The Certificate Course comes to Sheffield

Kenny Larsen and Sonia Crossley are leading the new Sheffield venue for the Certificate Course starting in September 2019.

Sonia is married to Jim and has four children. She works part-time at Christ Church Fulwood helping introduce biblical counselling into the pastoral care there.

Kenny is the Associate Pastor at Christ Church Walkley with a focus on pastoral care and discipleship. He is married to Jen with two young children.

How did you come across biblical counselling?
Sonia: I had been a Psychiatry trainee before having children. In our local church, we were involved in people’s lives through small groups and the leadership team sometimes asked me to meet with people in difficulty. As folk shared their struggles with me, I felt an unsettling lack of skill in bringing gospel hope to bear in any particularly meaningful way. Feeling slightly disillusioned, I stumbled across Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison and remember a wave of excitement as I began to experience just that: I ”saw with new eyes” that the God who made us understands the human condition better than we do and in Christ has given us all we could ever need to face the ups and downs of this life. I clocked that the material was available through CCEF and together, Jim and I began to access their online distance learning modules.

Kenny: My initial link to biblical counselling was remarkably similar to Sonia’s. It was about 10 years ago when I began leading a small group in our church and quickly felt out of my depth as people came to me and shared their struggles and sin. Looking for help I came across CCEF and some of their biblical counselling material. That was the beginning of my journey exploring biblical counselling that has been ongoing ever since.

What were the light-bulb moments for you as a student?
Sonia: Quite early on, studying the Dynamics of Biblical Change module, I began to see how the gospel of Jesus could make a difference not only to our past sins and our future hope, but also to our present struggles and joys. A walk with God is a vibrant relationship, not an abstract “to do list”. This was much more than a counselling insight; it was a life insight! What brings Jesus to life in the present is bringing my life to Him in all its detail – putting a rivet between real faith and real life, as David Powlison puts it. Further modules have equipped me to share this reality with others better.

Kenny: During one of the early lectures there was an illustration of a water bottle which the lecturer squeezed until water poured out. “Why is there water on the floor?” he asked. It was at that moment that I realised there were two answers, because he had squeezed the bottle and because there was water in the bottle to come out. The illustration was designed to show how our circumstances have an impact on us and they reveal what is in our hearts. That moment changed the direction of my thinking from focussing too much on circumstances to  seeing how the gospel of Jesus could be changing people’s hearts. It changed the way I think about my own life and growth and what I hope to see in those around me.

How have you been using what you’ve learned?
Sonia: The conviction that Jesus makes a difference today, teemed with some of the skills to bring that difference about, have had a lasting effect on me and on us as a couple and on our family life. Whilst comfortably acknowledging that we are “works in progress” it has opened us up to change in so many previously closed areas. It has also been my delight to share this gift we received with many others in our church family and beyond in any way I can find – as a small group leader, informally as a friend, a counsellor, a trainer of ministry leaders and bible students, a BC UK intern, and – more recently – on the pastoral care team.

Kenny: It’s made a significant difference to how I see my own life and faith, especially the transition from focussing on my circumstances to being more concerned about where my heart is before the Lord. It’s also been a joy to use what I have learned to walk alongside friends and church family, encouraging them with God’s word whatever their circumstances. Those times range from the few minutes’ conversation after church to regular longer meetings, but what I have learned through the course has been valuable across the board.

Why are you starting up a Certificate Course venue in Sheffield?
Sonia: Slowly but surely a substantial interest has grown at my own church and beyond in Sheffield. A number of others have attended BC UK conferences and I have supported several groups through free-standing courses and the early modules that are included in the Certificate Course programme. All of the things that those brothers and sisters are doing have been a great encouragement and, I believe, will serve to present more people mature in Christ and give them a lively witness to his goodness today. Now seems like the right time to take the next step in seeing others trained up.

Kenny: I went over to Liverpool each fortnight to do the Certificate Course and whilst it was great to meet new people and to learn with them, the travel was difficult. I believe that the biblical counselling material could make a real difference to the impact the gospel has on the lives of many people around the country, both Christian and non-Christian. For that to happen we need to make it accessible everywhere and there was an obvious gap in Sheffield!

Who are you hoping will do the course?
Sonia: Anyone who wants to know themselves better and know Jesus better. If those blocks are in place, the call to help others will follow.

Kenny: One of the things I loved about being a student on the Certificate Course in Liverpool was the variety of people, from students to those who had retired, church leaders and those who just wanted to be better at loving their friends. If we could have anything like the breadth of people on the Sheffield course it would be great.

What are you looking forward to about leading the course?
Sonia: Seeing the light-bulbs go on!

Kenny: Firstly, watching God work as he changes those who are doing the course as they allow his word to speak to their own lives in new ways. Then secondly, seeing the delight as people share how they have seen God work with those around them as they’ve been able to counsel them well from the Bible.

Find out about the Certificate Course, offered in Bath, Belfast, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London and Sheffield. Applications close 1st July.