This article is from GCI Pastor David Howe, an experienced life coach.
What do you do when you come face-to-face with an obstacle you can’t get around? I don’t mean a rock in the road or something like that. What do you do when you’ve encountered something that causes you to keep falling or no solutions seem to work? It was because of this struggle that is common to all of us that life coaching was birthed. Yes, there are counselors, mentors and consultants, but having a life coach is different in some very powerful ways.
Let’s briefly examine some of the differences.
Mentorshave successfully arrived where you are trying to go. They come along side you and give you advice based on what it took for them to succeed and what they encountered on their journey.
Counselorstry to look at your problem based on areas in your life that you haven’t worked through yet. They try to help you grow in other areas that they believe are linked to your current problems.
Consultantsusually have some knowledge of what you are trying to do and then they share with you relevant data based on their research of what others who have succeeded did and what they needed to succeed. They examine you and show you the difference.
Coachestake a somewhat different approach. A coach doesn’t need to know anything about the topic you need help with. The reason for this is the coach isn’t trying to teach you or share his own knowledge with you. The coach is trying to help you find a new solution that you create. Let’s face it, the things we are usually most excited to do are the ideas we came up with ourselves. A coach’s job is to ask powerful questions to get the person to think of their problem in a different light—to reframe it.
Through listening skills, the coach asks questions, reflects back what they are hearing (which includes listening between the lines and listening for the Holy Spirit in both the person and the coach themselves) and even challenging the person to break their problem down into steps that they can accomplish between coaching sessions. That also means an important part of being a coach is holding the person accountable to their goals each session. Accountability is handled the way we imagine Jesus handles accountability with us—lovingly.
In the end, over a matter of months or sometimes years, people can accomplish tasks and goals that they had not been able to do on their own. I’ve worked with clients who accomplished their goals in twelve months after spending five or more years trying to do it on their own. Most coaches and coachees have similar stories about the benefits of coaching. Many of the skills learned in being coached can help a person down the road the next time they have a challenge come up.
Is coaching for everyone?
Being coached is for those individuals who have a goal (or goals) but are struggling to accomplish what they want to achieve, and now want some help. To be a coach means you have a desire to help people find their own path with the help of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about sharing your own personal stories or what worked for you, it’s about hearing what God is doing in that person’s life and helping them to recognize it.
This month we’re providing a series of sermons with the overall title, Celebrate the Grip. The series was written by Jeff McSwain, national coordinator for GCI’s Intern Program. Though written as a curriculum to be used in GenMin camps, the series can easily be adapted for use as a preaching series in a congregation or a series of discussions in a small group.
To download the Celebrate the Grip curriculum click here. To download a related children’s church curriculum, click here. And here is a video in which Jeff explains the basic concepts in the series:
Originally, Sunday School had a different purpose than in our day. In the 19th century, many children from poor families worked six days a week, leaving only Sunday for any sort of education. Churches witnessed the devastating cycle that lack of education had on these families; children were often illiterate. Responding to this desperate need, churches around the nation started Sunday School to combat poverty that was perpetuated by lack of education.
Though times have changed, there is still a desperate need that churches must not ignore. Many children today are “illiterate” in different ways—in understanding the Bible and its purpose, in valuing Christian principles, and in learning to see their lives in Jesus. Children’s Church has the privilege to focus on guiding, supporting and discipling children and their families by creating an environment that nurtures a deeper relationship with our triune God. Jesus gave us our marching orders in Matthew 28:18-20 and admonished us concerning children in Matthew 18:6.
Coaching and otherwise supporting our dedicated Children’s Church teachers is vital in living out these instructions from Jesus. With a new school year at hand, now is the time to get ready for a new season of Children’s Church. Here are a few tips as you prepare (or as you coach those charged with this important ministry):
Start with prayer
Prayer is one of the most important aspects of building disciples. If one is to help others grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, he must pray. Indeed, if one does everything else right in terms of building disciples, yet fails to pray, nothing significant will happen. (Carl Wilson)
Children’s Church cannot be an isolated ministry, involving only a few. Although not everyone is called to teach, all are called to pray for our children. Make goals, wishes and needs for your ministry known so members can seek the will of God through prayer. Prayer needs to permeate every aspect of children’s church.
Show appreciation for the teachers
Validate the important, hard work your teachers do in serving our kids. A simple gift or a card of appreciation can mean so much. Encourage the children to be part of showing love and gratitude to their teachers.
