12 Ways Pastors Can Pay for Coaching

Pastors are turning to coaches to help them navigate the challenges of ministry. Coaches prompt motivated pastors to discover within their own wisdom, passions, and desires the keys to living healthier lives in the fulfillment of their callings. Coaching is a valuable resource for a pastor and congregation and is well worth the investment of finances, time, and energy.

However, many pastors don’t turn to coaches because of the cost. As professionals, coaches charge a fee for their services, which can be prohibitive for a pastor’s salary. However, the outcomes of coaching can be invaluable in helping pastors succeed in their desired goals.

Fortunately, pastors often have access to resources to help pay for coaching:

  1. Some judicatories offer funds for pastors to receive coaching. Check with your diocese, presbytery, or denominational headquarters for grants or scholarships.
  2. Church boards or councils will often approve funds for their pastor to have a coach. Talk to your board, diaconate, or session.
  3. Use a portion of your continuing education funds for coaching. Most congregations provide continuing education support for their pastor. Coaching is an excellent use of these funds.
  4. Pay out of pocket. Invest in yourself by hiring a life coach to help you with ministry, family, and your well-being.
  5. Create or join group coaching. Group coaching enables a small number of pastors to share coaching sessions. These work best when the pastors want to work on similar issues or are in similar ministry settings. Each participant pays a portion of the coach’s fee.
  6. Hire a coach to work with your leadership team. A coach can help your congregation work through a particular ministry challenge. The congregation can apply for a grant from its judicatory or denomination, or from a foundation that supports vital ministries.
  7. Most coaches offer a free consultation to explain their coaching philosophy and determine if they are a good match for you. Take advantage of this opportunity and interview several coaches. Once you have decided which coach you want to hire, ask them about fees and payment options.
  8. Negotiate a payment plan or package with a coach. Many coaches offer packages that reduce the cost. If you are willing to make a long-term commitment to working with a coach, s/he may be willing to cut the per-session fee.
  9. If you are negotiating a new call, ask that coaching fees be a part of your salary package.
  10. Look for grants that will cover services like coaching. For instance, if you are applying for a sabbatical grant, include coaching in your sabbatical plan.
  11. Sometimes, church members want to do something special to say thank you to their pastor. In this event, ask that a fund be set up in the church budget to pay for coaching. Not only will it provide a wonderful gift to the pastor, but it would also be an above-board way to show appreciation.
  12. Seek out opportunities for pro-bono coaching. Some coaches participate in pro-bono services through an organization or their professional membership group. If you already have a relationship with a coach, s/he may be willing to give some free sessions while you are in-between pastoral calls or you have a particular financial hardship.

Contact me if you would like to learn more about individual and congregational coaching. It is a free, no-obligation consultation.

Love Yourself As You Love Your Neighbor

The second Great Commandment, according to Jesus, is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Many religions and sacred texts echo the same sentiment.

In my coaching with church leaders, I discover pastors and church leaders that hold to the commandment. Pastors love their parishioners. They love people in general. It is part of their calling, to love as Christ first loved them. Unfortunately, they are not always so loving toward themselves. Pastors tend to be their own worst critics. They blame themselves if their churches are not growing. They work long hours and are on-call 24/7/365. Holy days, like Christmas and Easter, are joyous celebrations spent with family for most; for pastors, they can be long, stressful work days.

Here are 12 suggestions for pastors to practice loving themselves the same way they love others:

1. Take your day off. No emails, no phone calls, no sermon preparation. Get out of town if necessary. Do something you enjoy, just for you. Focus on your family, your pets, your friends, yourself.

2. Take all of your vacation. Again, really take it. Do not respond to calls and emails. Maybe even refrain from social media. Read for fun, no study or sermon prep. Even if you take a stay-cation, do the things you want to do that have nothing to do with your ministry.

3. Take all of your continuing education time and funds. Pastoral ministry is one of the few vocations that allow for continuing education. Take advantage of it. It will improve your ministry and be a gift to your church. It is also good for you, particularly if you use your time to learn something new or focus on aspects of ministry for which you are most passionate. There are many ways to spend continuing education—programs, courses, retreats, conferences, independent study, study travel—are some examples. I have clients who spend a portion of their continuing education stipend on coaching, counseling, or spiritual direction. Use it while you have it.

4. Get a coach, counselor, or spiritual director. I know a few pastors who have all three, which they use for different purposes. Lectionary groups are great for sermon prep and mutual support, but a professional can help you focus on specific needs and goals. They also give you a level of confidentiality that you cannot get anywhere else.

