Author Archives: Joe Donaldson

About Joe Donaldson

Christ-follower, married 38 years to Julie, father to Kelli, father-in-law to Jordan, and grandfather to Lucy, Jackson, and Boden. I've occupied the second chair most of my life as a youth pastor and associate pastor. I am on the staff of Our Savior's Baptist Church in Federal Way, WA. I am a christian life coach, coaching men to become better leaders, husbands, fathers, and men; and coaching pastors - especially those in transition. www.JoeDonaldsonCoaching.com

What Charlie the dog Taught Me about Coaching!

Version 2Every summer we spend a week in our daughter and son-in-law’s home in Portland watching their dog while they take a family vacation. It’s really a win-win for everyone – except for Charlie! He’s a pretty chill dog – just lays around most of the time – but he can’t be trusted to be left alone in the house. So whenever we leave Charlie needs to be kenneled. Would you be surprised if I told you Charlie doesn’t like the kennel? Getting him into the kennel is a real challenge. It takes several commands, some begging, raised voices, and maybe a bribe or two!

This past summer I had a breakthrough. Charlie didn’t respond well as I stood at the destination and told him what to do, or when I stood several feet away pointing to the kennel and told Charlie to get in. So I tried something different: I walked up to the dog, stood next to him, and walked alongside him all the way to the kennel!  It worked!

In most areas of life we have people telling us what to do, where we need to be, and how to get there. In effect, we’re being commanded to “get in the kennel” when we really don’t want to! Eventually we surrender to this command and walk slowly into our own little prison with our tail between our legs! We don’t want to go there, we’re not going to enjoy being there, and we can’t wait to get out. The next time we’re supposed “get in the kennel” the process has to be repeated all over.

There’s a better way.

With coaching the coach walks alongside the person being coached, helping them discover the best process for them to get to their desired destination. Coaching works because the person being coached gets to decide the where, what, when, how, why, and who of the journey. No one is pointing to the destination and ordering you to go there. No one is raising their voices and barking commands at you. Instead, the coach functions as a guide who listens well and asks questions that aid your own personal discovery. In the end you will have designed the best next step for you along your journey.

Doesn’t that sound like a better way? It is. And there are thousands upon thousands of people who have discovered that coaching is a much better way to identify – and achieve – life’s next steps! I offer a limited number of no-obligation introductory sessions each month for people who want to give coaching a test-drive. Contact me and let’s start the conversation!

5 Practices That Eliminate Ministry Silos

silosFor those of you who are on paid church staff the term “ministry silos” is nothing new. The concept has been around for a long time and has been frequently commented on. Ministry silos are those ministry or programs in church that run separately from other programs. They have their own staff, their own space, their own budget, and their own culture. These ministries are compared to grain silos that stand alone with thick walls that keep other ministries from overlapping with theirs.

Lately, I’ve come to view these silos a bit differently.

Rather than grain silos that stand above ground I prefer to think of ministry silos being like missile silos that go down deep under ground. These ministry silos often operate in isolation from other ministries out of sight from the rest of the church. Buried in one corner of the church is the youth room. The older adults meet elsewhere and usually when no one else is around. Men often have early morning meetings or breakfasts and typically they are the only people in the building at that time. The children’s ministry is physically safe and secure (and separate) from the rest of the ministries. None of these groups are engaged with each other and they rarely even step foot into the same parts of the church – except for Sunday morning. If these ministry silos were standing above ground as monuments to their presence at least others in the church would know that they exist.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are five steps your ministry leadership team can take to eliminate ministry silos. In the absence of these factors ministry leaders will dig down deep into their unique area of ministry and create isolated structures, systems, and silos to fill that void.

1. Identify and commit to an overall unifying vision for the entire church – one that can be embraced by each ministry. What is your church’s unique purpose in your community that everyone can commit to? What has God called you to do together? Ministries go underground into their silos when there is lack of an overall vision for the church.

2. Identify your irreducible core values. No matter what, who will you be and how will you live out that overall vision? These values have to be so much a part of who you are that they are obvious to those around you. They should seep out of your pores and flow out of your mouths. Every leader and volunteer should know what they are, how to define them, and be actively seeking ways to implement them. You must live these values.

