SPOTLIGHT: Ellen Castillo

IMG_0634Age: 61

Business/Position: Executive Director and Biblical Counselor of Word of Hope Ministries, Inc.


Facebook: Word of Hope Ministries and Ellen Conover Castillo

Instagram: @wordofhope

Twitter: @EllenWordOfHope

What does your ministry/business entail?

Word of Hope Ministries is a nonprofit organization in Santa Maria, CA. We provide Biblical counseling locally (and occasionally online, utilizing video calls). We are also a certified training center for the International Association of Biblical Counselors. We train others who wish to become certified Biblical counselors. Our training is individualized, self-paced, and can be done from anywhere. We also provide a unique training for women who wish to mentor women and girls in their sphere of influence. This course is held locally in-person, and there is also an online option that can be done from anywhere. 

How does creativity play into it?

We are a business that provides ministry, which makes us unique in many ways. I started Word of Hope from scratch, and as any entrepreneur knows, there is a substantial creative component to building a business from the ground up. I love the creative process involved in starting with a “dream” and finding a variety of ways to turn that dream into a vision with potential and possibility. It was a process over a few years to get it where it is today. There have been many twists and turns, road blocks, and surprises, as well as frustrations and blessings. 

Finding ways to do what I do in the best possible way for our context requires creative thinking. From deciding what services we offer to building a website and more is a creative process. There are no templates for me to follow. Every ministry similar to ours is also very different from Word of Hope. Because my creative energy is always bubbling inside me, I rarely feel content keeping things the same if there is room for improvement. I thrive on re-envisioning  when I see the need (or when I get bored, which happens if things are too stagnant!)

Creativity in my counseling is a critical part of how I build relationships with the younger generation. I enjoy using creative activities within counseling sessions with teens and children. I utilize drawing, sketching, crafting, creative writing, journaling, etc. For example, if a teen has a hard time with eye contact, I might give them a poster board and some markers, pencils, and pens (they LOVE gel pens) and let them doodle or draw while we talk. It helps some to be more forthcoming if their hands are busy. Or I might give a specific assignment that we can talk about, such as “draw a picture of what you wish life could be like for you”. I can learn a lot about the teen’s heart from their drawing, and to some, it feels safer than verbal expression. 

Writing assignments are great in counseling sessions as well. I assign journaling to every young person I meet with. Their journal is a key way to keep track of their counseling homework and to write down their struggles and victories through their weeks so that we can process together. I have them write out scripture and memorize it from their journal. 

Writing is a creative project for me also. I have the great privilege of writing blog posts on various topics for the Biblical Counseling Coalition and the Biblical Counseling for Women blogs. I find each assignment to have a creative component–how to lay out the post, how to title each section, how to word it in a winsome way so that it’s interesting to others. I have also written a course on “Biblical Mentoring’ which was a year-long project that has been very fruitful ongoing. Putting that course together from scratch, I wanted it to be very different from anything else on the market. I wanted it to reflect my passion and my heart for the younger generations. I love writing the content, and I also enjoyed putting it all together in a creative way. I am currently in the beginning stage of writing a book about discipling teens, and am looking forward to the creative side of putting that kind of resource together.

What do you love most about your ministry/business?

That God changes hearts with the ministry of Biblical counseling. Along with that, He has given me a way to use my creativity to benefit the ministry in ways I would never have imagined. I used to think that vocational ministry meant having no time for creativity. I quickly learned that I would have no time for other things (like quilting), but that there are many other ways to satisfy my creative desires. God blesses those I counsel, and I am blessed by Him as well.

Are there other areas/endeavors where you use creativity?

I have always had creative projects going on in my life. I was raised by an artist, I learned to sew in 3rd grade and made my own clothes for years, I dabbled in all kinds of arts and crafts. My first profession was a psychiatric Occupational Therapist and much of our treatment methods included teaching creative arts to our patients. I now use those skills as a Biblical counselor. Prior to starting a ministry, I used to quilt, but now I pour those creative energies into ministry projects. What a blessing!

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