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Vocational Discernment Paradigm, Part 2

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month will focus on the art of coaching and the practice of ministry. Some posts will layout insights or frameworks of coaching and some will be stories of coaching that transformed a pastor or congregation. We hope they will inspire you. We hope that inspiration will turn into actual movement in your own life and ministry so that we might move closer to that vision of the church we long for, closer to the vision of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Peter Hazelrigg

Yesterday, we looked at the question, “Who are you called to BE?as the first step to yield sustainable success and personal satisfaction in a career. Today, we explore the second component: knowing.

KNOW: Once there is some clarity around the difficult question of Being, there is an opportunity to do some mapping toward a better path of satisfaction and sustainability. That mapping has two primary components – the who and the what.

Hazelrigg picturePart of finding opportunities that align with your values and preferences is your network – who you know. Depending on the kind of opportunity you are considering, your current network can be very helpful. As an example, if you are considering a move to a different position within the same company, your network is likely already in place. If you are considering an opportunity in a different industry all together, then you likely need to do some work developing your network to be able to connect with people where you are interested in exploring. The best time to build a network, by the way, is before you need it. Building a network to find a job when you are unemployed can be much more challenging. New connections in a network are easier to develop when you don’t “need” anything. Need-based networking is necessary at times, but networking for mutual benefit is often more sustainable and impactful.

Our networks can be thought of in at least three parts: natural, intentional, and strategic.

Our natural network is the constellation of people we come into contact with because of the circles we connect with day to day. A vendor you work with is in your network, because you have a natural reason to interact because of the work you do. A friend from your running club is in your network, because you have regular shared experience together. People in your natural network take very little effort to connect with, because we naturally come in contact with them. Cultivating this part of your network then is really a matter of thinking about our conversations and interactions with increased intentionality and curiosity.

Our intentional networks are the varieties of people that used to be in our natural network. There was a time when someone you went to school with was in your natural network, you saw them regularly and had shared experience. After you graduated and moved to different locations, if that person is going to remain connected to you, you must be intentionality to your interactions with them because they no longer just happen. There are people that we do this with, and there are many more that we have “lost touch with” over the years. This is one of the best uses of social media like Facebook and LinkedIn. It can help use find and reconnect with people who were part of our network previously. Most of the time, since these people are known to you, it doesn’t take much to reconnect and open up a connection. A little research and thought will help you develop an intentional, and mutually beneficial, network.

The last aspect of a network is the strategic network. The strategic network is the identification of the people, kinds of positions, and fields that you would like to have connections in, but don’t currently. For example, you may be considering moving from a job in accounting to a career in healthcare. After looking at your natural and intentional network for people in these areas, you identify that expanding connections to the healthcare field will be important. The strategic network becomes possible in a couple of ways. First, is to leverage your natural and intentional network to see who can help connect you to people in healthcare. The second, is to identify ways to create contact with people in the healthcare space. That might mean requesting a meeting with an HR officer in a healthcare organization to learn more about opportunities (this is different than applying for a position). These kinds of informational meetings can often result in other people to contact, thus building your network through a more organic connection of being referred by someone internal to the organization.

One way of assessing your network is by doing a methodical network analysis. As you look at your web of connections, think about the strength of those connections (and your connections’ connections). This can help you be more intentional about the relationships you develop and the conversations you have and might seek out.

The other part of knowing is what you know and what you might need to know moving forward. The most obvious part of this is to consider your education, formal training, and previous experiences. How do those things you already know influence what you might like to do. Are there things that you wish you knew, but haven’t learned yet? What education, training, or experience would you like to have? How can you get exposed to those things to see if it would be a benefit for your future work opportunities. Many times when people are changing industries, there is some formal education or training that is needed. Sometimes people discount the life experience they have had and how to leverage that in exploring new career options.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the final building block — doing.


Hazelrigg headshotRev. Peter Hazelrigg is senior partner at the Pilgrimage Professional Development Group, www.pilgrimpro.com.

