; charset=UTF-8" /> Coaching, a Great Tool for Ministry : Connecting Voices
Free hacker tools

Coaching, a Great Tool for Ministry

By Reverend Heather Miner

Heather Miner RedThe Next Great Awakening, written by J. Val Hastings, suggests two key principles.  First, people are whole and complete in and of themselves.  And second, each person can find the answer they need to propel them to where they want to go.  These two principles undergird the work of coaches who use their ability to listen and ask questions to empower another.

As a former high school math teacher, I came into the day with Dr. J. Val Hastings with a predisposition of teaching people how to get to the answer.  As a pastor of an Urban Church, I find that I enjoy working with people to build a practical solution to the trouble in front of us.  I’ve learned to slow down and work through a problem to its solution.

This approach, however, does not work for all situations, especially ones involving messiness I don’t have permission to fix.  My current call affords me the opportunity to work with young people from backgrounds different from mine, usually ones where college is not a given.  One day I learned that one of the young people, with whom I speak regularly, had decided to take a break between high school and college.  Inside I felt great emotion welling up.  We talked, at length, about how staying home might affect his life.

The day we learned about coaching we had an exercise which enabled us to talk with another attendee.  I paired up with a young man who works with high school students of similiar background to those who come through my church.  We were to talk about anything for five minutes while the other person listened.

I started talking about my young friend who, like many, is deciding college is not for him.  Through the response of my partner, I heard God saying to me:  “He’s heard all that before.  What he needs is someone to listen.”

That moment brought it home.  Coaching is a way to be with someone in the messiness of life, allow them to tell you where they want to be in 18 months and, through deep listening and the asking of questions, allow the person to put in words the answer for themselves.

So, possible questions…
”You said you want to take a break.  What do you want to take a break from?”
“What are you building towards?”
“What makes your heart sing?”
“What can you do to be happy right now?”
“What’s the first step?”

How different that conversation felt to imagine than my lecture.  It feels right, empowering, and holy.  There are plenty of people who will say not going to college is a mistake.  There aren’t many people listening with the idea in mind that God made everything in Creation good; and, part of that everything is the one standing before me.

It isn’t a tool so new as to be unrecognizable.  Many of us pastors have deep listening as part of our tool kits.  We know the value of getting people to a point where they own their plan for their lives.  The trick, for me, is learning to stop directing, stop proclaiming, and start asking questions.  And, sometimes, to notice that the direction I’m giving has a lot more to do with my worries and concerns than about what the other has to say.

Coaching is a great skill for all of us to add to our toolkits as it enables us to engage people where they are, allowing them to lead.  It also is a certification we can hang upon our doors, welcoming people into a coaching relationship, which sounds much less scary than a pastoral counseling session.  And, the practice of asking questions is in alignment with who we are as UCC, where questions have always been seen as more important than our answers.

Our Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Felix Villanueva, is trying to set up a time for us to learn and practice which also allows for a certification in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018.  Keep your eyes open.  It is a worthwhile use of your time!

Comments are closed.