Unfinished Business

For the second week in a row your counselee hasn’t done his homework. When you question him about it, he gives you some lame excuse for the failure. What will you do?

First, what you will not do is to allow him to do this a third time.

So, you repeat what you said the first week in which he failed to complete his assignment: “Bill, this won’t do. As I told you the last time that you came without having done your homework, we are depending on it to take the next step in counseling. [Of course, you must be sure to give homework that is important for moving counseling forward. Don’t just give verses to read or busywork. Homework must count to be of any value. If it doesn’t, it will probably be harmful to counseling].

 What do you do then?

You say, “Bill, we can’t go on until we have the results of your homework to work with. If you’re serious about solving this problem in order to honor God, you have to get serious about doing it. So, there’s only one thing to do. Here’s a piece of paper and a pencil. You can use the other room over there. We might as well make the most of the remaining time since we’re behind anyway. So, take these and go over there and make out the list you were supposed to bring this week. We’ll begin to look at it in a half hour.” Then, assuming he makes the assigned list, you commend him for it (“That’s more like it’) and spend the rest of the hour in a truncated session.

But what if the homework is something that had to be done in a different milieu–one that, unlike the last, has to be done elsewhere? Perhaps he has to go speak to someone about forgiveness, for example. Whatever the homework is he cannot do it on the spot. What might you say then?

“Bill, we’ve lost two week’s time. That’s not good. This is something that you know the Lord expects of you. We can’t let this happen again. We simply can’t counsel today because we don’t have the results of the homework that you were to do. So, all I can do is pray with you today. If you don’t bring it next week, you might as well not come because to move ahead, it must first be done. Besides, there are other people who could be occupying this hour who really want to get things accomplished. Do you understand?


“Will you have it next week?”

“I suppose so.”

“If you asked me whether I would be here next week when you arrive, would you like me to say, ‘I suppose so?'”

“No. I get it. Yeah, I’ll have it then.”

“Good. Let’s pray.”

The preceding scenarios are only two ways that you might handle failure to do homework. You can think of others. But, it is of the greatest importance not to allow counselees to continue to neglect doing it. So you must have some approach to use when you encounter this problem. Those, mentioned above, are tired and true methods that usually get results. Try them.


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