Vocational Discernment Paradigm, Part 1

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month will focus on the art of coaching and the practice of ministry. Some posts will layout insights or frameworks of coaching and some will be stories of coaching that transformed a pastor or congregation. We hope they will inspire you. We hope that inspiration will turn into actual movement in your own life and ministry so that we might move closer to that vision of the church we long for, closer to the vision of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Peter Hazelrigg

As a professional coach and a former university chaplain, I am often invited into conversations with people who are looking for jobs, or thinking about changing jobs. Over the years I have realized that the questions people ask can impact career discernment.

“What are you going to do?” is often a question that is asked when someone is looking for a new job. The question is asking what is the “task” you will be engaged in. But simply asking, “what you are going to do?” does not make for quality discernment. There are many factors that need to be considered before looking at a job description (a list of tasks) and deciding if it will be a good fit that will provide an opportunity for sustainable success and personal satisfaction.

Sustainable success and personal satisfaction are criteria that many people use to evaluate their career. In order to make quality career decisions that will lead to these outcomes, it is important to begin with the question, “Who are you called to BE?”  This might sound like a simple turn of phrase, but it is a question that has very different answers than “What am I going to DO?” It is important to address the “being” question first.

Hazelrigg pictureHazelrigg pictureThere are many ways to explore vocational discernment. What will follow over the next few days on this blog is a model of career/vocational discernment. It is simple in structure and difficult in practice. It starts with Being, takes into account Knowing, and finally ends with Doing. BE, KNOW, DO. Start at the bottom of the paradigm and build your way to the top.

BE:  Many people that experience dissatisfaction in their professional work (52.3% according to a Conference Board report) describe it as being uninspired, restless, bored, and even frustrated. These feelings can come from experiences where we are not acting in alignment with their values. This can be a moment when we are asked to act in a way that goes against our values and we experience a momentary crisis. Or it can be more subtle, just a slow realization that we are uninspired and longing for something we vaguely describe as “more.” Below the surface is a value and a need that is not being met.  The question people often ask at this point is “what else can I do?” I would suggest they first need to ask “who they are called to be?” This is no small task.  It is a complicated question. It may well be that a coach, pastor, counselor, or other professional can be helpful in uncovering this answer.

The foundation of discernment is built on self-awareness. At its simplest level, this is about preferences and values. The most frequently used tools for understanding our preferences are the varieties of personality assessments on the market (Meyers Briggs Type Indicator, Firo-B, WorkPlace Big 5, DiSC, SDI, and others). Understanding our preferences and tendencies can help individuals determine what kinds of tasks and interactions give them energy or take extra energy (a key to sustainability), what experiences and interactions help us to feel a sense of self worth (a key component of satisfaction).

Another aspect of understanding who you want to be is gaining clarity about your values. Some values are easy to identify (I value being employed), some are values are clarified over time through experience (I value working with a consistent team of people). Some of the values we hold can be in conflict with one another and need to be prioritized (I value more time with my family and advancement at work which will require more out-of-town travel). Exploring previous work experiences and reflecting on what was valued, and not valued, about that experience can be helpful.

Values are more than just things we like, they can also be ways we want to experience others. For some people there is a spiritual dimension that provides value and direction. In the church, we understand this as “a calling,” a way of being for which God has made us. There are many facets that can make up the broader concept of “values.”  The challenge is doing the hard work of reflection and self-exploration to be able to identify and become aware of how these values impact your experience of satisfaction.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the next building block — knowing.


Hazelrigg headshotRev. Peter Hazelrigg is Senior Partner at the Pilgrimage Professional Development Group, www.pilgrimpro.com

How Do I Know If I Need a Coach For Ministry?

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month will focus on the art of coaching and the practice of ministry. Some posts will layout insights or frameworks of coaching and some will be stories of coaching that transformed a pastor or congregation. We hope they will inspire you. We hope that inspiration will turn into actual movement in your own life and ministry so that we might move closer to that vision of the church we long for, closer to the vision of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Laura Cunningham

How do I know if I need a coach for ministry?