Teamwork and open communication
With the many demands on our pastors, it can be tempting for them to step back and let capable Children’s Church teams do their work without much involvement from the pastor. But it is vital that the pastor shows his or her interest and support for the team, sharing vision and direction. This is different from micro-managing. Building strong and supportive relationships between the pastor and the teachers shows children and families that the pastor values the whole flock.
Meetings involving both the teaching staff and the pastor are important, preferably before the new budget for the year is approved. What are the needs of the children’s ministry? What has worked well and what hasn’t? Encourage and facilitate open communication.
Choose a curriculum that works for your congregation
Choosing curriculum can be a daunting task. Solicit your teachers’ input and opinion to make the process clearer as you research what might fit your needs. We encourage you to look at the GenMin age-graded resource page where you will find links to many great teaching tools. Each congregation is unique, and each child learns differently, but three ways of learning are consistent: seeing, hearing and doing. A curriculum that incorporates all three is most effective.
Implement and regularly review basic safety guidelines
We welcome teachers of all ages (including teens) to be part of our ministries to children. It’s vital that leaders take time to acquaint them with GCI youth ministry safety and personal conduct procedures (found in the GenMin Handbook). Don’t assume that everyone understands these procedures. It’s important to review them yearly. Here are a few:
Side hugs only, no lap sitting, never kiss a child.
Never physically discipline. Use time out to correct bad behavior, or return the child to the parent or guardian for discipline.
Only release children to persons previously authorized to pick them up.
No name calling, or jokingly putting them down.
No child is ever to be alone with an adult.
Have appropriate restroom procedures in place.
Report all injuries to parents or guardians.
Sick children with diseases that can be transmitted by cough or touch should not be permitted to participate in any ministry activity.
Set a high standard of cleanliness.
Important note: It is GCI policy that all people serving in ministries to minors (children and teens) fill out a volunteer application before beginning to serve. Those under 18 fill out the Children’s Ministry Teen Volunteer Application (click here to download) and those 18 or older fill out the Youth Program Volunteer Application (click here to download). The application for adult volunteers requires fingerprinting and/or a criminal background check. These measures help protect not only our children, but also the volunteers. If you have questions about these applications, please contact Church Administration and Development.
Effective teachers are prepared and excited about what they are about to teach. They follow the leading of the Lord to deliver timely, meaningful messages that kids can understand and apply. Encourage teachers to pray for direction and inspiration.
Being flexible goes hand in hand with the admonition to come prepared. As we follow the Lord, we’ll sometimes need to toss out the most carefully prepared plan. Unplanned opportunities can arise that allow us to plant a different spiritual seed than the one we prepared for. Be open to the Spirit—willing to walk through doors he opens as children share their dreams, thoughts, questions and worries.
Here’s some advice for the kids: rather than looking for super teachers, look for someone who will teach and live God’s love. Teachers, our goal is not only to inform young minds, but to help transform young lives.
PS: Training opportunity
Generations Ministries and Christ Fellowship Church are teaming up to host a children’s ministry training conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, September 16-17, 2016. For further information click here. All are welcome to attend!
I’m an old athlete! In high school I participated in football, basketball, baseball, wrestling and track. I wish I’d played on the golf team because golf is my chosen sport in the current phase of my life.
Throughout the years I’ve been trained and supervised by multiple coaches with quite different levels of expertise and coaching styles. Many of them emphasized conditioning and discipline, believing if you get in shape and know your plays to the point you run them efficiently and consistently, you will win ball games. Quoting the great Vince Lombardi, my football coach often told us that Fatigue makes cowards of us all! His philosophy was often realized in the fourth quarter of games when we were still going strong while the other team faded into exhaustion.
Many lessons from my days as an athlete carry over into my role in church leadership (don’t worry I’m not planning to ask pastors to run wind sprints!). Several years ago I read Brad Adler’s book, CoachingMatters. It documents ten of the all-time best NFL coaches, taking into account such achievements as championships won, highest winning percentages, and innovations introduced by the coaches to the game. It was the innovations that most intrigued me. Coach Vince Lombardi created the Green Bay Sweep where blockers are overloaded to one side of the line to open big holes for running gains. Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry created the 4–3 defense still in use today. San Francisco Forty-Niners coach Bill Walsh is known for having probably the most innovative offensive mind—his version of the West Coast Offense changed the game with its emphasis on passing over running, shotgun formations, and no-huddle hurry-up plays. Part of the beauty of football is the continued evolution of the game through the introduction of innovations like these.