5. Put yourself first. You need quiet time to listen to God and pray. You need to eat and sleep well. You need to exercise and spend time in the fresh air. Pastors get so occupied with the needs of others that they neglect their own needs. Remember the safety instructions from your last flight: Put your mask on before assisting another.

6. Be true to yourself. Preach and teach what you believe. Do the things that you believe God is calling you to do even if your parishioners don’t agree. This is easier said than done, but you will be a much happier person if you are authentically you.

7. Be open to others’ ideas. Authenticity doesn’t mean pig-headed. Listen to what others can teach you and be willing to change. Try to understand the point of view of other people. It will make it easier to love them, and for them to love you.

8. Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Admit when you’re wrong or you messed up. Ask forgiveness of others when appropriate. Note what you learned from the experience. Forgive yourself. Move on. Too many pastors beat themselves up for past mistakes, or for not being perfect.

9. Forgive others. Holding onto anger, hurt, and grudges only hurts you. Forgiving others allows you to move on and focus on the present and the future instead of dwelling in the past.

10. Don’t compare yourself with others. You are the only you, and there is no one else like you. Likewise, you can be no one but yourself. Comparing yourself with others is self-defeating. Instead, focus on your uniqueness. What do you offer than no one else can? Celebrate what makes you, you.

11. Seek rhythm, not balance. Life is not balanced. At times, we have to set aside what we want to do for what we have to do. This happens often in ministry. No one dies or gets sick on our schedule. Instead of striving endlessly for balance between work and home life, try looking for rhythms and flow in your days and weeks.

12. Accept that life is hard sometimes. Sometimes you just have to get through it. And you will get through it. The full version of Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is perhaps the best way to state this.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as [God] did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that [God] will make all things right
If I surrender to [God’s] Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with [God]
Forever and ever in the next.

Pastors, Learn to Use This Word

A recent article on thriveglobal.com caught my attention. Sociologist Christine Carter offers three steps to saying “no.” It is a word that pastors and other care-giving types find hard to say. However, learning to say “no” is essential to healthy leadership and pastoring.

Several years ago, I taught a workshop at a national conference titled, Saying No Without Feeling Guilty. I adapted strategies from William Ury’s Power of a Positive No to the experiences of church workers. The workshop was a response to stories I often heard from pastors, educators and other church folk about their struggles with setting boundaries and taking care of themselves.

Today, I work with coaching clients on these same issues. Pastors are people-pleasers and they want parishioners to like them. Too often this translates into over-functioning and taking on responsibilities that belong to others. Sometimes pastors say yes to doing things simply to get them done because they don’t want to ask someone else to do it or they don’t trust that it will get done (the way they want). Unfortunately, this leads to an disempowered laity and a frustrated and exhausted pastor.

When you have clarity about your values, responsibilities and personal goals – what Ury calls your YES – you can make better decisions about your responses to requests. Here are a few coaching questions that can help you learn to say no:

  • What are the values that guide you in deciding to what you will say “yes?”
  • How do you discern what are your responsibilities and what belongs to someone else?
  • What is your YES, and how does it influence your decision-making?
  • What is the worst that can happen if you say “no” to things that do not belong to you?

My goal as a coach is to help pastors be the best they can be personally and professionally. Contact me if I can help you set goals for yourself that will lead to health, happiness and a successful ministry.

 

Asking for Help

Do you have trouble asking for help? I do. It may be because I am an introvert, or I learned at an early age that I could depend on myself more than others. It could also be that I am a minister. People in helping professions often have the hardest time asking for help. They consider themselves to be givers, not receivers.

There are a lot of reasons we give for not asking for help.

1. I don’t want to be a burden.
2. I don’t want to look weak or helpless.
3. I want to be independent and self-reliant.
4. I don’t need anyone else.
5. I can do it myself.

Some of these reasons are conscious decisions. Others are sub-conscious messages left over from some past relationship or event, such as messages received growing up in a toxic environment. For others, it might be an experience of being abused or taken advantage of by a loved one. Whatever the trigger, we learn to distrust others’ motives or kindnesses, and we think that the only way to succeed is to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and do it ourselves.

Consider alternative reasons to ask and receive help from others.

