Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
on 6 December 2011
When the conference `Continuing the Journey' ([...]) began its own journey of formation in the 1980's those responsible for its birth may have dreamed of such a book, one which bridges so apparently seamlessly and effortlessly the historic divide and mistrust between theology and psychology. One of our speakers, Sara Savage, writes alongside Fraser Watts and Rebecca Nye, and together they offer a breadth and depth of experience and wisdom in the fields of theology and psychology. The back cover states that `This professional handbook, the definitive textbook in its field, is tailored to meet the specific needs of Christian ministers as they encounter psychology in their training and everyday work'. As a trainee ordinand, this has been a core textbook for studies and one that I have returned to many times for assignment writing. I did a brief survey of my fellow students asking them to rate the quoted statement with reference to their own prior psychological understanding. All were positive as to the validity of the statement, and even those with professional psychological backgrounds (up to doctorate level) highly rated the book or would highly recommend it to others. When asked `How much has this book helped you make links between theology, ministry practice and psychology?' again the answers were highly positive.
The genius of the book is that it draws the reader in through a conversational style, starting each chapter with a series of essentially `icebreaker' questions which engage the reader where they are located in their practice and beliefs. Indeed, whether approaching this book as theologian or psychologist, the person is engaged, and then drawn into the subject matter of each chapter. This interactive style continues through a series of reflective questions which punctuate the text, ensuring an engagement and processing of insights gained and knowledge acquired. And if it all starts feeling a bit intense and heavy, there are numerous `laugh out loud' cartoons to burst any bubbles of the sort of knowledge that puffs up!
Areas covered include `personality and religion', development and teaching', counselling and pastoral care', `organisation and the church' and `psychology and theology', and so from the personal, intra-personal to organisational. For example, in the `Personality and religion' section are chapters on Spirituality, The psychology of church services, Diversity among Christians and Unhealthy religion. Despite covering such breadth there is sufficient depth to enable a foundational framework of psychological understanding. Helpful charts are included outlining key theories, including, for example: Fowler's Stages of Faith, MBTI, Erikson's eight stages of development, Assagioli's egg-shaped Self. Acknowledgement is made of the breadth of spiritual traditions and how psychological understanding informs the great variety of pastoral ministries including biblical counselling, healing ministry, pastoral counselling, spiritual direction and social action. Current practices and ministry `tools' are helpfully critiqued, for example the Alpha course and Godly Play. At the end of each chapter key themes are summarised, more questions posed to reflect on, and further reading suggested, all immensely helpful in assimilating and developing what has been learned.
In the parlance of this conference, this book makes a professional and thoughtful contribution to `bridging the gaps' between ordained ministry and psychological understanding, and in my opinion quite wonderfully succeeds....but it is, of course, up to the practitioner to integrate this into their own lives. At £20-25 on Amazon it is not cheap, but it is the sort of book to keep on the book shelf, and to regularly pull down to refresh knowledge and, possibly more importantly, to keep on pressing those buttons we all have which, if unexamined, can so hinder ordained ministry and where we can become agents of abuse and control instead of healing and encouragement.
There is an amusing youtube clip entitled `every home needs a harvey' at [...] If you have access to a computer watch it with this in mind: `every Christian minister needs a copy of `Psychology for Christian Ministry' - just as versatile, surprising and useful as the dog!