By Rev. Erik Samuelson
Vibrant Faith Coaching Team/Coaching School Faculty
If you’re like most ministry leaders I know, after re-inventing pretty much every element of your ministry you’re now in re-re-invent mode. The vaccine is readily available, restrictions are loosening, church life is back, and we’re all on a quest to find a new-new-normal.
After my first deep breath of the new year, it hit me—we’re likely to experience much MORE upending change to our congregations and communities. Yes, we’ll return to some familiar patterns, but we’ll also…
- need to integrate some of the innovations of the pandemic into our new-new normal,
- need to engage pockets of folks who want things to go back exactly the way they were, and through it all,
- need to faithfully listen to the call of God as we seek to follow Jesus in this season.
All of this feels so overwhelming that I’m tempted to settle back down for another “long winter’s nap.” Perhaps it’s time to seize this moment to reset—to approach this new season of ministry in a whole new way…
Ask these “reset questions” as you lean into the new year:
- How will our experiences and learnings shape how I lead into the future?
- How will I sustainably manage hybrid worship and programming?
- How will our in-person faith-formation ministries integrate the new-format?
- What sort of leadership and staffing changes will help us move into the future?
- What does the call of God look like for our congregation moving forward?
- How can we reach out in new ways to our neighbors and neighborhoods?
- Or, finally and simply, “What do we do now?”
I’m a ministry leadership coach, so you could say that all challenges look like coaching challenges to me—if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But I’ve learned how deeply transformational a coaching relationship can be, and I know my bullet-list of challenges is crying out for a side-by-side coaching journey. With a seasoned and trained ministry coach you’ll get direction sooner and move faster than you would on your own.
A ministry coach doesn’t come with answers or ready-made solutions. Instead, your coach will help you ask the right questions. Then your ministry coach will walk alongside you and your leaders as you engage your context, take stock of your opportunities and challenges, prayerfully listen to the voices of the people and the voice of God, envision a preferred future, and create and implement action steps that will move you closer to the ways in which God is calling you now.
As a ministry coach, I’ve worked with a number of leaders and congregations through this pandemic season of uncertainty and upheaval, and have seen firsthand the impact coaching can have. In more stable times, we may look to consultants and program designers to help with our “too big for us alone” kinds of challenges. These experts provide us with good answers to the questions we are asking and well-crafted resources that have proven effective. But, particularly in times of uncertainty, the path forward isn’t as clear. What we actually need is to be asking different questions as we design and re-design our responses in a context of continual and rapid change.
“How is God calling us now?” is a much more fruitful and less anxious question than “How will we keep doing what we are doing and create new things (and keep the people happy) when we can’t do it the way we’ve done it before?”
At Vibrant Faith we define ministry coaching this way:
“Partnering with leaders and teams to create vibrant faith and vital congregations. Our experienced coaches help you, as a leader, see your strengths and view challenges in a whole new way.“
Rather than providing answers, coaches bring new questions, inviting you and your leaders to think in new ways or to look at challenges from different angles. To listen to your community and to Jesus. Then they walk with you through designing and re-designing actions that move you closer to God’s preferred future for you—even (and perhaps especially) when that is a moving target. Like right now….