Minister as Coach, Part 1

Published on: March 1, 2012

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by Jackie Woodside

Ministers amaze me. They really do. The breadth of talent and knowledge that ministers must possess to effectively do their work simply astounds me. And yet, the pool of skill sets seems to keep getting larger every year. Think about it: ministers must know organizational finance, facilities management, and volunteer services; they need to have exceptional public speaking skills and be able to research, write, and organize effective talks week after week; they must have exceptional communication and relationship management skills; they must understand technology, maintain a social media presence, and incorporate compelling videos onto the church website. Now there is a whole new skill set that is emerging that seems to be a “must have” for effective leaders of all kinds of organizations. That skill set is coaching.

I have been a professional coach for the past 15 years. Some of the most compelling coaching I have done has been within Unity ministries. Every minister and lay leader that I have worked with has been a passionate, committed, results-oriented, high-consciousness individual. They are eager to learn new skills and quick to adapt to new approaches in their leadership styles. I served on the board of trustees at Unity on the River, Amesbury, Massachusetts, for nearly seven years—six of those as the board president—where I worked closely with the founding minister, Rev. Shipley Allinson. Shipley loved the idea of bringing coaching into ministry. She brought an unending enthusiasm for learning coaching techniques and paradigms that have had a tremendous impact on the ministry. See Shipley’s comments below for the benefits of incorporating a coaching model into ministry.

What I love most about coaching is the degree to which it mirrors the spiritual truths within our Unity faith. Coaching is not only a set of skills and practices; it is first a context or way of seeing things. Rather than focusing on external circumstances, the coaching paradigm focuses on who you are being, how you are responding, and what you are doing regarding the circumstances at hand. What makes coaching so different than psychology or recovery work is the questions that it asks. Coaching does not focus its questions on the past. It does not look at a challenge and ask “Why is this here” or “Where did this come from?” Coaching looks at the challenge and asks, “Who am I being in the matter of this challenge? What am I making this challenge mean about myself, this circumstance and about life? What am I going to do in the face of this challenge?” These questions lead to different outcomes and results. The quality of the questions you learn to ask determines the quality of your life.

Coaching is an action-oriented discipline that assumes that one is capable of taking full responsibility for the way things are in one’s life. It operates from a high level of consciousness that recognizes that the more you focus on your actions, decisions, and attitudes, the more the energy of Spirit will rise up to meet you and partner in creating your dreams and desires.

In Minister as Coach, Part 2, look for some specific tips in how to incorporate coaching principles and practices in your ministry and your life!


Coaching and Ministry

by Shipley Allinson

I came to ministry without previous training in management (baptism by fire). We have a pioneer ministry that grew to 400 people per Sunday in six years and then imploded, mainly because there was no infrastructure. Fortunately, Jackie Woodside sidled into our ministry one day and saw that this minister could use some help. She and I set up weekly coaching calls which have been a true lifesaver for me and my ministry.

I learned how to manage my own schedule, to not overcrowd it, to be reasonable about what I can accomplish, and to take time off. I learned how to set boundaries around when I am available. I am much better at delegating, and it is easier for me to determine what is mine to do. Because I now schedule everything I do in time, I know it will be accomplished. I can take it out of my “worry” head. I accomplish far more with a lot less stress. In my teaching, I had never realized that adult learners need an accountability structure. However, they seem to truly appreciate a managed system where they are held accountable for the work, and from their evaluations I can see their increased spiritual growth.

The coaching I have received and now use with congregants, board, and staff has affected every area of my ministry. In my mind, a coach is a spiritual mentor who understands the principles of organization. Jackie always says that order is a high consciousness principle, and her teachings and results exemplify this truth.

Jackie Woodside
Jackie Woodside is a best-selling author, TEDx speaker and trainer. She leads spiritual retreats and offers professional development training and keynote speeches around the country. She has spoken at many Unity centers in the US and Canada. Her third book The Money Vibe was published in Dec 2017.
Shipley Allinson
Rev. Shipley Allinson was ordained in 2003 via the Field Licensing Program and was the founding minister of Unity on the River in Amesbury, Mass.

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