--By Susan Moudry, Coordinator of Clergy Excellence--
During the past six months, about 20 Western Pennsylvania clergy, including district superintendents, Conference staff members and local church pastors, have been receiving coaching from the Holmes Coaching Group.
The experience is intended to demonstrate what coaching is like, as well as determine its benefits and drawbacks in strengthening the ministry of the local church. After a year of coaching, each person involved will be asked to offer feedback on what it might look like if they continued coaching themselves, as well as what benefit creating an internal network of coaches within our Conference could have on the ministry of the church. It is an open-ended question and we look forward to discerning direction together.
Coaching is a tool that has been widely used in the business world, but in recent years more and more churches, pastors and other United Methodist Conferences have been using it. Typically a person meets with their coach once a month for about an hour; in many cases this is done over the phone. Coaches are not mentors or counselors, rather they ask questions and encourage the participant to set specific goals in their ministry or work life. The purpose of a coaching relationship is to expand possibilities and to help the individual being coached to take specific steps with direct accountability toward a preferred future.
Others around our Conference have already received coaching on their own. Some have used certified coaches within the Conference. One pastor said this allows “for the learning to happen in conversation with another colleague, tied directly to one’s ministry context.”
Those who are actively participating in the coaching process with the Holmes Group** provided some positive feedback at the mid-way point of their experience.
“This is giving me the confidence to do some of the things I have been thinking about for quite some time,” said Greg Cox, director of connectional ministries. “The coaching got me to set some personal goals and holds me accountable for what I expect of myself. It has been a good confidence booster.”
Johnstown District Superintendent Alyce Weaver-Dunn expressed similar sentiments, saying her coach “has been affirming as I discover new aspects of my leadership style.” She added that she is discovering new tools to be a more effective leader in the church at this time.”
Matt Judd, chair of the Episcopacy Committee and pastor of Glenwood UMC in Erie, said having the opportunity to discuss ideas with someone outside the church, community or family “has been helpful to compare situations with other communities and ministry environments.”
Others note that coaching offers a helpful place to address issues of self-care. In the midst of moving to a new appointment, Kelley Schanely, member of the Board of Ordained Ministry and pastor of First UMC in Washington, said she appreciated being able to talk through some logistics, methods to help build relationships in a new setting, and new forms of preaching that she might employ.
Some pastors have already indicated a desire to continue with a coach after the initial one-year experience. This seems to be due to the action-plan nature of coaching, and the feeling it gives participants of having accountability to such plans.
Ultimately we hope this process helps us to develop yet another avenue we can use to help leaders invest in other leaders in the local church. If coaching is to benefit the church over the long haul it must help us to make disciples. We look forward learning how it is doing that already, and how it will continue to guide that process.
If you have specific interest in coaching, are a certified coach, or use a coach yourself, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact the Rev. Susan Moudry, Coordinator of Clergy Excellence, firstname.lastname@example.org.
**Chris Holmes, lead coach at the Holmes Group, is a nationally certified coach and United Methodist clergyperson with 26 years experience serving as a pastor of small and large churches and as a district superintendent.