Some people attend seminary to become pastors. Others attend to become better ones.
Courtney Avery, who graduated from Ashland Theological Seminary in 2019 with an MA in Counseling, felt a strong need to meet the mental health needs of his parishioners at Harris Temple Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and Cornerstone COGIC. “As a pastor,” he explains, “I saw firsthand that many of the concerns parishioners were dealing with were mental, not spiritual. Mental health is a real thing. Sometimes we have to help the natural man to heal so he can accept the spiritual life God has for him.”
Having just received his LLPC (Limited Licensed Professional Counseling) license, Avery is now the Detroit Center's counselor for students. For the next two years, he will counsel students at the Detroit Center for 3,000 hours, including group and individual counseling. Once he completes those hours, along with 100 hours of meeting with a supervisor, he will take the Michigan NCE exam to qualify for his LPC.
Ashland Theological Seminary’s students participate in 25 sessions of individual counseling during their time at the seminary as well as weekly group counseling, a dynamic Avery especially enjoys. “When you all come together in a circle with a facilitator,.sometimes you realize what you are dealing with is universal, not just a personal experience. So you are able to process that in a group setting.”
While Avery’s MA in Counseling has strengthened his role as a pastor, he is far from finished with his education. He is enrolled in the Pre-D.Min program, waiting to see where God will lead him next. Why the second seminary degree?
“As a pastor, I’m responsible for people, so I want as much knowledge, information, education, and study as I possibly can. In the ministry, you don’t know what you are going to face. You need to be prepared to give yourself the best chance to deal with issues as they come along. That’s what drew me to the doctorate program.”
In addition to pastoring two churches, counseling students at the Detroit Center, and taking Pre-D.Min courses, Avery serves as the chaplain for the Athletic Department at Grand Blanc High School. This father of three, and grandfather of three, has been married to Marsha Avery for 33 years. How does he juggle it all?
Avery laughs. “Time management is important. But also, these activities coincide with one another. They aren’t just things I do, but my life. I’d be lost without them.”
Ashland Theological Seminary integrates theological education with Christ-centered transformation as it equips men and women for ministry in the church and the world. The seminary offers certificate, master’s and doctoral level programs in Ashland, Cleveland, Columbus, and Detroit. Learn more at seminary.ashland.edu.