posted on April 20, 2012 09:03
A pastor is essentially the executive director/CEO of a small, medium or large non-profit organization! Many leaders of such organizations seek executive coaching on a regular basis; and it makes sense that clergy who want to continue to grow in their leadership and critical thinking capabilities would do the same.
There are a few key areas of development where I’ve seen pastors respond the most to coaching. These include strategic thinking; planning and organizing; and execution/measurement of success. Let’s briefly unpack:
Strategic Thinking. Pastors typically own three huge buckets of overall responsibility, even if their church is large enough to delegate some of the day-to-day handling: preaching, congregational care and administration. Each of these three requires the consideration of specific goals, strategies and tactics. Here’s just one example from the preaching bucket:
Goals: Where do you want to take the congregation across the year through proclamation? Which topics are of the utmost importance? What fruit do you want to see as a result?
Strategies: Which specific passages or books of the Bible should drive these topics and facilitate the congregational growth that is desired?
Tactics: Sermon series? Stand-alone messages? Lectionary selections? Audio-visual elements? Musical elements? Metaphors to unify the message?
How can an executive coach help with this bucket? Pastors can be so immersed in the “doing” and so close to their congregational dynamics, that it is difficult to step back and recognize their own thought processes and behavioral patterns. A coach asks the kinds of powerful, persistent questions that help a pastor look at their goals and strategies with fresh eyes and take new action steps.
Planning and Organizing. Even after a coach helps the pastor embrace epiphanies around fresh goals and strategies, an arduous challenge remains: figuring out how to get them all done! As a coach I ask pastors questions such as, “When is the best time to do your sermon research, and how will you know when you’re ready to start writing? What distractions of your schedule can you anticipate this coming week? What amount of time are you planning on investing in your staff each week, and what does that look like? What types of visitations does your congregation require, and how do you carry these out most effectively? Which staff or volunteers are helping you with specific pastoral care or leadership areas, and how are you giving them a roadmap while communicating your expectations?”
Execution/Measurement. A coach can help a pastor be accountable for more than just whether someone liked or didn’t like a sermon, or whether enough of an offering was collected that week to meet budget. I ask questions pertaining to whether a pastor followed-through on commitments he or she made during the previous coaching session, and what factors might have facilitated or hindered implementation. An effective coach probes with questions that help a pastor to think through the flow and impact of sermons, the growth and development of staff and the manner in which congregational needs are truly being met. The execution/measurement piece of is vital for “closing the loop”—ensuring that the pastor’s strategic thinking combined with planning and organizing is ultimately bearing fruit that will last.
Please stay tuned for more blog entries on this topic, and contact me at email@example.com if you’d like to set up a complimentary 45-minute telephone coaching session. Thanks for reading!