As in the development of athletes, coaching is of great value in the development of ministers of Jesus Christ. For that reason, CAD’s ministry coaching services, coordinated by Anthony Mullins, is a key part of our “high support” commitment to pastors and ministry leaders. Rather than being “architects of innovation” our certified coaches help new and established pastors, interns and church planters discover for themselves the innovations that will help them journey forward in ministry. In particular, our coaches help ministers prepare for and execute significant ministry shifts—changes in strategy involving sustainable innovation. Our coaches also provide lots of encouragement—cheering on our ministers as they go through the tough stretches that come with ministry (particularly in times of change). We believe that coaching is essential to help these men and women know they are not alone.
Recently, we made our coaching services more widely available. We believe doing so will pay huge dividends as we journey forward together. Our coaches have been certified through a training process led by Anthony. Each coach is skilled at listening, then asking the right questions to help the ministers being coached process the goals they seek to accomplish. Question-oriented conversations help coachees come face-to-face with the uh-oh’s and ah-ha’s they are encountering in their ministry journey. This helps them see their challenges and opportunities from different perspectives, leading to the real payoff, which is making space for the Spirit to be heard clearly.
In my first year as CAD Director, I attended a week-long leadership seminar at Duke University. There I rubbed shoulders with new denominational leaders from other Protestant churches. It was comforting to see that we all face many of the same challenges and opportunities. The best thing that came from that week for me was connecting with a psychologist who evaluated our 360º review during the seminar. She agreed to coach me through the remainder of 2014 and into 2015. Her listening ear and ability to ask the right questions was a huge benefit to me. I encourage any of you reading this to consider if being coached would be beneficial to you at this time in your ministry. If you’d like to learn more about our coaching services, I urge you to contact your regional pastor or Anthony Mullins. To read more about our coaching services in a previous issue of Equipperclick here.
Listening with you for the voice of the Spirit,
PS: Our annual GCI-USA Internship Program orientation is taking place this month in Durham, North Carolina. Please pray for our interns as they enter into or continue on with their journey in GCI. If your congregation would like to help support the Internship Program in its work to develop future GCI leaders, please donate to the GCnext Fund (click here for information about the fund and ways to donate). Thanks for your support!
GCI provides its interns with a ministry coach. We asked three of them to comment on what they’ve experienced. If you have a testimony of your own about coaching, please share it using the “leave a reply” feature below.
During the 2014 intern orientation, Anthony Mullins eagerly asked me to tell him my story. Though I was hesitant at first, looking back I’m grateful because after sharing a bit of my story, Anthony went out of his way to ask my permission to be my coach for the next two years. After seeing his humility and authenticity in listening to my story, I knew that God wanted this coaching relationship for me.
This was the first coaching relationship I had ever had so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But what I appreciated almost immediately from the onset was the fact that I was doing most of the talking. I appreciated how Anthony would do most of the active listening during our coaching calls, which I really valued because it was something that I was not accustomed to. He would ask intentional, well-thought-out questions to deliberately take me to a place (even if only mentally) that was one step further than I was before. I was often forced to get out of my comfort zone and think “out of the box” or outside of my preconceived limitations in order to answer some of his coaching questions.
After a year-and-a-half of monthly coaching calls, I feel like I am more equipped to do ministry because of how much I have learned about myself along the way. Coaching in ministry matters because it forces you to be honest with yourself, to be honest about where you are right now (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) and where you would like to be.
Because ministry entails pouring yourself out to others, having a coach come alongside you during your ministerial journey gives you the opportunity to be poured into as well. When we are poured into and lovingly challenged by our coach, our overall ministry benefits in the end because of what the Holy Spirit does through the coaching relationship that is surrendered to the good plans He has for each of us.
Coaching is an important function of the GCI Intern Program. For those that are on the track to becoming pastors and leaders within GCI, it helps them build confidence in solving problems by speaking with those that are trained and qualified to ask questions that stimulate thinking for the coachee.
The most important part of coaching is knowing that you have someone to talk to. They are there to help you do what is best for you. Two “thumbs up” for coaching. ??
My experience with coaching through the GCI Intern program has been incredibly enriching. Being coached by someone who is so obviously for me is so helpful and empowering; I am very grateful to have the opportunity to be coached.
Coaching has helped me to overcome some of the obstacles and fears that may have prevented me from stepping out into ministry, and has served to reorient me and to help me set and achieve goals. Having someone to hold me accountable has been an important and powerful aspect of my ministry experience. Thank you to all the coaches that make GCI a wonderful place to get involved!