The short answer to this question involves two others: Are you a pastor in the twenty-first century? Do you have a pulse? Then you need a coach. (I know, that’s not so helpful.)

After working with a coach myself and interviewing other pastors who have used coaching to discover what makes it particularly helpful, I’ve seen some instances where coaching can be particularly helpful for pastors.

1) You’re in a rut, at an impasse in your leadership or ministry. A session or committee keeps circling back to the problem with church communications, or you’ve tried everything to create some energy around a new children’s program, but you find yourself ending up back in the same old place. Your sermons on the paralytic in need of healing or Psalm 130 feels a little too personal.

2)  You self-sabotage your best efforts. You avoid the details you know are necessary to make worship effective, or you undercut yourself in describing your leadership. You miss obvious issues because you don’t know blind spots. Jesus’s words about loving your enemy refer to loving yourself and what you’re called to do.

3)  You can see the far-off vision for where ministry is going but can’t picture all of the details you need to get there. You know it’s time to work with the deacons on a new approach to hospitality, but can’t get your head around how to get them to own it. In other words, you’ve become a presbyopic Presbyterian.

4)  Or, you’re stuck in the details of ministry and unable to see the big picture or channel your energy in the direction of a larger vision. Sundays – or whenever you worship – feel more like a relentless return than opportunities to lead God’s people.

5)  You need another set of eyes and ears paying attention to and investing in the dynamics of your leadership. You’ve got issues – we all do – but they don’t require psychotherapy. You’ve been doing the ministry thing long enough or your situation is unique enough that you don’t need a mentor. You know your spiritual resources, you have an accountability group, you keep good professional boundaries, but you could use someone who knows you and how you lead to help you navigate what lies ahead.

What you could really use is someone who is in your corner, who trusts that you have the gifts you need for ministry, who knows when you play well and the places you consistently trip, and works with you to improve your game.

I go back to my ordination and installation promise to serve with “energy, intelligence, imagination, and love,” knowing that I have them all but sometimes they seem in short supply. In those situations, I turn to my coach. Sometimes a good question from her is all I need to realize my promise was not in vain, that the gifts are still there. Chances are you have made the same or a similar promise, and that a good coach just might help you keep it, too.  


CunninghamLaura Cunningham is pastor of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.  Her Doctor of Ministry work profiles the coaching of two pastors.

When You Don’t Know What to Do

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month will focus on the art of coaching and the practice of ministry. Some posts will layout insights or frameworks of coaching and some will be stories of coaching that transformed a pastor or congregation. We hope they will inspire you. We hope that inspiration will turn into actual movement in your own life and ministry so that we might move closer to that vision of the church we long for, closer to the vision of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by JC Austin

“I don’t know what to do.”

That was how a lot of pastoral conversations began for me when I was a congregational pastor. People would come to see me because they were wrestling with some significant question that they wanted to answer, needed to answer, but didn’t know how. My child is really struggling emotionally at school, and I don’t know what to do. My job is eating away at my soul, but I can’t afford to quit, and I don’t know what to do.  My aging parents can’t take care of themselves anymore, but won’t accept help, and I don’t know what to do.

next stepFor a long time, therapeutic counseling has been the default mode for the practice of pastoral care, to the point that it’s often taught as “pastoral care and counseling.” And I’ve never really been comfortable with that. Not because I have an inherent problem with a therapeutic approach, but because it is a tool for a particular set of problems, but as the saying goes, “when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” A therapeutic approach is a particularly effective tool for addressing a particular set of problems, usually ones involving spiritual and emotional healing from some form of trauma or brokenness. And that’s great, except those problems are only a portion of the kinds of things which people seek the help of their pastors to address: “I don’t know why I feel/act this way” is a very different problem from “I don’t know what to do.”

