At the Center for Healthy Churches we often consider the distinctions implied between serving congregations as “consultants” and “coaches.” Implied are the hats we wear when we engage churches and their leadership.
Pastors must do the same kind of identity work. Why? Because our identity drives our perceptions of the church and the community we serve.
When pastors are clear about who we are it guides our interactions with others, our choices and behaviors, and the way we fulfill the responsibilities of our many roles.
Consulting is one of those roles. It implies the skills of a mentor. Like a mentor, a pastor builds capacity by sharing new learning which arises from experience, directions in current thought, as well as fresh perspectives and strategies.
This hat is often monogrammed with the letter “E” for expert. In the best sense, a consultant brings fresh perspective on common issues facing churches and organizations. Those conversations encourage and equip pastors and churches to face a new and exciting future.
At worst, consultants come with a notebook in hand, promoting a message that says, “if followed, it will lead to new success and vitality.” Long-time pastors might find two or three of these “canned” approaches on their bookshelves from past denominational programs or conferences. The problem with this approach is that the solution is devoid of any history or context.
Too often pastors are tempted to wear the “expert” hat exclusively. Presenting themself as a strong, confident leader, the pastor is tempted to present a false self that has all the answers and stands ready to lead the congregation forward if only “they” will follow. Such an approach may be more expedient, even appealing to many, but only in the short term. It cannot endure.
On the other hand, the coaching hat might be embroidered with the letter “M” for mediator. At CHC, our mantra is the “church” is the expert and the “coach” is the mediator, a healthy process leader.
This is often the better posture for the pastor to assume when it comes to pastoral identity.
The pastor as coach/mediator is a non-judgmental, non-anxious presence that values every person and voice at the table. Pastors who create a culture of open collaboration are able to build relationships of trust that tap inherent gifts.
When a pastor comes alongside individuals to “mediate” their thinking, the door is opened wide to new possibilities. A coaching culture sparks creativity and innovation needed to meet today’s challenges.
When a pastor wears a coaching hat, the staff and congregation are more apt to engage in best practices like those of—
- spiritual discernment. Listening to God and others both inside and outside the church is the fuel that drives a church to a new future where God-given assets merge with needs around them.
- personal and professional growth. Asking powerful questions opens wide new doors of opportunities. Creative thinking, asset-based conversations, and heightened emotional intelligence help raise our sight to a future brimming with new possibilities.
- servant leadership. When pastor and people practice humility and respect, we create a culture of trust, collaboration, engagement, and innovation.
At the Center for Healthy Churches we, as consultants, are experts on process. Our role is to help you design a path forward that maximizes local wisdom and expertise under the leadership of God’s Spirit. We do not offer ready-made or easy answers, but “coach” pastor and people as we explore and identify possibilities that are sustainable.
If you would like more information about what this “coaching” identity looks like for the pastor, contact us.