Thoughts of a ministry veteran rethinking everything from the ground up. Our Mission is catalyzing leaders to accelerate their movement toward the vision of every person living, growing and multiplying together as disciples of Jesus who demonstrate the Kingdom of God among all peoples.
As I look back on the 15 years since the Coaching 101 Handbook was first published, the main attribute I am struck by is its durability. The work Gary Reinecke and I did on the international qualitative research project to determine coaching competencies, micro-skills and outcomes was a pioneering work yielding robust results that have stood the test of time.
The principles are now proven through the training of thousands of coaches throughout the world. To date, Coaching 101 Handbook has been translated into Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, and French. As a part of a global coach training process, it’s proven to be a very powerful tool.
Over the years, coaching has grown and increasingly impacted churches and ministries. Its principles have been applied to increase the effectiveness of making disciples and raising leaders. Perhaps the reason it’s been so powerful is because it was extracted from biblical principles. It’s about coming alongside to help, just as Barnabas came alongside Paul, and then Paul came alongside Timothy and others, and empowering them for effective ministry. It’s about listening to the Holy Spirit and respecting others enough to believe that they too can listen to the Holy Spirit and live in obedience to what they’re hearing.
If those kinds of intentional coaching relationships—the ones that foster personal growth as well as increasing fruitful results for the Kingdom of God—are something you want to invest in, I highly recommend taking a fresh look at the Coaching 101 Handbook.
A while back I was on a trip to the east coast to a church in Rhode Island and saw what looked to me like a great outreach idea.
In the center of each pew, someone had placed a “worship bear.” During the service they announced that if you knew of someone who is going through a hard time right now– has a need of comfort, touch, or care—you were free to take one of these bears and give it to that person to let them know they’re thought of and cared for. The bears attend church every week as a reminder that you can take one and give it away.
What type of similar outreach gesture might work well in your ministry context? Get creative… there are as many types of outreach as there are people.
Sometimes there’s a disconnect in ministry between what we say and what we do. For instance, I have always said compassion ministry is important– but the question is what am I personally doing to engage in it? So I began praying to ask the Lord for some guidance. The turning point for me came when an opportunity surfaced to lead an anger management class at the Salvation Army. I engaged in that, and it led to several other avenues of involvement as well. The greatest impact of those involvements was the character changes in myself. It’s not that I was so spectacularly great at serving in that role, but more that it helped me immensely and helped shape my character. As leaders, we can be tempted to talk beyond our experience, saying things that may be true but that we haven’t personally engaged.
Most leadership issues are actually discipleship issues. We need to be more genuine in recognizing the gaps between what we say and what we do.
What can that look like in real life? It looks like…
The leader who won’t admit it when he doesn’t know the answer
The team member who always shows up late
The supervisor who is micromanaging others
The admin who is subtly correcting everyone
I’m sure you could come up with a dozen more examples. Each of those instances, while certainly having bearing on a person’s leadership capacity, is primarily a character issue. It’s an issue of discipleship.
That’s why we need to take discipleship seriously if we want to do all we can to address leadership shortcomings. First, we need to develop leaders only from among those who are already disciples. That doesn’t mean people who are perfect, but it does mean people whose hearts are open to change and repentance and are actively focused on character growth.
Second, it means continuing discipleship practices and guidance among leaders. That means discipleship doesn’t end when a person becomes a leader. In fact, it takes on even more importance because the stakes are higher. Consider your leaders. Who are their coaches or mentors? What peers can they share freely with? Who is holding them accountable? How are they setting aside time for reflection and listening to God? What discipleship practices are they currently engaging in?
Make sure you create an environment in your organization where discipleship is a priority. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever run into leadership problems—you will. But you’ll have a much better basis for addressing and resolving them.
One of the major challenges in ministry is turning volunteers into leaders. You don’t just want people filling needed slots—although that’s one piece of the puzzle. You want to develop each individual: as a person, as a disciple, and as a leader. Ultimately, you are trying to develop not just sheep, but shepherds.
Sometimes we begin by looking at the volunteer slots that need to be filled and looking for a person for that role. Why not instead try beginning by looking at the people you have and then looking for the role that could help them grow the most? It’s not about looking for the perfect person for the role, but about developing the perfect person for their unique role.
One of the ways we can see this difference come out is when we put forward new initiatives. At those points we are considering who needs to buy into those plans and how we are going to make that happen. Who are the people you really need to understand what you’re trying to do? What do you want them to do?
If people respond by saying—in effect—“The leadership is going this direction, so we need to go along with it even if we don’t really understand it,” those are volunteers, not leaders. Leaders, on the other hand, will test the new idea, ask questions, and maybe push back on it. When they buy in though, they really get it, take a role in leading the initiative forward, and are able to guide others along that path.
Most churches have plenty of sheep, but a shortage of shepherds. One way you can help develop those shepherds is by investing in the development of the people you have rather than just filling volunteer slots. You may be developing someone and not be able to see yet where God is taking them. But later you’ll have a leader, not just a volunteer.
You want to create a caring environment for your staff or leadership team. You also want to get things done. This dilemma is often one that senior leaders face. Yet it’s not the either/or situation we may think it is at first glance.
When I was a pastor leading a staff team, I was definitely the guy that wanted to get things done. I loved goals, accomplishing them, and moving on to the next goal. Yet I found that the pace I set wore out some of my staff, so—if I wanted to get anything done—I was going to have to change the way I was leading.
I began getting together with staff members one on one, getting to know them as people and enjoying them more. I began praying with and for them more often. I invited their feedback on initiatives and asked their perspectives. I was amazed in just a few months what a difference that made in the culture. We weren’t simply a working team—we were a community.
Guess what else I saw? I saw increased productivity. I saw higher levels of energy and investment. And I saw staff members beginning to engage in the same types of behaviors with the lay leaders they were overseeing. It trickled down.
Creating a caring environment isn’t done at the expense of getting things done. It’s a step toward doing things better… and in a way that’s much more aligned with the way of Jesus.