Authentic Happiness

Everyone hears negative messages sometimes. What we do with them is key to changing the way we view ourselves and our lives.

I’m not talking about feelings that are considered negative – sadness, anger, fear. Our emotions serve a purpose and are unto themselves neither negative nor positive; they are simply a part of being human.

Negative self-talk is another matter. Negative self-talk may stem from messages we received as children, verbal and physical abuse, or comparing ourselves to others. It is difficult for someone who has low self-esteem or poor self-confidence to change those messages.

How can we manage our negative self-talk to hear authentic positive affirmation?

Consider ashre and shalom.

Ashre (ash-ray), a biblical Hebrew word, refers to the kind of life, behavior, and mindset that creates a deep and abiding happiness. Jesus uses the term in the famous Sermon on the Mount (“Happy/blessed are the peacemakers….”) as do many of the Psalms (“Blessed are those who dwell in your house….” Psalm 84:4). Ashre is a happiness that does not depend on happenstance. It is deep and abiding no matter what is happening in your life.

Shalom is another biblical Hebrew term that helps to describe this type of happiness. Shalom (peace or wholeness) conveys well-being and having peace of mind.

My goal as a coach is to help people find ashre and shalom. The key is authentic positivity and a growth mindset. With intentional practices we can condition ourselves to think positively. The way we speak internally and with others can actually change the brain. However, lavishing flattery on ourselves is being dishonest and can actually do us harm. Our positive messages need to be real and true. Much of the popular material in books and online about happiness gives us a false impression of what we want and need.

Healthy people seek a deep abiding contentment in which they remain hopeful and positive even during the hard times. Coaching creates a safe environment where persons can explore their thoughts and emotions and learn the practice of authentic positivity.

Curriculum is Not the Problem!

It’s common these days. We look at the problems in our church’s education ministry and blame the curriculum. It doesn’t do this or that well enough, there’s no video component, it’s too hard to decipher, or it’s so easy that we’re done with a lesson in 15 minutes. So the search goes on for the new, the improved curriculum, that can’t cost too much or demand too much, but it had better be thorough in its representation of the gospel.

Curriculum is not the problem, friends. Our expectations concerning the curriculum are. If you use a curriculum produced by a denominational publishing house or one that is meant for mass consumption, then there’s no way it will please you in its entirety. Something in it won’t work for you. In fact, every curriculum developer I know expects the users to adapt and modify it for their own particular setting.

The onus is on you and me, the users. Don’t buy curriculum thinking it will solve your attendance problems or transform volunteers into master teachers. It won’t do it.

Today, it seems that churches use curricula that meet one of two criteria, aside from cost: its theological underpinning or its ease of use, which often boils down to accessible arts, crafts, and videos. If I were to choose, I would err on the side of the theological bent of the curriculum. Does it represent our theological tradition? How does it understand God? Do the interpretation of Bible stories focus more on what God does or on human actions? What view of God will the learners take away from the formative event in which the curriculum is but a tool? What understanding of the church does the curriculum convey?

If you find a curriculum that supports your theological tradition, then you might have to adapt or add activities that better engage your learners. It’s up to you and your education partners to make assessments and adjust as necessary. For example, if you locate a curriculum whose ecclesiology is on point with your tradition, but all of the activities focus on the individual’s response, you may decide to add community-based learning activities. That way the experience of community coheres with the theological point you want to make.

Let me know how I can help you and your church assess your educational and formational ministries.

—Mark Hinds


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.

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?

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?