Missional Values ask the question: Why do you love God, love your neighbor and make disciples?
Have you ever been at work, or at church, or chatting with a friend and you realize that you just said or did something differently than you would do if you were someplace else? Maybe you realized that you truly value honest relationships in your personal life, but when you’re at work, you can’t seem to be able to share important truths about yourself. Maybe you are an incredibly invested parent, but you can’t seem to work up that enthusiasm in church. It can look a million different ways.
Our friend and partner on the Discipleship Guides and Quiz, Glenn Spyksma, shares his experience with incongruent values.
I went through this realization myself not too long ago. One of my values is “people development”, or wanting to see people become all that God intends for them to be. I felt like I was living this out at work but at church, I struggled to help people in this way. It wasn’t that things were different at work and church…my values were different. My values were in conflict with each other and I realized that I would find myself having to change my identity depending on the situation. This inspired me to really consider what my truest and deepest values were.
I began by looking back on my life and considering consistent themes (positive and negative). I thought about influential people in my life, circumstances that shaped me, events that encouraged new ways of thinking and behaving. Next, I identified lessons learned.
At work, my value of people development was played out through training classes, mentoring, coaching, and creating a freedom for upward mobility driven by personal accomplishment. But at church I struggled to find a way to help people. It was frustrating. I felt like I was able to live out my value of “people development” at work but not in my church. The incongruency was disorienting; I was being authentic to who God created me to be at work, but not at church. It wasn’t that things were different at work and church…my values were different. I was not being true to myself. Because my values were in conflict with each other, I would find myself having to change my identity depending on the situation. I wanted to discover my life values; my true and deepest values, and then align them with my behavior in everything I did. But where did I begin?
Self evaluation can be difficult. If you find yourself, like me, weighing what you truly value, start with your most important, clear behaviors. For me that came down to love God, love others, and make disciples.
Do you also feel the need to clarify your values? Follow in Glenn’s steps:
- Begin by looking back at your life to identify themes, influential people, circumstances that shaped you, or events that encouraged new ways of thinking and behaving.
- Identify lessons learned.
- Identify values that emerge from these lessons.
- Now take 5 minutes and go back through and reexamine what your values are. Modify your list as necessary.
- Create three columns by each of your values. Maybe start with the three you see as most important to you. At the top of each column write Church, Work, Home, Sports, or whatever three primary spaces you occupy. Begin to examine how you live out each value in the three areas. This is only for you, so be truthful!
Coaching questions to process with you client to clarify Missional Values:
- What did you observe?
- How can you change your behaviors to be consistent with your highest values in all areas of life?
- Tomorrow, as you go about your day, be especially mindful of your list of values…you might be surprised at how it inspires your day and makes you feel more at peace with yourself.
About Glenn: Glenn is a semi-retired Operations Executive formerly with The Wine Group. He has also worked with colleagues in the operations and engineering arena developing people and systems for large brands like Campbell Soup and Chef Boyardee among others. Glenn has always had one foot in the church and one foot in the marketplace. He is an avid church-goer and involved in church leadership.
Find out what is keeping you from flourishing as a disciple maker using a coach approach and what is missing in the kind of support those you are coaching need on their discipleship journey.
DISCIPLE COACH QUIZ
This article was first published in July 2021. It has since been revised.
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Can I coach my spouse?
Unless you are both oriented around the paradigm of coaching, I would not advise it. It can be helpful and powerful in those moments when you or your spouse would appreciate a non-judgemental, non-directive, indifferent voice in their life.
When to coach in your marriage:
- When both you and your spouse are aware of the need
- When you have been asked by your spouse OR when you’ve asked your spouse if they could benefit from and agree to be coached
- When the situation warrants it (e.g. conflict, decision-making or uncertainty, and the above criteria are understood)
My wife, Gina, is also a coach. She and I have learned to ask one another to be coached and for permission to coach the other. In our three decades of marriage, this has worked well for us. However, there are times when coaching in marriage is not advised.
When not to coach in your marriage:
- When you have an agenda to get across
- When you are angry or upset
- When the situation has reached an emotional peak
We have also found that preventive care will do wonders when we find ourselves in a heated conversation–or one that is delicious with nuance!
Early in our marriage we attended a communication workshop led by Dr. Dallas Demmit. He actually contributed to our coaching research and coined the term “Discovery Listening”. In that workshop, Dallas asked each couple to sit back-to-back. One spouse would share a situation while the other listened and summarized. Dallas sat off to the side with a clicker in his hand and made an obnoxious “click” each time I misinterpreted what Gina was saying. “Click” “click” ”click”! It was a painful, albeit helpful, exercise.
