay counseling, and the vision and commitment of the local church to offer counseling or mentoring ministries to others. The commitment and the call remain as strong as ever, as we continue to Prepare Believers for the Care of Others. We hope that you may join us at one of our events in the near future!
"The training and ongoing supervision that our lay counselors have received from LCI has been invaluable in shepherding our congregation. While we respect the role that professional counselors play in personal Christian growth, and refer our members to professionals when appropriate, one of our bedrock philosophies at APC is the belief that God equips and gifts the local congregation to minister to one another in significant ways.
Counseling is an important ministry in every church. God has used our lay counselors to help bring about real change in the lives of members in our congregation. It has been deeply encouraging to not only witness true change in the lives of our members, but also to observe the impact in the lives of our lay counselors, as they witness the Holy Spirit using them in the lives of others in ways they could not have imagined. I am a firm and enthusiastic supporter of lay counseling ministry and am thankful that the Lord has placed this rich resource, LCI’s lay counselor training in our backyard. The shepherding ministry at APC is healthier and richer because of it."