The names themselves help illustrate the distinction. The word “therapy” come from a Greek word for healing: recovering from some form of injury or illness and returning to wholeness. But the word “coach” comes from the name of a town in Hungary that invented and produced a new kind of horse-drawn carriage that had a free-floating suspension, allowing it to absorb the shocks of going over bad roads at speed. These “coaches,” as they came to be called (after the town that created them), enabled people to get where they were going much faster and more safely than they could otherwise, often on roads that they simply couldn’t have traversed otherwise.

That’s why I wish I had known about coaching when I was a pastor; I think that coaching can have a real impact on helping people get “unstuck” and moving forward when they are facing an important problem and don’t know what to do. The basic goal of coaching is to help someone take action, to get where they want to go; thus, it is particularly well-suited to helping people whose primary question is, “I don’t know what to do.” A coach helps someone articulate the problem they’re trying to solve, envision possibilities and evaluate options and resources for moving forward, commit to a particular course of action and be accountable for it, and evaluate its effectiveness.

When done well, coaching can help catalyze astonishing transformation in people. Recently, I was talking with a pastor who had just completed a course of coaching for some leadership challenges he had been facing. “The truth is,” he admitted, “I was really looking for an exit strategy. I felt like my congregation needed a cultural transformation, and that it just wasn’t willing to change. I felt like I had tried everything and nothing worked, and I didn’t know what to do other than get out.” But after only a short time with his coach, it was he who began to change. “Coaching helped me see possibilities that had never occurred to me before, and then figure out how to try them. When I did, suddenly things began to click, because I started finding ways to help people explore change that didn’t require them to give up their whole identity in the process. I haven’t been this excited about ministry in years!”

That’s the kind of help that many people are seeking from their pastors, as well: moving from “I don’t know what to do” to finding a faithful way forward in the direction they feel called to go. And that, in a sense, is not a new form of ministry but a very old one. In the days of the early Church, before disciples of Christ were called “Christians,” they were called “followers of the Way.” As pastors, we are partners for people on the journey of faith, helping them along the Way into the abundant life which Christ intends for all of us. Coaching can be an extremely helpful way of fulfilling that sacred vocation.


JC Web 1

JC Austin is Vice President for Christian Leadership Formation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.

Paracletos and Coaching in our NEXT and Present Church

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month will focus on the art of coaching and the practice of ministry. Some posts will layout insights or frameworks of coaching and some will be stories of coaching that transformed a pastor or congregation. We hope they will inspire you. We hope that inspiration will turn into actual movement in your own life and ministry so that we might move closer to that vision of the church we long for, closer to the vision of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Tom Tate

Our annual statistical report to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this year records 156 members at Plaza Presbyterian Church. Many are older. Many are no longer able to get to church. Some have moved to be closer to family members but won’t give up their membership; and we won’t give up on them, either.

homecomingForty-eight people worshiped at Plaza on Transfiguration Sunday 2016. Twelve of them were not yet members – four were first time visitors; four attend regularly but have not joined; four are choir section leaders. All of us gathered around the communion table for the last part of worship where we sang and prayed together, celebrated the Lord’s Supper, received the blessing, and passed the peace. Fifteen minutes following worship many of us were still visiting, not yet ready to head home.

Without a coach for the past few years that Sunday experience might never have happened.

Jeff Krehbiel, pastor of Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C. and our coach, came into our lives in June 2013 as part NEXT Church’s Paracletos experiment. Coaching was part of the vision for that program and a concrete way NEXT came along side us to support us in ministry.

In September of 2013, after only a couple of months of coaching, and following a summer in which we were unable to use the sanctuary because of air conditioning problems, we engaged in a two-week process in which we removed some pews, moved others, and changed the look and feel of our sanctuary. (You read that right – only two-weeks for a transformation of our sanctuary.) Today, worship in our seventy-year-old sanctuary has a fresh intimacy for us. It’s almost as if the change has communicated in a way that stimulates us with creative ideas for embodying the values of the Gospel.

