Monday, October 8, 2007

Reverend Coach

Over the past few years, I have taken an interest in leadership and how it is done (and not done) in government and in the life of the church. As a history major, I read about the leadership styles and characteristics of Robert E. Lee, Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and FDR. Government and industry are good proving grounds for leadership skills, but the church is a most peculiar study. By in large, it is different because most of the people are volunteers who have various levels of commitment as well as skill sets that might not match the ministry needs at hand.

The pastor of any local church is often seen as the chief administrative officer in that setting (I defer to those who are far more knowledgeable, but I think it even says that in the Book of Discipline). The temptation for many pastors (myself included) is to over function in that setting, essentially performing the ministry tasks that laity should do because of pressure (real or perceived) to get the job done. Too many times we deny laity the experience of ministry because we are focused on results rather than empowerment. Our Methodist system and hierarchy tend to fuel this at times with a dependence on measured results that are examined as part of future pastoral appointments.

For years, I pondered other ways to function as a leader in the church---of finding ways to equip and encourage the lay leadership of the local church to fulfill the tasks of ministry. The 20 or 30 lay leaders can certainly get more done than I could alone (not to mention that our biblical mandate is to equip the saints for ministry). I thought about mentoring leaders using the model of the baptismal candidate and a sponsor--- of time apart to empower and equip them for their elected positions. But I was not sure of resources to use for this, or how to do it in a way that honors all parties.

Lately, I am beginning to practice a different way of functioning as the administrative officer of the church. Within the South Carolina Annual Conference and in the church leadership literature in general, we are learning a lot more about coaching. This leadership model encourages pastors to spend time with lay leaders resourcing them for the ministry to which they are called. There is a lot more to it than that, but it looks exciting.

Last night, I met with two leadership triads for an hour each. It was a beginning, but I think this method has potential. It has promise not because we ruminate on upcoming tasks that need to be done, but because it is a time to honor each other and to see people as whole, spiritual persons and not as cogs functioning in a machine. The pastor becomes a coach encouraging and enabling the person in all of life (and the ministry which they are given), rather than a field general ordering the troops to perform certain tasks. My hope is that each month I will have a coaching triad experience with two dozen persons at India Hook. We will see how that works.


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