by Paul Devine
Taking a class in Manna U’s Counseling Department from Christine Bartel is a bit like joining her personal social network. “I am very relational. I love to know about my students,” Bartel explained. Bartel is active on her classes’ message boards and is often sending emails, or setting up Zoom meetings. She also does her best to make herself available by text or phone as needed. “I want them to know I am paying attention,” Bartel said.
Bartel had a particular student that started out strong but whose work started to decline. Bartel reached out a few times and eventually the student revealed she was having personal difficulties including a challenging pregnancy. Bartel and the student were able to work through the process and the student completed the course. “She later told me that they way I reached out let her know that I saw her as more than a student,” Bartel notes. “Her well-being came first. She felt seen and cared for.”
Bartel may sound softer than many instructors but she is serious about getting her students ready for future challenges as counselors. “I want to help them live out what they are learning, to see beyond the right now and understand how they will apply this in a professional situation.” Bartel says describing her teaching approach. “I am very passionate about teaching and equipping my students.”
One challenge faced by many Christian counselors is working with people that do not have the same beliefs on important issues. Bartel strives to teach her students how to approach such topics professionally and lovingly. She explains that for many students this may challenge what they think and believe and will require some self-reflection. “We want be loving but not affirming,” Bartel explains.
Growing up, Bartel was always the one that people came to for advice. She says she discounted her natural talent as a counselor and instead went into the medical field as a technician and administrator. However, step by step, God drew Bartel into her calling as a counselor. Seeking to flee an undesirable family life in her native Wisconsin, Bartel took a job in North Carolina. “All my problems came with me,.” Bartel muses.
After settling in North Carolina, she agreed to attend church with a co-worker, largely to get her to stop asking. Bartel went to a Christmas Eve service and was quite impressed. Wary that the holiday service was not what the church was really like, Bartel went back a second time. Afterwards, Bartel went to a bookstore, purchased a Bible, and read it until 3 AM the next morning.
The Lord then began to open doors to a career in ministry. Bartel was hired to administer small groups and work in care ministries at her church. She also enrolled at Manna U as one of the first students in the counseling program. Bartel loved it and was a star student. She earned a bachelor’s from Manna and was well prepared for her Master’s at Liberty University, which she completed in less than a year.
She is now back at Manna U, teaching several courses in the counseling program and helping the school continue to refine course offerings. Like nearly all Manna U faculty, Bartel is a teacher and a doer. In addition to her Manna U duties, Bartel works in a ministry simply named The Counseling Center in Pinehurst, NC. The ministry is part of her local church, Christ Community Church. She has also launched her own life coach and counseling business, Grace Focused Coaching. “I would have never imagined the opportunities I have now,” Bartel says.
Bartel and her husband Joe have four children Barrett (17), Aaron (16), Michaela (12) and Adeline (5).