As a broadcaster at a Christian radio station in Grand Junction, Colorado, Doug Shellabarger realized that he needed more training, specifically in counseling. During his evening devotional program in the Psalms people often called in needing counseling, but Doug was not able to help them on the air because he was not a trained counselor.
“I decided it was time to move on and get more preparation,” he said.
In the Plymouth Brethren Assemblies church, where Doug was raised, there were no pastors. But he said the people who seemed to rise to the top and become leaders were all from Dallas Seminary. H. A. Ironside was an articulate Brethren theologian who was trained at DTS.
“I always heard about Dallas Seminary as the ‘crème de la crème’ of seminaries.”
In his last few years of college, Doug had bought a set of books by Francis Schaffer for his mother and ended up reading them himself. The cultural explanation of Christianity that these books presented was eye-opening to him. Specifically, he found that counseling is not separate from the rest of our Christian life.
He was also a fan of Amy Grant’s music and her honesty about her struggles in life helped him to see that you could be a real person and be a Christian.
“I feel sad about where she is now, but her life really impacted me.”
All of these elements added up to draw Doug toward counseling as a ministry and Dallas Seminary as a training ground.
“I was reading Gleeson Archer’s Introduction to the Old Testament in my free time, and out of the blue, my wife Cherry said, ‘Maybe you should go back to school … how about DTS?’”
Doug said those words turned on a switch for him. He began taking courses toward a Th.M. before there was a counseling track or program. The track was introduced one year later, and then the full counseling program.
“I was a charter member of the counseling program, but I still thought I wanted to be a pastor.”
But through his training, the Lord has led him to specific counseling ministries, the first of which was at New Beginnings Center for family violence. There he counseled children through play therapy and worked with their mothers.
About six years ago, Doug and his family moved back to Colorado, where he took a counseling position as counselor at Shelterwood in Westminster, Colorado. Shelterwood is a Christ-centered residential care facility for families with teens in crisis. The students come from all over the continent and live at the center for one year.
He said that Dallas Seminary’s Biblical Counseling courses trained him to connect with these students—helping them reorient their lives and learn to make good choices.
“I feel like I have the glasses to be able to see better the lives of the people I counsel,” he said. “Through counseling we see 'through a glass dimly' the image of God in people.”
One innovative plan that Shelterwood started is a discipleship program called Lead Time, in which college aged volunteers live at the center. The volunteers are strong Christians who desire to minister, but they have no psychological training.
“They learn leadership and ministry skills by living day in and day out with the students.”
Doug tells of one situation where a volunteer lost his temper with one of the teenage students. The student was struggling with issues of responsibility and was stuck in his counseling. It was when the college-aged volunteer took responsibility for his own actions, humbling himself to apologize, that the teenager was suddenly able to see what he needed to do. From that point on, he began to grow.
Doug, who is now director of counseling at Shelterwood, said the whole process is challenging and stretching in many ways.
“This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. But I love it.”
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.