After forty years as a minister on church staffs, I am experiencing a change in direction to coach ministers and help churches in conflict. So often in my ministry I found it frustrating not to have someone I could bounce ideas off of without fear of being belittled or criticized. Or often, just having someone to talk to so I could unload concerns and know that I wouldn’t be seen as incapable. The fear many ministers have that being honest about their struggles, whether at church or personal, might result in gossip at their own church or among other ministers keeps them isolated even in a crowd.
“Who would understand?” “How can I keep from being embarrassed?” These are the kind of questions, among others, that compound the difficulty of being a minister. Most people probably aren’t aware of the pressure that comes with trying to cope with meeting the expectations of being the always available, godly, loving, patient, sensitive, caring Christian.
It’s clearly not all bad. In fact, there are a lot of exciting, encouraging, and satisfying experiences in serving as a minister. And at the same time, enjoying a confidant and having someone to think through possible ways to be more efficient and effective in ministering can unlock a more productive way of service.
Confidentiality is a concern for anyone. For the minister, having someone to be open with while not being fearful that what is said will be passed on as gossip is also important. This concern can cause him to bottle issues that he would like to bounce off a trustworthy source. It can be helpful to have a confidential person in his life so he can:
- Confide — Talk about those most intimate of thoughts without fear of having it repeated. For example, minister goes to the monthly pastor’s conference and tells an acquaintance about his struggle with declining attendance at his church. A couple of weeks later, he gets a call from a church member who has overheard a conversation in which their church is being laughed at because the pastor isn’t effective in attracting newcomers. His comment has not been met with sympathy, rather the colleague he has confided in is enjoying his struggle, using it to validate how successful he has been by comparison. A genuinely trustworthy confidant could minimize that fear.
- Vent — It’s disappointing to church members to hear a minister express anger about an event. Especially if the anger concerns a church member or committee. And yet, ministers can be offended and/or hurt by the same kind of situations that might cause anyone to be angry. Being able to vent and get it off of his or her shoulders can help lighten the load. Stuffed anger has been identified as a primary cause of depression. Not having to carry unexpressed struggles can be liberating.
- Celebrate — A young pastor thought it would be safe and appreciated to share his victories and achievements. Instead, what he discovered was the criticism of being self-centered and prideful. That confidential person can celebrate and perhaps help the minister learn how it might be possible to talk about personal victories without it sounding like bragging.
Planning is another way a coach to ministers can be especially beneficial. Determining course for ministry and personal life can be beneficial as seen in:
- Short Term Goals – These are plans that need to be addressed now that will help by focusing on what can and needs to be acted upon to get the ball rolling.
- Long Term Goals — Those tasks that are not an immediate possibility and need more time to achieve, or need preparatory steps before being able to realize the end result.
- Personal Goals — Many people do not enjoy having goals hanging over their heads. I have been one of those people. And yet, I’m beginning to see how many times I have had goals in mind, but without planning or without having them written down I tend to flounder and not accomplish all I reasonably could.
Engaging someone with whom to bounce thoughts, ideas and concerns off of can lighten the load and provide direction and motivation to accomplish more in an organized manner.
In the next post, I’m going to address how coaching can be beneficial to the minister personally, and how the church can find it to be advantageous.