Category Archives: church

Hope for Discouraged Pastors

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As a group, pastors typically dream big, God-sized dreams for their ministry and their people. They hold on to the hope that one day the people they serve and lead will be transformed spiritually. Unfortunately they also often take personal responsibility for the spiritual growth of others. These factors often combine to create a sense of deep disappointment – even failure – when reality doesn’t seem to line up with their dreams and expectations.

If you are in ministry then you have tasted discouragement.

Joe Donaldson Coaching helps discouraged pastors enjoy greater effectiveness, passion, insight and clarity in ministry. Together we will design a coaching series around your area of greatest need. Here are a few examples:

  1. Finding Your Joy Again
  2. Launching New Ministries
  3. Vision Alignment
  4. Staying Sharp
  5. Navigating Transitions

Each coaching series will include personal assessment, ministry alignment, specific action plans, and ongoing follow-up. Imagine what this season of ministry could look like if you had an experienced, trusted confidant to help guide you along the way!

I am an experienced pastor (as well as a trained and certified coach) who is uniquely qualified to help you enjoy greater effectiveness, passion, insight, and clarity in your ministry. Contact me here and let’s explore what that could look like for you!

 

 

Closing the Gap

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  • You’re facing a major decision you’ve wrestled with for weeks – maybe even months – and you’re still uncertain which way to go. 
  • You’ve been attempting to achieve a particular goal but no matter what you do you’re no closer to attaining that goal than when you started.
  • You seem to be stuck in a Ground-Hog-Day loop repeating the same mistakes day after day after day.

The distance between where you are and where you want to be is “the gap.” This gap looks different for different people. Some are fairly small and take just a little more effort to cross. Other gaps are huge and will take some pretty intense work to successfully navigate. Either way you’re going to need some help closing the gap.

Regardless of size, coaching is the best way to close the gap. With a coach you will set a course and begin to take specific steps toward your goal. With each coaching conversation you will begin to see real, measurable progress as the gap begins to shrink. Each step of the way you are the one identifying the best “next step” along your journey. Your coach will guide you with questions to bring clarity, effectiveness, and momentum to your steps but you decide which steps to take and whether you will walk, run, or leap forward! You will experience a new sense of accomplishment once you close the gap and step back to celebrate your much-earned success.

What’s the gap in your life?

Message me for a complimentary coaching conversation and begin taking steps to close the gap today.

Subway’s “Life Coach” Fail

subway life coachHave you seen Subway’s latest commercial? The one that features a guy in a football helmet who says he has a life coach? Whenever he starts to eat, drink, or do something that threatens his success at achieving his weight loss goals the life coach barks orders to him (through a conveniently located headset in his helmet) to keep him on the right path. There is a little humor here but it is a total failure at identifying what a life coach actually does! It’s a great example of one who leads by telling – which is the exact opposite of what a good coach does.

A good coach helps you identify the goals, behaviors, and results that are important to you and your personal, relational, and professional growth and development. A good coach helps you discover the best path forward for you and what the next few steps look like. Through that process you will explore potential obstacles, resources, and motivations to ensure your success. Take note of those italicized words: identify, discover, explore. They are words that describe forward progress on the journey you are taking. And take notice of who is taking the journey – it’s you! Your coach doesn’t tell you which path to take or how to take the next step. That’s your call. In the end you will find that you get to your personal destination both faster and better with the solutions, methods, and steps that you design.

Sorry Subway, but you got this one wrong.

If you would like to know more about how you could benefit from good coaching I invite you to explore my blog – epic coaching – or just reply to this post. I offer a limited number of complimentary, no-obligation coaching sessions each month where you can see if coaching is right for you. Contact me here and let’s start the conversation!

 

The Best Coaching Question I’ve Ever Been Asked!

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Two years ago I was having a conversation with a friend. As we were talking about a challenge I was having in ministry he asked me a question that I consider to be the best coaching question I’ve ever been asked. I use it often – but sparingly. In fact, I used it today. Here it is:

“When you pray about this, what do you hear God telling you?”

Even as you read this I’m guessing you responded with something like an, “Ahhhhhh!” and you immediately recognize the multi-faceted impact of this question. It contains at least three expectations:

  1. An expectation that the person being coached prays and values conversing with God.
  2. An expectation that prayer is two-way and that one will hear from God through prayer.
  3. An expectation that the person being coached has already spent time praying about this issue.

As a christian ministry leader (pastor) everyone I coach is also a Christian and many are ministry leaders. For me, these are reasonable expectations to hold when I and/or the person I am coaching identifies as a Christian, but even people with other spiritual beliefs could benefit from it.

Whenever I ask the “When you pray” question the response is always the same. After a brief pause they say, “Hmmm. Good question!” What follows varies. Sometimes there is an admission of little or no prayer about the issue. Other times there is an expression of uncertainty or a desire for more clarity in what they are hearing from God. In just about every case there is a renewed commitment to prayer. Perhaps we collectively realize that the quote from Oswald Chambers is accurate, “We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense.”

Let me say that I never lead with this question! It’s not a short-cut. When I coach I ask questions that help the coachee identify the topic, develop awareness of the issues that influence the topic, and discover meaningful solutions. I try to ask this question only when I sense that the coachee appears to be stuck or is not considering the impact their spiritual beliefs can bring to the conversation. And I find that it’s a great question to frequently ask myself!

I enjoy coaching ministry leaders. Some are struggling to get things done or to implement a new approach. Others are wrestling with vision and call. Many are in some type of transition. If that’s you we should talk. I offer no-cost, no-obligation initial consults. From there you can decide if coaching is a good fit for you. Contact me and let’s get the conversation started.

Why Telling People What to Do Doesn’t Work

 

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Actually, there’s a simple way to prove that telling people what to do doesn’t work. Here it is: Do you like being told what to do? Are you more likely to make a change if you’re told to do something or if you choose to implement that change on your own? In reality, no one likes being told what to do. And while we might comply with a demand that’s made of us, it will rarely result in any lasting change.

There’s some pretty good science to explain why this is true. According to an article by David Rock in the Neuro Leadership Journal the approach (reward) – avoid (threat) response is a reflexive activity that occurs unconsciously and automatically.  We quickly perceive situations and stimuli as containing either a threat or a reward. Not surprisingly, the way we perceive those situations determines whether we engage or we avoid. According to Rock, “Engagement is a state of being willing to do difficult things, take risks, to think deeply about issues and develop new solutions.” (emphasis added). That’s the goal of coaching!

In the coaching conversation the person being coached is guided toward a reward-engagement response by asking non-threatening questions which develop awareness and stimulate growth and action. The coach will avoid judgmental questions, leading questions, or what I call “test questions” where there is only one correct answer. Questions like these will result in an involuntary threat-avoidance response.  Someone who asks questions like these neither understands basic human behavior nor practices good coaching techniques. Just ask someone who has received good coaching and they’ll tell you: there’s one reason why coaching works – the questions! Not your basic run-of-the-mill yes/no questions or those there’s-only-one-right-answer questions or I’m-the-boss-and-I-want-an-answer-right-now type questions. A good coach asks questions that help you discover more about yourself and more about the journey you are on – “to think deeply about issues and develop new solutions!”

That’s why I enjoy being a coach! I get to ask the type of questions that help people become more engaged in the issues that matter most to them and to discover new pathways of success, effectiveness, and enjoyment in the pursuit of those life issues. If that sounds helpful to you, contact me and let’s start the conversation.

I offer a limited number of complimentary introductory coaching sessions each month. Contact me here about scheduling a session with you.

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!