This week we feature the story of a current LifeTrek client, a minister, who is one year into his role in a growing church. As a result of his experience with coaching, this minister has developed as an administrative and spiritual leader at the same time as he has embraced new roles in his life • that of intentional husband, father and caretaker of self.
Before we end this series of client interviews, we are going to feature a few more clients who represent other professions and stations in life worked with by LifeTrek coaches. Partly because of Bob’s background as an ordained minister, which he practiced for more than 20 years before starting LifeTrek Coaching in 1998, and partly because of the core values of our coaching team, LifeTrek has always attracted and worked with ministers from a wide variety of denominations and faiths.
Of course, another reason that we have so often worked with ministers may be that they work in an especially stressful and challenging profession. They are often buffeted about by the same culture wars and conflicts that have been playing themselves out in the recent US Presidential election. They are also accountable to every church member, each of whom may have a different idea as to their job description and performance.
In addition, the special demands of confidentiality brought on by their profession can make them extraordinarily lonesome, even though they may be surrounded by scores of people and busy with a “higher calling.” Ministers often lack a network outside of their church or the resources in which to confide, reflect, and grow. In fact, a Canadian study found that pastors are less likely to have a close friend than any other person in the community.
Because of these stresses, it’s easy for ministers to lose sight of who they are outside of being the pastor. Strongly goal-oriented ministers, like today’s client, will almost inevitably experience even more frustration than process-oriented ones and be in danger of intense frustration, anxiety and depression.
What then are the strategies for ministers to manage their stress and reclaim their “self?” Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life, suggests seven steps that closely mirror the learning that grows out of the coaching process.
1. Identification. Know who you are. If you are unsure of your identity, you find yourself being molded by the expectations of everyone around you. And, trying to live as someone you’re not results in stress. Through coaching we identify individual values and personal purpose in this stage.
2. Dedication. Know whom you want to please. The coaching process often includes identification of life roles, as well as intentions and truths for each of those roles. As part of this stage, clients are encouraged to intentionally reserve time for “self.”
3. Organization. Set clear goals. Include goals about you and your family, not just career and church related goals. Be intentional in your actions. A coach assists clients to figure out when they are working from pressures instead of from visions and desires for their whole life and being.
4. Concentration. Take time to enjoy the process. Concentrate on what is, not on what should have been or could be. A coach will encourage you to be present, to create, and to find inspiration in each day.
5. Delegation. Identify your network and support systems. Jesus, for example, recruited 12 disciples. Coaches challenge you to create a team and call upon them for support, accountability and the sharing of responsibilities.
6. Meditation. Make taking time for reflection and stillness a habit, no matter what. Recreate yourself through quiet time for asking and for listening. With a coach, you’ll identify compelling and creative ways to “tune out” and “tune in.”
7. Relaxation. Schedule time to relax, to laugh, and to play. Schedule time to have nothing scheduled. When you reclaim self, family and friends as priorities, this becomes a non-negotiable.
These seven steps come through in the experience and reflections of today’s featured client, a minister who has been faithfully and intentionally participating in the coaching journey and, through it, has rediscovered who he is designed to be.
Q. When you contacted LifeTrek Coaching, what was your original goal?
A. To have the best year of ministry ever for my 1st year of employment at a new church. I wanted to set precedence for excellence. I was entirely ministry-focused • I thought I was hiring a career coach. I wanted to be very clear about how to accomplish all of my goals. And, I thought I had a good handle on the goals. I asked about the results I would achieve from hiring a coach and I remember you telling me that I would be able to make value-based decisions and have a crystal clear picture of where I was going.
Q. In what ways did your goals evolve through the coaching process?
A. I started with four goals that were all ministry-related. They were 6-month goals. Now, I have double that number of goals, and most are life goals • only two are ministry-related. That’s the victory, the win. If you had told me this would be the outcome when we first spoke, I probably wouldn’t have hired you.
Q. What was the impact that coaching had on your life?
A. Coaching has changed my life completely. I am a more developed person than I was a year ago. I am improving in every area, not just in ministry. I am not only having the best year of ministry, but the best year of my life as well. I am more intentional, and that ranks really high for me. This has transformed me. It’s like I’ve changed from being a soloist into being an ensemble. I feel full.
Q. What shifts have you experienced because of coaching?
A. I’ve always said that success in one area is dependent upon the success of all the other areas, but I didn’t live like that. I would have preached marriage first, but what I truly believed was that I should put church first. I would drop my family to attend to a church issue.
Now I spend more time with my family than ever before, and I am more fruitful in ministry than before. I used to have a tendency to step on myself to get to others. In caring for others, I don’t always care for myself. I put myself last on the list, if I make the list at all. I’m beginning to feel more like that doesn’t provide a good foundation to help others. I’m still growing in this area.
Q. What are the behavioral changes you have experienced?
A. I journal 4-5 times a week. I keep an intuition journal by drawing (something that I never would have imagined on my own). The intuition journal gives me closure each day and it validates my feelings • something I haven’t been concerned about previously. I’m all about validating others’ feelings, but when it came to my own feelings I’ve always been uncomfortable.
