Encouragement – Equipping – Leadership
Written by Deborah Schmidt, Associate for Spiritual Leader Development
Coaching is not meant to be a remedial step for pastors who are failing; instead, it is a way to encourage and equip energized and committed pastors so they can become even better leaders of their congregations. This is the reason the Commission on Spiritual Leader Development has made it a priority to create a culture of coaching in our presbytery.
As the Commission on Spiritual Leader Development has listened to clergy in our presbytery, we have discerned a number of needs, both spoken and unspoken. We’ve identified the need for:
- Opportunities for spiritual growth and nurture
- Help in balancing work life with family life
- Resources on encouraging a congregation to consider change and helping them navigate change
- Resources for managing conflict between church leaders
- Ways to manage obstructive or controlling personalities in the congregation
- Tools for personal time management
What became clear to us is that every pastor can use the help of outside resources. But each pastor’s needs are unique to her or his circumstances. At the same time we were exploring ways to support our clergy, we began to notice we were also receiving more and more requests from clergy for funding or recommendations for coaching. We started to explore the benefits of offering coaching to our clergy.
One of our clergy who serves as a solo pastor reported on her experience with coaching:
I sought coaching after almost five years of ministry. I wish I had done it sooner. It has been incredibly helpful – hands down one of the most valuable tools that I’ve had. It has helped me to put my ministry in perspective, surface and organize my own ideas, bolstered my confidence, and reduced my feelings of burnout— Anonymous Pastor
Coaching is well suited as a means of supporting clergy in their work. Coaches enter the relationship with the assumption
- that their client is creative, resourceful, and whole,
- that they have the capacity to deal with the issues they face,
- that they can make positive changes, and follow through on their goals.
The coach comes alongside the pastor and helps him or her identify growth areas and explore creative ways forward.
The coach is not a consultant, bringing his or her own expertise to the table; the coach is also not a mentor, sharing from personal experience. Instead, the coach focuses on the person being coached, listens in a deep and encouraging way and asks questions to open new options for moving forward.
The vision of the Spiritual Leader Development Commission is to see a high percentage of our clergy engaged with coaches at various times in their ministries, such as transitions into a new call or as their congregations are embracing a new vision for the church. We would like to see coaches coming along side clergy at all stages of ministry, from those in their first call to pastors who have been with their church for a decade or more.
To that end, we are investing in coaching in a variety of ways. The SLD Commission offers scholarship help for clergy coaching up to $50 per session. The pastor may choose a coach from outside the presbytery or may choose from one of several trained or certified coaches within the presbytery.
We are also launching a pilot group-coaching cohort of at least ten clergy from the presbytery. The group will meet monthly online with two coaches to explore common challenges in ministry. Each pastor will also meet one-on-one with one of the coaches regularly during the time the group is together. Our hope is that this cohort will improve the effectiveness of each pastor’s ministry while building collegiality among the pastors who participate.
We are also aware that a tool like coaching can be of help to other groups. As we learn more about coaching and explore the uses of group coaching, we will be looking into ways that working with a coach could serve sessions, mission committees, or PNC’s in their work.
If you would like more information about coaching in the presbytery, contact Debbie Schmidt, the Associate for Spiritual Leader Development: firstname.lastname@example.org