  1. Most people are kind, and they typically want to help. Being in a relationship means caring and doing for one another. It is how we show affection and concern. Refusing to ask for help only isolates us from one another.
  2. There is strength in numbers. Even those known as loners (the Lone Ranger and numerous superheroes) had sidekicks or supporters. We show strength when we engage others and share in accomplishments. Asking for help is helping ourselves, and we can enjoy our tasks much more when we do them together.
  3. Employers want employees who can work with a team. In today’s world, collaboration and group-processing are essential to success. Mutual dependence and reliance are vital for creativity and innovation.
  4. Diversity improves creativity and performance. Other people help us expand our horizons and think outside of our box. We also need others to care for ourselves. Loneliness causes depression, self-doubt, despair and even death. People who believe they are better off by themselves or working on their own hurt their potential for success and happiness.
  5. Working alone for long hours leads to burn out, depression, and ill-health. It is also a sign of poor boundaries. We suffer, our work suffers, and our families suffer. By asking others to help, we not only give them an opportunity, but we lighten our load. We can set more reasonable expectations for ourselves and others. It also enables us to be more present, energized and focused on the tasks at hand.

Understanding the positive outcomes of asking and graciously receiving help makes it easier for those of us who are uncomfortable doing so. It takes intentionality and practice to let down our guard and allow ourselves to be dependent on others. As we get more comfortable with the practice, we will reap the benefits and learn that we are our best selves with the help of others.

helping hand

 

A Happy Ending

I started writing a novel when I was in the eleventh grade. It was about a teenage girl named Angie (The name came from the Rolling Stones ballad.) who falls for a twenty-something man with a drug addiction. She has a difficult home life and eagerly accepts his invitation to run away with him. She believes that with enough love she can cure him of his addiction. She soon learns that love is not enough, and that she cannot change him. She begins to seek a way out of her predicament.

That’s where I stopped writing. My interests went in other directions (probably a boy), and the notebook was stored away. Years later, while cleaning out the closet in my old bedroom I found the notebook among some others. I read a few pages and contemplated what I should do with it. I don’t know why, but I was afraid someone else would find it and read it. I don’t remember thinking it was terrible. It was more about keeping something so personal to myself, or not wanting to be judged. I decided to trash it.

I think about that story every so often. I regret throwing it away because it would be fun to read it again. In many ways it was my story. I never dated a drug addict, but I did run away with a guy, the year before I created Angie. The character shared my gloom and my idealism. Thinking back on it now, I realized that Angie learned something that I must have known but had not yet internalized. We cannot love another into being better, and that we can only change ourselves.

Its easy to see this in retrospect, after many years of relationships and self-examination. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I had to do a lot of work on myself to find acceptance and healing. I tried to find it through others for too many years. I am grateful for teachers, mentors, coaches and friends who have helped me along the way. Simply stated, I learned that acceptance and healing could only come from within me. I had to let go of guilt, anger and self-doubt and embrace the person that God created me to be.

I also had to forgive. I had to forgive my abusers and those whom I thought complicit in the abuse. I also had to forgive myself for being a victim and for all the failed attempts at trying to find what I needed in the wrong places. Victims of abuse always blame themselves, for being vulnerable and not fighting back, and for not telling. We must be able to forgive ourselves before we can truly forgive others and complete the healing process.

One of the reasons I am grateful to be a professional coach is the opportunity to help others accept and love themselves. Very few of my clients are victims of childhood abuse, but they have other issues — parents who were too harsh and too neglectful, unhealthy relationships, low self-esteem, imposter syndrome …. Through coaching, I can help them to discover the amazing person that they are within, the wisdom and passions that are too often buried underneath negative self-talk and lack of confidence.

Unfortunately, there are very few people in this world who live a charmed life. We all have family-of-origin issues. We all struggle at some time with upsetting relationships or self-doubt. The good news is that we do not have to stay in the gloom. We can make the personal choice to be different, to be happy.

What kind of life do you want for yourself? What barriers are keeping you from having that kind of life? What are you willing to invest to find healing and wholeness? The first step in having the life you want is to name that which holds you back and decide what you want to do with it. You have the power to overcome victimization, negative self-image and doubt. You can choose to be happy.

Contact me for a free consultation to find out if coaching is right for you.

To Be Let Go

Congregations and denominations talk a lot about mission. It is a broad term that can mean different things to different people. We also like to create mission statements that define our unique calling.

At its root, mission means to let go or to send. The Church has a mission. In the Great Commission (commission meaning to give authority to represent), Jesus directed his followers to go into all the world. Since its beginning, the Church has been a “sent” people.

What the Church has paid less attention to is the notion of being “let go.” What does it mean for a congregation to be let go? From what are they being let go, and for what?

In a recent interview with Faith & Leadership, Sister Maryanne Stevens talked about the turnaround at St. Mary’s College in Nebraska where she serves as President. She spoke about the importance of knowing your mission:

My philosophy of leadership is to focus on what’s core to your mission and make sure people are well-versed in that so they can choose whether to give their all or else, basically, to go away.