I also keep a written journal. It is not a diary; it’s where I record passions, observations, and prayers. It’s an ongoing “State of Me Address.” I can look through its pages and see how I’m living out my life. Once a week I read through the previous pages so I can live a reflective and intentional life.
At church, I am learning to focus less on the programs and more on the people. My previous ministry was program-driven and in my new church that approach immediately flopped. For example, when I recently kicked off a small-groups initiative, I took your advice on some changes. Normally, I would have led the event from the platform. But instead of being the guy up front, I became the guy standing next to you. I made sure I listened to what people had to say.
There have been significant changes at home as well. For nine years my wife and I have had the goal of having a regular spiritual development time. Now we actually have it. That is big. Before coaching, I didn’t consider goals outside of the church to be important (my poor wife!). I think more about my wife, my children and my friends now. They tell me I am more thoughtful.
I also give myself more time, with hobbies and taking time to read books. I read a non-church related book for the first time in four years! I’ve changed the way I relate to my son, who is three years old. When he becomes upset, instead of focusing on the outburst itself, now we talk about how he feels with the help of Feeling Cards (Click). For the first time, it changed the way we communicate and it shifted how I approach him.
Q. How were you stretched by the process of coaching?
A. More than anything it has stretched me emotionally. I am not comfortable with my own emotions. The walls come up as soon as the emotions do.
You don’t let me get away with writing myself off or pushing myself to the side. You are quick to pick up on times when I shut the door on myself emotionally. You question why I’m shutting that door and push me until I open it again. If I say, “I don’t know” as an answer to an emotional question, you say, “Well, we’ve got time.” Or, you’ll say, “Let’s get back to it later,” and then you actually do. It makes me uncomfortable, but that is good.
Q. In what ways could coaching have assisted you more?
A. After ten months of coaching, I feel as though I am just now seeing the true benefits. It’s taken me ten months to start to think about things in terms of my values. I’m resistant and slow to change, especially with attitudinal changes. Behavior changes always come easily, but the interior changes come more slowly.
If you had pushed me harder or faster, I would have resisted. I would have just told you what you wanted to hear so that you would stop pushing. The visualization that we did together in the first call piqued my interest and made me uncomfortable. It was the first time I had cried in a long time. I thought to myself, “If she can take me this far so early in the relationship, where will I be in the next six months?”
Q. What recommendations do you have for others who are considering working with a coach?
A. I can’t imagine anyone, in any position, that wouldn’t benefit from having their life values more clearly defined so they can live more intentionally. I think every person can grow. Bring 100% honesty to a coaching relationship. As people, we are used to lying to ourselves; used to painting a picture that makes things look better than they truly are. That is sad.
Coaching, like the North Star, is the guiding light that provides a reference point from which to live a successful life in every area. Success is growing, improving, and meeting goals based on who I am designed to be. I’m doing that more than I’ve ever done in my life. I’m living as the person I’m supposed to be. It’s really peaceful.
Coaching Questions: What is your guiding light? Who were you designed to be? In what ways are you living intentionally?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
I thought you would enjoy this story, titled “Four Seasons of a Tree” (author unknown).
Don’t judge a life by one difficult season. There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn to not judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.
The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall. When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.
The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no • it was covered with green buds and full of promise. The third son disagreed, he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.
The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but one season in the tree’s life. He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are • and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life • can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.
If you give up when it’s winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall. Don’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.
I’ve been reading many of the LifeTrek Pathways on my Palm over the last few months and I’ve really enjoyed them. Going to your Web site, I decided to contact you for coaching when I read the following words:
“If there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be; if you’re starting to run out of gas on the journey of life; if you’re overwhelmed with everything on your plate; if you’ve lost that youthful zeal and ambition for your career; if you’re tired of the same-old-same-old and want to set out in new directions, then contact LifeTrek Coaching International. We can outfit you with the provisions you need for a successful journey.” Those words really rang true for me. I look forward to your call.
I have been reading your newsletter for several months and think it’s great. I respect the work you are doing and have really developed an appreciation for the concept of coaching. Let me know if there are some low-cost options for coaching, perhaps something similar to your wellness offer, that I could take advantage of here in Geneva, Switzerland.
Thank you for the information on nose breathing. I have been working out for many years. I am 46 years of age. I have been told by many people that I can pass for being in my twenties. While on the treadmill or doing any cardio I can go at a very rapid pace for at least 30 minutes breathing through my nose, to many on lookers’ amazement. Until reading your Wellness Pathway, Use Your Nose Click, I never knew the technical benefits of doing that, it just made good sense to me. My recovery time is almost immediate after I stop. So thanks again for the information.
I really look forward to reading LifeTrek Provisions each week. Today, I had just read and contemplated the “peace pond” story in Career Paths and, before scrolling further, fixed a cup of green tea to sip while I finished the newsletter. The next piece was on green tea. I love synchronicity! Thanks.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Erika Jackson (Erika@LifeTrekCoaching.com)
LifeTrek Coaching International