Listening and summarizing are two of the most important skills in coaching. If you listen well, and then summarize back to your spouse what you are hearing without putting your own interpretation on it, you’re halfway there. Yet, it’s surprisingly difficult.
First, let’s talk about listening. Listening means that you, as the coach, need to focus all your energy and attention on your spouse. No distractions, no mind wandering, no jumping to solutions. It means patiently and carefully listening without assuming you know where your spouse is coming from. It means asking follow-up questions to clarify and unpack what they are thinking. One of the most powerful questions you can ask is quite simple: “What else?” Keep asking that until your spouse runs out of things to say.
Then, summarize back what you are hearing to make sure you got it right. This is much harder than it sounds. It’s incredibly easy as a coach to subtly put your own interpretation on what you hear from your spouse or highlight what you may consider flaws in their thinking. At that point, you leave the role of coach and enter the role of expert or consultant. Summarizing becomes steering. Even very experienced coaches can fall into interpreting rather than simply reflecting what is being said.
Here are some exercises for growing in the skill of summarizing:
- Marriage provides fertile ground for practicing listening and summarizing. Ask your significant other or a close friend to share about a significant issue in your relationship while you just listen and summarize. After you summarize, ask, “Is that an accurate reflection of what you are saying?” A response that starts with, “Kind of,” or “Yes, but,” isn’t good enough. Likely, you’ll have to try it several times before the other person says, “Yes, that’s right. That’s what I am saying.”
- In your next conversation with your spouse, try using these phrases to summarize what you are hearing:
- So, what I hear you saying is…
- So, your experience has been…
- So, I gather that…
- What do you mean by…?
- Help your spouse create a metaphor for their situation or experience. For example, “Describe your challenge in terms of (weather, topography, traffic, a building, color, art, music, etc.).” One dentist described the need for pulling a baby tooth: “the adult teeth under the gums need to merge traffic from three lanes into two.” Ask your spouse to explain the metaphor and why they chose it.
- Help your spouse unpack. Unpacking is another listening tool you can use throughout a coaching conversation. Rather than stopping with what your spouse has said, try to take it a step further. Ask:
- What else?
- Say more about that.
- Help me understand that a bit more.
These are all helpful to exercises to build your listening and summarizing skills in marriage. One last note: make sure you and your spouse are both familiar with the coach approach before you launch into any of these exercises. In fact, over the years, we have been very clear when we’ve wanted the other person to simply listen. It is helpful to set some ground rules to frame the conversation so that both of you are on the same page (e.g. “I would appreciate it if you would listen for the next 15 minutes”).
What about you? How have you found coaching in your marriage to be helpful or challenging?
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If you are feeling a bit out of step with your faith, you aren’t alone. We are in a space where the effects of the events from the last couple of years are lingering in our everyday lives, including our faith and our spiritual well being.
A shadow of spiritual doldrums rolled in during the pandemic and seems to have hung around. Headlines crowded with war, suffering, shortages, rising interest and prices…well, it piles on. It’s as if we are in an extended state of Spiritual June Gloom.
“The gap created by the dissolution of the old and the yet-to-emerge new is what we are calling liminal space. It is a place of disequilibrium. Visually, it can be pictured at the moment when a trapeze performer lets go of one bar and waits in midair to connect with another.”
“…liminality is like hanging in midair until it becomes clear to us what we are to grab. A place where we are caught betwixt and between, liminal space is psychologically and spiritually significant because it is where real transformation can take place.”
The Discerning Heart
The Spiritual In-Between
In my tradition, and perhaps yours, the idea of liminal space was never explained nor even mentioned. However, I believe most people will experience this at some point in their lives.
It often becomes evident when a new phase of life begins: graduations, marriage, children, death of a loved one, career or vocational changes, etc. For me, it has been the convergence of multiple events occurring at the same time: an empty nest, a relationship with a spiritual director, and an unanticipated home improvement project. It has been quite the adjustment moving into this new phase.
If you are familiar with Bobby Clinton’s work and the Leadership Timeline, one of his theories is that few leaders finish well. And I think I understand that now better than ever. Stuff happens!
There Are Stages of Faith
Based on my limited understanding of Spiritual Direction and my 30+ years experience in coaching, the primary difference between coaching and spiritual direction is that spiritual direction seeks to help the directee discover new insights about God, about themselves (the directee), and situations for which the directee is seeking guidance.
Coaching is about discerning those insights through the Holy Spirit and taking action or embracing a new mindset.
Functionally, the two disciplines bleed into each other, but the primary distinguishing factor of coaching is to help leaders take action.
