What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-29-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-29-19

I just finished a day of professional training. I’m in the process of becoming a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation. No, I’m not being trained as an athletic coach, although the model is roughly similar. Rather, I’m being trained as leadership coach thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. The Lilly Endowment Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, is one of the world’s largest private philanthropic foundations and among the largest endowments in the United States. It supports the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly is paying for my training. In return I and an ecumenical cohort of about 16 other clergy will provide leadership coaching in our congregations and to our fellow clergy. I’m grateful to the Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island Conferences of the United Church of Christ for securing and administering this grant.

Leadership coaching helps individuals and groups increase their effectiveness in living out their most deeply held values through listening deeply, asking powerful questions, identifying limiting beliefs, brainstorming possibilities, developing action steps, and building structures of accountability. As a coach in training, I’m here to help you dream big and identify the resources you need to build a bridge to your desired future.

What does any of this have to do with being a pastor?  Everything. The stereotypical image of the pastor as one who brings down the divine, authoritative word from on high is just that, a stereotype, and not a particularly accurate one at that. My experience of pastoring is much more down to earth. It’s taking out the garbage and doing the laundry kind of work. It’s paying attention to daily details, eliminating unhealthy habits, and building healthy ones. It’s intimate engagement with the rhythms of congregational life in order to build awareness. “This is who we say we are. This is what our actions say. How can we close that gap?”

Through this process of intimate engagement, the pastor makes it her job to notice, and to assist the congregation in noticing, the new life God is birthing in and among them. Another name for a birthing coach is midwife. My wife and I used midwives for the births of both our children. From what I’ve witnessed, childbirth is one of the most grueling and dangerous things human beings do. No wonder so few congregations choose the abundant and eternally renewing life God offers and instead choose a long drugged out hospice. Midwives are tough as nails. And in this analogy, the pastor is a midwife. If it’s truly to be the congregation’s baby, the congregation is going to need to do the labor. As your pastor/coach, a powerful question to consider at this point in our ministry together is Are we pregnant? If so, what’s the next step?

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