What a bold statement! Know your mission, get on board with it, or leave. It seems to be working for St. Mary’s and Sister Maryanne.

Unfortunately, most congregations are unable to be this bold. They create broadly focused mission statements with which everyone can agree. They explore mission possibilities, then choose those that make the most people happy or satisfy the squeaky wheels. Very few congregations define their core mission, proclaim it, and invite people to get on board or leave.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order states that the “Church is to be a community of faith, entrusting itself to God alone, even at the risk of losing its life” (F-1.03). Sometimes taking the risk to be faithful means letting go of programs, policies, and people who hold a congregation hostage and prevent it from being who God calls it to be.

I recently worked with a congregation with a desire to do something different to reach out to their community and grow their congregation. As I listened to church members’ many hopes and frustrations, I realized that they would never discern their core mission because they were afraid to take risks. They were fearful of offending members or losing what they have.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique case. For a people who should be emboldened by faith, fear cripples many.

What would it mean for your congregation to risk losing its life to be faithful to Christ’s commission? Are our buildings, budget, and programs more important than our proclamation? Are we so worried about losing who we have that we cannot reach those who need to experience the love, mercy, and acceptance of God? Can we let go of whatever is preventing us from being sent?

A New Year, A New You?

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. They are fine for people who believe in them, particularly if they have the perseverance to stay with them throughout the year. I prefer on-going self-awareness and evaluation that leads to improvement and habit-change throughout the year.

Still, approaching a new year does cause us to reflect on the past year, and think about things we would like to be different in the coming year. I offer here a few questions that may help you with this kind of self-reflection:

  • What happened in my life this past year that gave me the most energy or joy? How can I create more of these kinds of happenings in the coming year?
  • What in the past year has drained me of energy? How can I have less of these kinds of experiences in the next year?
  • What did I accomplish this past year that gave my life more meaning?
  • What do I want to do next year that will give my life more meaning?
  • What did I do this year to help someone else have a better life?
  • What would I like to do next year to make the world a better place?
  • Of what do I need to let go next year to create something new or be more focused on what I really want?
  • What can I do (or not do) each day/week/month to be more self-aware and more engaged in the kind of life I want for myself?
  • What wrongs do I need to forgive, or bridges do I need to build, to have better relationships in the coming year?
  • If I could accomplish only one thing next year, what would it be?

If coaching is one of the things you would like to consider doing for yourself, contact me for a free, no-obligation, no-pressure consultation.

Accomplishing Great Things

My step-son, along with a few privileged family members, was a VIP guest of the San Antonio Spurs. David has osteosarcoma, and doctors tell us he may not survive another year. Going to a Spurs game and meeting his favorite player of all time, David Robinson, was on his bucket list. Last night happened because of the love and persistence of his father and a friend with a Spurs connection. The experience was amazing because of the generosity and attention to detail of the Spurs organization.

This experience affirmed for me some key principles of creating transformational opportunities.

  • Clarity of purpose gives us the drive to accomplish our goals. When we are very clear on what it is we want to accomplish, we are better able to focus our attention and energy. My husband and others who worked to make this experience happen were very clear on what they wanted and why they wanted it. Likewise, the Spurs organization had a clear purpose for responding to the request and preparing a memorable experience.
  • Passion and compassion motivate us to work toward something beyond ourselves. Any worthwhile goal will do more than satisfy a selfish desire. Transformational experiences have  an effect on others while also meeting a personal need. My step-son’s experience was a direct result of the passion and compassion of numerous people involved in making this night a reality — passion for bringing joy to him, and compassion for his situation.
  • Grace is the heart of transformational experiences. Grace – love and compassion freely given – encourages us to be generous toward others. When we experience grace in our own lives, our response is to show grace to others. Studies show that even people in dire circumstances give freely to others when they experience love and compassion themselves. If each of us can be gracious toward others, we can create a chain-reaction that can transform our families, communities, maybe even a whole society.
  • Closely connected to grace is generosity. Everything that was done for my step-son was an act of generosity – the family and friends who made calls and worked connections to arranged the event, the Spurs organization’s careful planning and implementing of the experience, David Robinson coming to meet him and pray with the family, the Spur celebs who spent time with us during the game, even the people who sat around us and cheered David on.
  • This experience also had a huge impact because of the attention to detail. It would have been great just to get free tickets to the game, but the Spurs did not stop there. A small staff was dedicated to making this a transformational experience for my step-son. From the time we arrived until we left, everything was precisely planned and executed. Once the Spurs organization received the request, they began planning the evening specifically for his enjoyment. When we want to accomplish something meaningful, paying attention to the details enables us to go beyond mediocre to excellence.