3. Treat your staff and volunteers as valued members of a single team. Delegate tasks – and the authority to complete those tasks – to the lowest possible levels. Demonstrate your complete trust of each team member. Liberally shower them with praise, encouragement, and gratitude both privately and publicly – especially publicly. Affirm everyone’s role on the team and do it often.

4. Be forward looking. Set meaningful goals and review your progress toward those goals. Your conversations and energies must be forward-looking rather than constantly glancing at the rear view mirror to evaluate how well something worked or didn’t work. Sure, learn from past events, programs, or services in order to determine how to better live out your vision and values and to strengthen the ministry, but avoid lengthy purpose-less or critical post-mortems that fail to look forward.

5. Stop having meetings! Well, at least meetings that don’t contribute to the first four factors. But at all costs, stop having meetings for no reason! Giving reports or updates is not a reason. Making decisions, determining action steps, setting and reviewing goals – all are reasons to meet. Every meeting must contain elements of affirmation of your vision, your values, and your team. Pray for each other and their families. Pray expectantly for where God is taking you and your church. Dream together what your church will look like as your vision and values take root. Those are meetings that people will show up early to and be enthusiastically engaged in.

Implement these five practices and watch ministry silos disappear!

I’d be happy to coach you through the process of identifying and eliminating ministry solos in your church or organization. Just contact me here.

Coaching In Ministry

coaching in ministryThere is no question that the ministry landscape is undergoing significant change. If you went to seminary more than 10 years ago the nuts-and-bolts ministry training you received is becoming less relevant and less effective with each passing year. People’s engagement with the local church in terms of  attendance, serving, and giving no longer resembles the “twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday,” tithing-multiple-committee-member model from just a decade or two ago. Churches seem to be universally challenged with how to guide people toward greater ministry engagement. For many of those churches they need look no further than how they equip and empower their volunteers and ministry leaders toward meaningful ministry. In Coaching In Ministry, coaching pioneer Keith Webb charts a course that will help ministry leaders navigate this changing landscape.

I have received significant training and encouragement through Keith’s training programs and his previous work – The COACH Model for Christian Leaders. He has quickly become my primary resource for all things coach related. His latest book continues to teach, challenge, and clarify my understanding and use of coaching in ministry. I highly recommend Coaching in Ministry to anyone involved in ministry leadership. (Full Disclosure: Keith Webb provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Keith begins this short book with a concise working definition of coaching:

“an ongoing intentional conversation that empowers a person or group to fully live out God’s calling.” (p. 21)

He further explains:

“Coaching focuses on people’s learning rather than us teaching. Coachees (those who are coached) are in the driver’s seat. They choose their own goals, reflect deeply on their current situation, think through their options, and decide their next steps. All the while, the coach actively listens and asks reflective questions, supportively challenging limited beliefs and behaviors.” (pp 21-22)

Later Keith describes coaching as,

“a non-directive conversation in which the coach asks a person questions to prompt reflection into what God is saying to that person. The coaching process empowers that person to develop custom solutions for his or her problems or goals.” (p. 37)

One of the primary strengths of Coaching In Ministry is that it can serve as an introduction and call-to-action for the importance of coaching in ministry. I will order several copies to share with my staff colleagues and board members. I will also use this book when inviting ministry leaders to consider my coaching services. If you are unfamiliar with coaching (or think you already know what coaching is) reading Coaching in Ministry will bring further clarity to the immense value of coaching.

Unfortunately, many leaders still operate under the disingenuous definition of management as ‘the art of getting people to do what you want them to do while thinking it was their idea!’ Many of those same leaders think that coaching is ‘asking questions until you get the coachee to give you the answer you want!’ The lack of authenticity in both of these approaches destroys any potential for long-lasting growth and effective leadership development.

It is so much more fulfilling to hear a coachee formulate a solution to a challenge they are facing that they thought of themselves rather than reluctantly agreeing to try the solution you gave them! Coaching has enabled me to equip more people for effective ministry than any training program, class, or leadership development program I have ever used. Keith clearly and concisely establishes a solid foundation for biblical coaching that honors God, equips and empowers the coachee, and strengthens the church.

