Coaching: Skills for Leading the Ministries of the Future

Published on: March 21, 2016

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In this issue of Unity Leaders Journal, we explore emerging ministries of the future, such as community- and mission-centric ministry (as in the Thriving Ministry Model), pub ministry, online, outreach, prison, hospital chaplaincy, multi-generational, animal, recovery, international, travel, arts, and other types of ministries. It is an exciting time, and there are many opportunities to express your passion for ministry in innovative ways.

What skills or competencies are required for ministers and leaders of these emerging ministry forms? Is it possible that these skills may be different than those required for successful “traditional” church ministry? I would answer yes and no to this question. Some skills are universally required regardless of the type of ministry. Other skills are specific to the type of ministry you desire to lead. Let’s examine the most important (in my opinion) universal leadership skills first.


Leading with Emotional and Social Intelligence

 The popular model for Emotional Intelligence (EI) developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis in the 1990s is a useful way to understand the skills of EI. The model contains a dozen skills, the most important of which are emotional self-awareness, empathy, and emotional self-control. There are four categories of skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Seems straightforward, but how many of us spend time evaluating our EI skills and taking steps to improve them?


You can begin with the first skill, emotional self-awareness. In a journal, write down as many emotional states that you can remember experiencing each day for a week. Use a large vocabulary to describe your emotions. Let go of judgment and become “the observer.” Here’s a list of emotions that you can use for this process. Next, spend a week observing which events, conversations or thoughts trigger emotional reactions such as anger, hurt, frustration, sadness or boredom. Write the emotions down, along with the triggers. Finally, in week three, write down your emotions, the triggers, and how you behaved as a result of the emotions. After three weeks of observations, you will have trained yourself to be self-aware and you may begin to develop the next category of skills.


Next, you can learn emotional self-control; to manage yourself through difficult situations to ensure positive outcomes. When we experience strong negative emotions, our brains revert to “fight or flight” mode, and stress hormones such as cortisol are released into our bodies. Recent mirror neuron research is revealing that emotions are “contagious.” When a leader walks into the room, her or his emotional state is mirrored by the others in the room—their brain waves and physiology literally mirror that of the leader. A leader with high emotional intelligence can interrupt a negative emotional reaction she experiences in the moment and subsequently return to a state of centeredness.

We are here to set a positive example and be a role model for others. — visit, Our Teachings”

Other skills in this category are achievement orientation, positive outlook, and adaptability. Maintaining a positive focus is a core part of the Unity teaching, but how adaptable are you to change? If you are aware that you are not adaptable, think of some small ways in which you can stretch your comfort level boundaries. This is a critical skill for those who wish to truly innovate new forms of ministry!

Social Awareness

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” —Stephen Covey

Social awareness includes empathy and organizational awareness. Empathy is required in providing pastoral care and counseling. As a leader, you can use empathy to sense the energy and emotional tone within groups, and use other skills to hold a safe space in which healthy dialog occurs. Organizational awareness is most helpful when you are creating a ministry within an established institution. For example, a prison ministry requires that the minister sense and quickly understand how the prison system works, learn about the various cultures and sub-cultures within, and be able to observe and understand unique aspects of any particular prison facility.

Relationship Management

Finally, the group of EI skills in the relationship management category include the ability to coach and mentor others to fill various roles in the ministry, to influence and inspire people toward the vision for the ministry, to foster teamwork, and to manage conflict. Find ways to assess and then develop each of these skills and you will be well on your way to becoming an emotionally intelligent leader.


Communication: Spiral Dynamics as a Tool

In addition to emotional intelligence, leaders must understand how to listen and express themselves so others can understand. Spiral Dynamics (SD) is a wonderful model to help us understand people with different sets of values and to find meaningful methods of connection. There are nine or more levels in the “spiral,” and each level has emerged from the prior level throughout human existence. People or cultures move to a new level as they develop a greater capacity for complexity of thought.

If you communicate based on your own value system, it is likely that people who live by a different value system will not understand you. A wise leader re-frames his or her communication to use the language and values of each group of people. Once you understand a person’s or group’s value system, you can put yourself in their shoes to feel greater empathy and compassion for them. This is only one use of SD as a tool.

SD also provides a framework to understand the “dynamics” of change within a culture. When life conditions become too complex or challenging, a group of people living within a particular level of the spiral may either retreat to an earlier level or they may transcend the conditions and evolve to the next level of the spiral. Leadership mastery skills are required to recognize challenging conditions and increased complexity within an organization. A leader can use these skills to help groups transcend these conditions in order to move to a new level of existence.


Leading with Spiritual Intelligence

If we see spiritual development only as an inner experience, if we do not embody it in some external, visible way, then I would say we have not yet lived up to the spiritual exemplars we so admire.” —Cindy Wigglesworth

The 21 skills of Spiritual Intelligence (SQ21) build on EI skills. The four quadrants of skills are: Higher Self/Ego Self-Awareness, Universal Awareness, Self-Mastery, and Spiritual Presence/Social Mastery. The skills most useful to those who wish to enter into non-traditional ministries are Complexity of Thought, Awareness of Other Worldviews, Wise Teacher of Spirit, Wise Change Agent, and Being a Calming and Healing Presence.

With greater complexity of thought, we are able to contemplate paradox; we can hold two different perspectives in our mind and appreciate the truth in both. This is called both/and thinking and we can use it within our ministries to help people come to group consensus and wise decisions. Novel approaches often emerge from both/and thinking. The awareness and appreciation of different worldviews is necessary if we are to reach out and effectively connect with different communities.

You have a passion for teaching Unity principles. A Wise Teacher of Spirit teaches principle by allowing learning to take place at each person’s pace, and by using inquiry and encouragement. She also “walks the talk.” The most powerful way to teach is to be a role model of the principles.

The Wise Change Agent facilitates win/win solutions, is compassionate with those who are suffering, and digs deeper than the surface issue to ensure that roots of problems are unearthed and addressed. He takes on different roles and responsibilities with humility, and does not insist that his solution is the only “right” solution. Finally, as in all ministries, being a calming and healing presence in challenging times is the mark of a leader with high Spiritual Intelligence.

Each of the leadership skills I’ve mentioned complement each other. As you shift into your role as leader of a new form of ministry, take the time to develop skills in each of these areas and your ministry will thrive!

Dorianne Cotter-Lockard

Dorianne Cotter-Lockard is a certified DeepChange coach with the Spiritual Intelligence SQ21 assessment. She has served as a licensed Religious Science Practitioner since 2000. Dorianne has over 25 years of corporate leadership experience.

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