What is the first step in coaching someone in their spiritual formation?
If you are using a coach approach with someone in their spiritual formation, it is helpful to have a framework that illustrates the different phases of development. Many, many people teach and write on this topic, but an excellent read on the phases of development is The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich. This framework delves into the intricacies of each phase and provides helpful insights around the challenges and strengths of development.
Stages of development in spiritual formation
Different authors might use different terms, but the concepts are the same. Here are the six stages of faith:
Most Christians are familiar with Stage 2, Discipleship (Learning) and Stage 3, The Active Life (Serving). However, there are four more stages of development!
What separates stage 3 from 4 is “THE WALL”. THE WALL is where the disequilibrium of liminal space is most pronounced. This is one place where a coach (or spiritual director) can be most helpful.
Tips to coach people in their spiritual formation
- Be settled in your own soul
- Create a quiet, uncluttered environment
- Adopt a non-judgemental attitude
- Take on a posture of indifference
- Be compassionate
- Use listening and silence as an opportunity to allow the other person to process
- Ask powerful questions to help the other person reflect deeply
These 7 tips can be applied to coaching in general. Speaking from personal experience, I believe this to be even more critical in coaching for spiritual formation.
Are you hitting THE WALL?
As I reflect on my own journey, it has been life-giving to have a spiritual director during this season. In reality, I do not believe I could have navigated this season well without his help. Without another person to help me process and reflect on the work of God in my life, I would have floundered. One insight he has shared with me is that very few make it through THE WALL. Clinton’s research supports this idea and speculates that only about 30% finish well!
Finishing Spiritually Well
Here are some closing thoughts from Clinton to encourage you and those you coach to finish well!
- Maintain a personal vibrant relationship with God right up to the end.
- Maintain a learning posture and learn from various kinds of sources—life especially.
- Manifest Christ-likeness in character as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
- Live out Truth in your life so that the convictions and promises of God are seen to be authentic.
- Leave behind one or more ultimate contributions.
- Walk with a growing awareness of a sense of destiny and see some–or all–of it fulfilled.
May it be said of you and those you coach through their spiritual formation.
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What are the qualities of a good team leader?
- A good sense of who they are/who they aren’t.
- They understand their team members’ strengths & liabilities.
- They know how to give positive & negative feedback.
- They can articulate core values.
- They can communicate a compelling vision.
I’ve had a number of conversations lately with church planters. One key area for effective leadership is self-awareness and as I’ve listened, it has been fascinating to hear each describe their strengths and weaknesses. One in particular stands out: he shared that the three things he does well are preaching, one-to-one interaction, and recruiting people to a vision. Based on what I’ve heard him say, he not only has a pretty good grasp on what he does well, but he has also inferred that there are lots of areas where he lacks certain skills and abilities. It was refreshing to hear someone who is clear on what he does well and where he needs help!
Next I asked him to share his vision. His vision was clear, articulate, and thoughtful: to worship corporately with excellence in a manner that invites the Holy Spirit to minister in such a way that will not turn people unfamiliar with the church and faith away; have at least a couple of missional communities in each home; and development of missional leaders and a robust leadership pipeline.
It was not a canned spiel; it came across as if he had intellectually, emotionally, and prayerfully wrestled with God’s calling. What impressed me was that he understood this vision would take time and has made a long-term commitment to live in the community where God has called him, his wife, and his family.
Leadership is both an innate and a learned skill.
The planter shared how hard he works at his communication–and it shows! When I asked him about the launch of their missional communities, he had a strategy to roll them out once they establish some other key ministries so the core group isn’t burned out. The goal of his leadership pipeline is to start new ministries AND be able to generously give away leadership to other new churches in need.
Having a clear sense of who you are is a critical component of leadership.
I’ve lived by this motto that my mom used to share with me and my three siblings as we left for school on most days: “Remember who you are…and who you represent.” This is a good reminder that knowing oneself is a good first step to understanding what God has called us to do.
Here is a very helpful resource to further understand your leadership strengths called the Leadership Effectiveness Profile.
I have found that this tool is a helpful step in gaining self-awareness. Although there are different views about what constitutes leadership excellence, it is possible to distill the key themes or broad categories from which most good leaders will draw to a greater or lesser extent. In total, eight categories are identified, and these are:
- Emotional intelligence
- Contextual thinking
- Directional clarity
- Creative assimilation
- Change orchestration
- People enablement
- Reciprocal communication
- Driving persistence
I find the categories to sound a bit technical, but as I’ve studied each, it is clear to understand. This would be a really helpful exercise if you are seeking a baseline for your leadership or for the leadership of those you are developing.
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