I returned yesterday from the last of the residential sessions on Elim’s inaugural Coaching Academy. A small group of Elim ministers has got together regularly over the last 9 months, to sharpen our skills in coaching and mentoring, and it’s been a great journey. In a series of interactive sessions, we have considered coaching, questioning, listening, individual and team coaching, feedback. Along the way we have practised skills and as a by-product have deepened some existing relationships and made new ones.
I came on the coaching academy because I was aware that mentoring/coaching (I was not sure of the difference!) was a large part of my ministry and I sensed that would increasingly be the case in the future. Little did I know last autumn that by the end of the course I would be leaving the church where I currently minister and moving to something which I’m not entirely sure of at the moment, but feel that coaching will be even more of an emphasis for me than it is now.
Someone asked me this week whether the academy had been a factor in my decision to move. I initially replied not, but on reflection perhaps indirectly it was. At the start of this calendar year I applied for a job which, without the reflections on my practice and ministry that the coaching academy has inspired, I might not have considered. As it happened I didn’t get that job, but the process of applying and being interviewed gave me some confidence that I could possibly minister in a different context from my current one.
The decision to move can be difficult. In our case I had said to my church leaders that if I did not get the job mentioned above, I would not be looking for something else. So when I was unsuccessful, it felt as if there should be a fresh start in the church; a picking up of vision; a refocusing of ministry; perhaps a shift of priorities – in short, a new season in church life. The surprising thing to me was that it quickly became clear to William and me that we should not enter this new season: it would be someone else’s season.
You see, in the season which is now just finishing, I have led the church in Essex while William has taught in a Bible College in Middlesex. They are about 65 miles apart, and he has done a weekly commute for about 5 years, staying away from home for between two and four nights every week. We have been content with that. It has been God’s plan for us. But we knew we should not start a new season. We are looking forward to joining up our ministry lives again. So we are moving to Middlesex, and I am applying for a part time role in the college where William works, a role which will be largely pastoral. While I have very little idea of what I will be doing for the bulk of the time, (or even if I will get this job), I know God has called me to coach/mentor woman leaders, and younger leaders. I am excited about the possibility of getting to know Bible College students again. I would love to spend a lot of time pastoring and coaching younger leaders, seeing them achieve their potential. I believe those opportunities will open up, whether in the college, or perhaps in another church setting (or both).
So there are things I have learned in the Coaching Academy and ways in which it has impacted already on my own life. But perhaps the most precious aspect of the experience has been the relationships. There were people I already knew well, like my buddy Michelle, whom I always love sharing with. Others have moved from acquaintances to significant friends – Geoff and Jane, thanks for all input so far and I look forward to continuing to inspire each other. Still others I hardly knew before but have, through talking about our goals, plans etc. with each other I have found greatly impacted me. Sam, Joel, Ian and Stephen – I have long loved your ministry as Elim Sound and now am delighted to know you as individuals; you are men of huge integrity and insight as well as massively talented. (Stephen, thank you for two prophetic words you shared with me in prayer – I had forgotten the first one until today, but they were both to do with climbing!)
Steve Y, thanks for asking me the provoking question mentioned at the start of this piece and for other insights shared along the way. Stuart, Jamie and Bill, thanks for your open and honest sharing in the sessions and for making us laugh. Kojo – what a wealth of experience and depth! BB and Edwin, thanks too for conversations and remembrances of things we have been through together in the past.
And to Dave, Paul and Alison who shared their hearts, experience and wisdom with us, thanks is not enough.
I hope and sense this is not the end of the road for many of those friendships.
Thanks be to God!