During the Paracletos year, Jeff got to know the Session and me and lead a retreat for about forty members. It was there we established a new direction for our church which has become an integral part of our worship and community life. Our once-a-week, thirty minute phone conversations during the first year kept me grounded and focused. They proved so useful that they continue still. Without the coaching I am quite certain the positive things happening inside the church as well as in the community around us would not now be taking place.

We have discovered that we want to be a congregation that recognizes that God is calling us at this moment in time, not just for something out there in the future.

There’s new life in our Room In the Inn homeless ministry that provides hospitality and a warm place to stay during the coldest three months in Charlotte. We have reached out to community members, parents from our Week Day School, friends, and family to be partners in this ministry, helping us serve others as Jesus taught us.

Last November, when a regular visitor suggested that we have “Cookies and Carols” for thirty minutes each Wednesday evening during Advent, we jumped at the idea and gladly got to know twenty-five folks who live nearby and are presently unchurched. We are becoming a resource for worship for many, if not for all.

When a former member recently returned to Plaza she wanted us to become involved with the parents and children living in a nearby shelter. We said an enthusiastic “yes!” to monthly meals and fellowship that have drawn members together who had not been previously engaged in the community and are helping us define what it means to be all accepting and present in the community, learning to identify and respond to the needs of others and ourselves.

We took over the medical transportation ministry for older adults in our part of Charlotte when the agency that had been providing it went out of business. We are becoming a renewing resource for ministry for many, if not yet all.

And the Session has a greater sense of community, purpose, outreach, and faith than ever before as we are seeking to be a living testament to Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Gospel.

While we’ve all benefitted from Jeff’s coaching it is transforming me. Every week we talk about how things are going. Every Friday morning I reflect with Jeff regarding where we are and what I’m doing. The result is encouragement, guidance, perspective, challenge, and help for the week and the ministry ahead.

The result of our initial work with Jeff as coach and NEXT Church as partner has been a new vision for us, a vision that is continuing to inform everything we do, everywhere we go.

At this moment in time, God is calling us
to be a living testament to Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Gospel;
to better serve others as Jesus taught us;
to be present in the community,
identifying and responding to the needs of others and ourselves;
to be all-accepting;
to be a renewing resource for worship, education, and ministry for all;
and to communicate in a way that stimulates us with creative ideas
for embodying the values of the Gospel
everywhere we go.

To be coached, or not to be coached was not even a question three years ago at Plaza. The reality of being coached, though, has breathed new life into our congregation. It has literally changed lives, especially mine.


Tom Tate is pastor of Plaza Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC and a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg school board.

The Gift of Coaching

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month will focus on the art of coaching and the practice of ministry. Some posts will layout insights or frameworks of coaching and some will be stories of coaching that transformed a pastor or congregation. We hope they will inspire you. We hope that inspiration will turn into actual movement in your own life and ministry so that we might move closer to that vision of the church we long for, closer to the vision of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Jeff Krehbiel

I distinctly remember the feeling I had as I began my ministry at each of the three congregations I have served as pastor: I was on my own. No one from the presbytery said it in so many words, but the overall message I received was “Good luck. We don’t really have high expectations for what you might accomplish in that congregation. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. And, by the way, if we do call you, you’re in trouble.”

Especially in my first call right out of seminary, the shift from regular assignments and grades at the end of every semester, to the open-ended figure-it-out-as-you-go nature of parish ministry, was particularly difficult. Where should I place my energy? What should my priorities be? What should I do first? It’s not that I didn’t have ideas about all these things, it’s that I didn’t really have anyone to talk them through with. I was isolated.

46-next-20140401-110621What I realize now is that I needed a coach– a role that, at the time, didn’t yet exist, at least not in church world. A coach is different from a consultant or a mentor, though I have benefited from both. Coaching begins with the premise that the one being coached is creative, resourceful and whole. The coach doesn’t suggest what you should do. They don’t create your priorities for you. They don’t assess your situation and tell you what they see. They don’t tell you what they would do if they were in your place.

The coach helps draw out your own best ideas and then helps you determine your best path forward. In coaching, you do all the work.