Finally, Coaching In Ministry will introduce you to: The Question That Moves People to Action. Keith claims this one question will,

“help get people into action that is non-threatening and open enough to work in just about any situation.” (p.78)

But you will have to read the book yourself to find out what that question is. I think it’s well worth the modest price of the book!

Five Reasons to Start Coaching NOW!

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What? Start something as significant as coaching now? Just a we’re about to enter the busyness of the holiday season? Why not wait until after the first of the year?

Here are five reasons why today is absolutely the best time to start coaching:

 

  1. If you won’t start now you’re unlikely to start later. Putting things off until “the time is right” is a fools errand! The time is never right. There will always be distractions and busy schedules. By starting coaching now you will be able to get control of your life before the New Year starts. Actually, it’s this kind of “I’ll just wait until….” thinking is a strong indicator that getting a coach is imperative!
  2. It will give you a head start on those elusive New Year’s resolutions. How successful have you been in the past in making headway on your goals and resolutions? Like losing a few pounds, or changing your career, or finally getting control of your schedule? Would you like next year to be different? Initiating conversations with a coach now will permit you to put the actions into motion that will allow you to achieve the goals you’ve always hoped for.
  3. Coach’s Schedules Fill-Up In January. Beginning January 2, coach’s phones will start ringing and their email in-boxes will start overflowing. After the annual ritual of introspection leaves people wanting more, everyone will start looking for a way forward. Some of them will contact a coach. You can beat the rush and secure your place on their schedules by getting signed-up now. Even as I write this I am near my upper limit on my coaching load. Once that fills I won’t have openings for at least six months.
  4. It Will Change Your Storyline. Right now your story is riddled with enough failed attempts at getting things done to fill that junk drawer in your kitchen. How different would your life be if that were to change? Spending time with a coach will help make those changes a reality. Before you know it you will be telling all of your friends how great it feels to finally overcome those challenges and complete those tasks that have been unfinished for way too long.  Let that be your story!
  5. Doing nothing is not an option. If you don’t get started – and get started now – the odds are pretty good that next year at this time you will come across another article like this one and realize that nothing has changed. In fact, you might have even made a few steps backwards instead of moving forward. That’s just no good. Take that first step. And do it now!

Contact me today and let’s get the conversation started.

4 Ways Coaching Is Like Good Jazz!

optimized-maxW950-jazz4I started playing the trumpet 50 years ago! While I’m a better classical trumpet player (I prefer playing from sheet music), I’ve always liked listening to jazz. It’s one of the truly American music forms. Recently, I discovered that listening to jazz actually makes me a better coach. Here’s how.

Improv. In jazz the melody is always there but sometimes it’s hidden behind a little free improvisation. You’re never really sure where the music is going because the musician doesn’t really know either! He’s free to explore different combinations, progressions, and resolutions. Every version of the song is different. Coaching conversations are very similar. There is a main focus to the conversation but there is freedom to explore combinations and the final resolution will reflect the uniqueness of the person being coached. No two conversations are the same.

Players. Most jazz groups are small – individuals, duets, trios, 5-piece, etc. While there are big jazz bands some of the best jazz sound comes from very small groups. Coaching takes advantage of the uniqueness of the individual to create successful pathways and solutions. In christian coaching that duet between the coach and the person-being-coached includes the Holy Spirit – the perfect 3-piece combo!

Movement. There are times while listening to jazz that you just have to move along with the music. You might tap a finger, a foot, or even both feet! There’s no reason to fight it. Enjoy the beauty of the rhythm and harmonies in the moment. Close your eyes if you want to. In coaching we refer to this as “dancing in the moment.” It’s what happens when the person-being-coached “leads” into new territory with a reply to a question and the coach “follows” his or her lead with more questions. The conversation is not choreographed – it happens with both spontaneity and purposefulness – and movement is created.