Organizations like the Spurs do these kinds of charitable events all the time. It is one of the ways sports teams and other such groups give back to the community and provide themselves with some positive publicity. What was so impressive about this particular experience is the care with which they provided it.

We all have the opportunity to accomplish goals that are more than self-serving and mediocre. How do your goals challenge you to excel at making a difference in the world?

 

 

 

Stressed Out?

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

Many of us can relate to these words from the Twenty One Pilots song Stressed Out. We don’t like stress. We try to avoid it, and when we feel it we try to get rid of it. We blame stress for keeping us from doing things that challenge us. We use it as an excuse when we don’t want to take on another project or activity. Stress has become a buzzword in our conversations:

  • I’m so stressed!
  • The stress is killing me!
  • Don’t stress me out!

Actually, stress is a natural part of who we are. It is simply a physiological change in our bodies when we experience fear, discomfort, or challenge. Stress can be bad for us, but it can also be good.

In her book, The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal talks about the benefits of stress. “The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger, and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can even inspire courage and compassion.” She adds,

The best way to manage stress isn’t to reduce or avoid it, but rather to rethink and even embrace it.

This seems contradictory to everything we have been taught about stress, and is therefore difficult to believe. However, the research supports her claim.

My own experience tells me that she is right.

I remember being afraid to speak in front of groups, and even more fearful of dealing with conflict situations. However, my career depended upon me doing these things on a regular basis. When I learned to think differently about the stress I experienced before any of these activities, I found that it gave me more energy and focus. The stress didn’t go away. Even after years of doing these things, I still feel stress. But instead of be avoiding it or trying to get rid of it, I try to embrace it.

How do you make this shift? According to McGonigal, its quite simple. You change your mindset about stress. “Adopting a more positive view of stress reduces what we usually think of stress-related problems and helps people thrive under high levels of stress.”

Dictionary.com list these synonyms for stress: significance, meaning, emphasis, consequence; weight, value, worth. When we feel stress, it is a sign that what is causing the stress has meaning for us, or else we would not be stressed about it. Studies also show that people who experience stress have a more meaningful life and a stronger sense of purpose.

If you avoid stress, you will never accomplish anything of significance.

Try shifting your thinking about stress with these five ideas:

  1. When you feel stress about something, ask yourself, “What is the significance of this for me?  or What is the value that it holds?
  2. Take a values assessment. You can find one here, or create your own. Knowing your core values will help you rethink why you experience stress.
  3. Put this message on your laptop or bathroom mirror, “A little stress can be a good thing.”
  4. When you have to do something that makes you stressed, embrace the stress as a positive energy to help you succeed.
  5. Find a coach to help you shift your thinking about the stressors in your life. A good coach will guide you through a process of changing your mindset about your fears, self-doubt, and barriers to success. Contact me for a free consultation to learn more.

We all get stress out. It is how we view that stress that can either help us or harm us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attitude of Gratitude

I have been keeping a gratitude journal for several years now. A firm believer in its benefits, I recommend it whenever I have the opportunity. Spending time each day thinking about things and people for which I am grateful, and actually writing them down, helps me remember how great my life is.

The practice is particularly helpful during hard times, and we’ve had a number of those lately. On these days, it is sometimes difficult to come up with five things to write down, but doing so shifts my focus from what is going wrong to what is going well. Again, I am reminded that even in hard times, I am fortunate.

I haven’t gotten bored with the practice of keeping a gratitude journal, but I do sometimes wonder if I’m going deep enough. This morning, I was grateful to come across an article by Master Coach Melody Wilding. In this article, Wilding gives twelves prompts to help boost a gratitude practice. They are excellent suggestions for engaging in deeper thinking about gratefulness.

For instance, number 11 asks what mistake or failure might you be grateful for. If you’re like me, you could write quite a few pages on this topic!

My first marriage ended in divorce. Going through the process of separation and divorce was difficult, My husband and I were believers in “until death do us part,” and we are both ministers. It was difficult for us to admit that we had failed at our marriage vows. Practicing gratitude helped me make peace with our decision, and become a happier person.

I have always believed that every experience in life has something to offer us if we are willing to learn from it. Even our worst lapse in judgement, or the most devastating crisis can provide something for which to be thankful.

What are you grateful for today?

*Photo taken at the Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Phoenix, AZ