What I have learned over the past two and a half years of coaching and being coached is that the key is accountability. The coach asks where you want to go and how you’re going to get there– and then holds you accountable every step along the way.

For me, the moment of transformation happens when I say out loud to my coach for the first time what I think I should do — and am then held accountable to my own commitments. So often, we know what we should do, we’re just not ready to do it. Most often, the biggest obstacle in our way is ourselves! Coaching helps us get unstuck and move forward by identifying what is really holding us back, freeing us to act with clarity and intention.

So my modest proposal to presbyteries across the country is this: Make coaching part of the Terms of Call for every new call in the presbytery, not just for the newly ordained but for veteran pastors as well. Offer the gift of coaching for the first year of ministry. The dividends that will pay for pastors, congregations, and the presbytery, will be enormous.


 

Jeff Krehbiel is pastor of Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C., a graduate of the coach training program at Auburn Theological Seminary, and is working on certification through the International Coach Federation.

From Hope to Reality

By Jessica Tate

The Christian story is full of grand visions –

  • the kingdom of God where the last will be first, and the hungry will be filled, and the lowly lifted up,
  • Jesus’ promise of life abundant,
  • swords turned to plowshares and lions lying with lambs,
  • beloved community, in which all things are held in common, the sick are tended, bread is broken, worship is shared,
  • a promised new heaven and new earth where death will be no more, where war and crying and pain will be no more.

Most congregations are filled with church leaders who hold visions for their own communities –

  • worship services that honor God, invite people more deeply into the mystery of faith, and inspire those who attend,
  • mission endeavors that build relationships, show love for neighbor, and make a significant difference in the community,
  • Christian formation that is so engaging and life changing you don’t want to miss it and will eagerly invite a friend,
  • witness in the community that is authentic, humble, and shares the good news of the gospel in ways that people can hear it,
  • true community where people see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, where honesty is valued and forgiveness regularly practiced.

These visions – the grand and the specific – are essential.

And they are not enough.

Casting a vision doesn’t make it so. I regularly have conversations with church leaders who say, “We can see the vision, but we can’t figure out how to get from point A to point B, let alone steps all the way down the line.” That’s usually accompanied by a litany of reasons ranging from, “I don’t know how to lead a congregation into this,” to “They (it’s always someone else) are throwing up road blocks at every turn.”

People are stuck. Pastors are stuck. Sessions are stuck. Congregations are stuck.

It is that “stuck-ness” that compelled me to attend Auburn Theological Seminary’s Coach Training Program last month. (It’s a week intensive, followed by six-months of teleclasses in an International Coach Federation accredited program led by professional coaches who are also religious leaders – I highly recommend it.)

An athletic coach helps players on a team stay motivated, work together, and sharpen their skills (or as Dean Smith put it: play hard, play together, and play smart). Coaching works in ministry in similar ways. It is a tool that can help us in the church to stay focused and motivated toward the visions our faith sets out for us, to work together to move toward those visions, and to develop and sharpen the skills we need to move closer to God’s vision for us. The International Coach Federation defines coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

One of the essential elements of coaching is action planning, or the process of taking the vision and making an actual, measureable plan. As one of the Auburn coach trainers, Chris Holmes said, “Coaching takes hope and makes it a reality.”

The quick template for making an action plan is to answer these three questions:

  • What will you do? (What’s a first step toward the vision?)
  • When will it be done? (What’s the timeline?)
  • Who will be your accountability on this? (How does it stay on the front burner?)

An important related question, that asks us to be honest with ourselves and helps us gauge how likely we are to move forward, is:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to this vision?

The NEXT Church blog this month will focus on the art of coaching and the practice of ministry. Some posts will layout insights or frameworks of coaching and some will be stories of coaching that transformed a pastor or congregation. We hope they will inspire you. We hope that inspiration will turn into actual movement in your own life and ministry so that we might move closer to that vision of the church we long for, closer to the vision of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.


Jessica Tate1Jessica Tate is the Director of NEXT Church. She lives in Washington, DC.