My husband came home to our apartment to discover me facedown on the living room floor, bag cast aside a few feet from my sleeping body, shoes kicked off, dress clothes rumpled but still on. I was snoring audibly or so he said, before tapping me lightly on the shoulder to wake me. It was a Thursday evening and I wish I could say this was the only time that he found me splayed out like a sleepy starfish in that drafty old apartment our first year in Indianapolis.
My first year of ministry like many students straight out of seminary was exhausting. The constant waves of newness and first times made it hard to gain footing. No matter how many questions you ask, or how well your search committee vows to support you or how many detailed notes you take in the first year of any new call, you don’t know what you don’t know. And the surprise of what you don’t know is a constant destabilizing force in the first year.
That year marked my first experience with a clergy coach. Someone who understood the nature and oddities of ministry, maintained a deep spiritual commitment to exploring what God is up to and a wealth of practical wisdom. Clergy coaching is not therapy–but it does presume an emotional intelligence and health for the work. Clergy coaching in not spiritual direction–but it employs tools from spiritual direction and presumes spiritual health and curiosity. At its heart it is a companioned journey to listening to what God is calling you towards.
Those two years my coach slowly taught me how to ask better questions of myself as a leader, think critically about how to do my work and be a better colleague to my staff team. It was dense work, but good work that I have carried into the following decade of ministry.
In each new phase of ministry I have found outside wisdom profoundly helpful in processings and proceeding with transition and transformational work that centers in listening to who God is calling me to be and what God is calling me to see. That is the beauty of coaching, it is a way to have someone meet you where you are, practice deep listening to your context and ask questions from an angle that you may not have considered yet.
There is no other time ripe with possibility and filled with unknown transition and strategic transformational work than during a world wide global pandemic that is forcing organizations to rethink how they connect, inspire and create meaning in people’s lives.
So a coach might be the right tool if you are experiencing transition either personally or within your organization. This can include a change in your own work portfolio or call, staff transitions or realignments, transitions in ministry program offerings or leadership, or a change in missional priorities. All of these pivotal moments can be an excellent moment to engage in an outside perspective to ground the process and a partner to listen to the joy of what God is calling you or your ministry team to next.
Transformation of missional or personal ministry practice is another moment in which the time might be right to engage in coaching. Transformation is the convergence of circumstances and Spirit and ministry leaders can often find benefit from engaging in a conversation partner and set of questions that are informed by context but not entrenched in the context itself.
When we ask a different set of questions, often it’s not new answers we receive, but new perspective and insight. A coach can help ask better questions and shift perspective in ways that open up new possibilities. Coaching is a space of both deep listening to God as well as creative solutions.
The old adage says “what got you here won’t get you there.” Sometimes we need help discerning and articulating the next actionable steps of our vision or work. We know where we are, we know where we want to go, but we aren’t sure how t
All in all coaching might be a right fit for you if you need a conversation partner outside of your context that is committed to understanding your context while practicing excellent listening and providing insight grounded in experience and spiritual disciplines.