Resolution. Every piece of jazz ends a bit differently but most often there is a sense of resolution that just feels right. Often it evokes a nod and a smile. Coaching can evoke much the same response. A sense of resolution. A nod of agreement and direction. A smile that a plan is in place that will bring about change and growth – even anticipation for the next set (coaching conversation).

Improv. Players. Movement. Resolution – all key elements of a good jazz selection and of a good coaching session. Listening to jazz is making me a better coach!

Ready to move into your own coaching conversation? Contact me today. Let’s get started!

Four Secrets of Successful Ministry Leaders

Leaders-Managing-CrisisLet’s face it. No matter how good we think we are as leaders we all know we can do better. Here are four quick secrets that will unlock your leadership:

1) Take Risks. Successful ministry leaders take risks. Church planter/Lead Pastor Marlan Mincks says, “What God has for us is never realized in safety. It’s only realized in risk.” You can sit around and wait for ever thing to fall in place on it’s own or you can take a risk and go for it! I asked an “elephant in the room” question at a board of directors meeting once that ended up with us relocating our ministry center from Chicago to Orlando. If I’d kept my mouth shut the opportunity to move would have been lost for good.

2) Read. Pastor Rick Warren writes, “If you want to be a growing leader…keep reading. It’s the only way to stay out front.” [Read More] The two best book I’ve read in recent months are “Overrated” by Eugene Cho because it challenged my views of missions and justice [Review] and “What Radical Husbands Do” by Regi Campbell because of its clarity and directness in my most important leadership role.

3) Get assessed. Succesful ministry leaders invite assessment of their ministry and leadership skills. Author David Olson has created a FREE online leadership assessment that accompanies his book: Discovering Your Leadership Style. It’s worth the 5 minutes of your time. sixstyles.org
 
4) Get Coached. Neil Tibbots of Leadership On-Ramp ranks the coaching of church planters as even more important than their assessment. An assessed but uncoached church planter is unlikely to successfully plant a church. A good coach can help you develop as a leader and chart a course toward continued ministry success.
 
Contact me today and let me help you get started making significant progress toward unlocking these secrets in your own ministry.
 
joedonaldson@icloud.com

I’ve Got Your Back

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With “I’ve Got Your Back” James Galvin has produced one of the most helpful resources for leadership development that have hit the marketplace in recent years. He very wisely avoided the typical textbook format here.

Galvin begins by challenging some worn leadership principles that have produced what he calls Follower Abuse at the hands of incompetent, disempowering, manipulative, or toxic leaders (p. 49). He suggests that we can respond to follower abuse by avoiding leadership roles, perpetuating the cycle of abuse, hiding behind servant leadership, or developing our unique potential (p. 50.)Do we really need another leadership textbook? And perhaps more important, would we read it? Galvin asked that question early on and determined to publish a work that is both significantly helpful and eminently readable. The story he developed successfully delivers the content he wants to convey without getting buried in the pages of a textbook.

Perhaps the central thesis of Galvin’s leadership manifesto is found in these words spoken by Jack – the main character in this story:

“When you’re a leader, you lead followers. If you know how to follow well, then you know what good followers need. If you don’t know how to follow well yourself, you won’t be able to help others follow well.”

To lead well you must understand how to follow well. There are three types of followership:

Type I – Following God – which is eternal. Galvin says that we are unable to follow God fully.

Type II – Following inherited authorities – which lasts a lifetime. We are required to follow them.

Type III – Follow Human Beings – which is temporary. Following them is a choice.

(for the full chart see page 82.)

The core of his content is summarized in a few simple charts that are woven into the narrative. These charts should become part of your office decor or journal for frequent future reference.

If you have ever struggled to lead well or have experienced follower abuse from those leaders in your life (and who hasn’t?) then this book is just what you need to make sense of the mess and to bring clarity to the confusion you are experiencing. Second chair leaders will find this to be very helpful as they seek to follow their first chair leaders well – even when they don’t lead so well! If you aspire to move up from the second chair you would do well to master the technique of following well before you make such a move. I plan to utilize this material with the men’s groups and ministry teams that I lead.

You might explore tenthpowerpublishing.com/ivegotyourback for more helpful resources.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of posting a review. No expectation for a positive review was communicated or implied.