How the Art of Delegation Affects Health and Well-Being

How the Art of Delegation Affects Health and Well-Being

This month we’ve been exploring ways to maintain our physical and emotional well-being in 2023. As we close out the month, we turn our focus to what it can look like to live out healthy habits around work rhythms through the art of delegating. 

Our work rhythms become comfortable after a while. Even in the mundane day-to-day tasks that don’t necessarily bring us joy, it’s easy to live in the mindset of, “I’ll just do it. I can do it quicker.” But too often, that mindset leads to more stress and frustration. Why? Because we hold onto tasks that can be given to someone else (who may be able to do it better) in order to focus our attention on the things only we can do–move the vision and mission of our work forward. 

The art of delegation requires some practice, but it’s an important element in keeping our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being in alignment. This applies to everyone–coaches, pastors and business owners all need to delegate some of their responsibilities in order to maintain healthy rhythms of life and not be overwhelmed by the tasks of every day.

If you’re finding that you don’t have the margin you need to move your vision forward, it’s time to explore how you can give away the tasks that are holding you back. I, too, have found myself in a situation where I needed to let certain responsibilities go so that I could move my coaching forward. Instead of building processes and delegating tasks, I had unintentionally allowed the tasks of the day to monopolize my time. Eventually, I found myself in a real bind. It left me near the end of my emotional bandwidth; I was tired, irritable and not enjoying life. Someone pointed the problem out to me and suggested I delegate some of my workload so I could concentrate on doing what only I could do. It was a simple suggestion that was more complicated to execute. 

3 Considerations When Delegating Tasks That are Holding You Back

  1. Pruning – deciding what tasks others can do and then allowing them to take them on 
  2. Releasing Control – delegating means you have to let go and empower others
  3. Grieving – you had a rhythm that worked for you; don’t be surprised when it’s hard to let that go

1. Pruning

Leaders don’t thrive when they are spread too thin, and the mission suffers for it. Warning signs include mental and emotional exhaustion and feeling spiritually dry. Readiness to prune is usually gauged by pain tolerance. When a leader hits a wall then she/he is probably ready to prune. Pruning away the tasks that are holding you back is the road to increased fruitfulness. Here is an exercise to assess what to prune. First, track how you spend your time and identify the top categories that are taking time. Second, ask the following questions:

  1. What can you delegate?
  2. What can you stop doing and no one would notice?
  3. What can you, and only you, do?

2. Releasing Control

There are a lot of motivations that influence a leader to want to control a situation or another person. The reality is that control is actually not an achievable goal. In very few circumstances can a leader control anything. Control is an illusion! And leaders who struggle with control are STRESSED. 

Parents who hover over their kids. Bosses who micromanage employees. Husbands or wives who gaslight their spouse. Coaches who penalize their players unnecessarily. Leaders who over work their team members. Struggling to surrender control is an emotional symptom to a spiritual problem.

Steps to Surrender Control:

1. Awareness
Control often has a firm grip on you before you are even aware of it. There is no recovery from control without an awareness that it is a problem. 

2. Forgiveness
Control is seeped in judgment and is often multifaceted, involving skewed views of yourself, of others, and even of God. To truly surrender control, it may be necessary to do an inventory of judgements you are holding onto and process through asking for, receiving, and maybe even extending forgiveness to relevant parties (including yourself). 

3. Change
Control will continue holding you back unless you change your relationship with it. And change is never easy. It’s best to have a solid delegation plan in place and then contingency plans to help you when control threatens to surface again.

Questions to Help Leaders Surrender Control:

  1. What is causing your stress?
  2. How are you compounding your stress?
  3. What is a more desirable outcome?
  4. What new behaviors can you adopt?
  5. What are some things that you can do to make things right?

3. Grieving

Can you grieve the loss of tasks? Absolutely. Every single change involves loss. Changing habits means losing the comfort of a familiar rhythm. You established that rhythm because it met a need and worked for you for a time. But that rhythm is now holding you back and needs to be changed. Delegating means letting go of processes that served you well and entrusting them to others. It means changing your relationship with processes and with people. That’s a lot of change that requires letting go of what has become comfortable and maybe even important to you. It is almost impossible to move on without processing through these losses.

Processing What is Lost

If you want delegation to stick, it is important to acknowledge your loss. Here are some questions to help:

  1. Which tasks or processes are you feeling uncomfortable delegating?
  2. In addition to the task, what else are you giving up by delegating it?
  3. How has that rhythm served you well in the past?
  4. In what ways is that rhythm holding you back from accomplishing your goals?
  5. How is passing on this task helping in the development of others?

What I’d love for you to take away from this is that delegating is necessary for strong physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It took me some time but once I started giving away tasks to others, I found myself in a much better place. Bottom line – I became more productive doing the things that only I can do, am gifted at, and enjoy doing. 

New Resources

Christian Coaching Essentials

We’re excited to announce the release of our latest book, Christian Coaching Essentials!

In this book you will discover the power of a comprehensive Christian coaching process. With the purchase of the book you also gain access to a self-led online course and resources! More to be shared in the upcoming weeks leading up to the release of the book, Christian Coaching Essentials!

This blog was adapted from “Drop The Tasks That Are Holding You Back
https://christiancoachingtools.com/articles/drop-the-tasks-that-are-holding-you-back/
January 11, 2023

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Establishing and Maintaining Well-being in 2023: Focus on Spiritual Health 

Establishing and Maintaining Well-being in 2023: Focus on Spiritual Health 

Today marks the final blog in our series on establishing and maintaining well-being as we enter the new year. The last two weeks we explored physical and emotional health; today we dive into our spiritual well-being. Of all the areas of personal well-being, our spiritual health can be the most difficult to understand and maintain. There are clear signs we are struggling with our physical and emotional health: our weight goes up, our depression and anxiety kick in, our body tells us when something is off. Spiritual signs of struggle, however, can be harder to detect.

Struggles with Spirituality

As Christians it is common to face struggles with faith. Our spirituality goes through phases, often aligning with the phases of our lives. During difficult times we may go through a period of anger towards God, or doubt our faith. When the world feels overwhelming and dark, we may feel hopeless in our spirits. Most often, we simply feel out of step and distant as we get caught up in our day-to-day lives, or like we have come up against a wall, unsure how to move forward in our faith. 

Here are some common causes of spiritual struggles:

  • Death or pain of a loved one
  • Health, financial, or relationship issues  
  • Major life changes 
  • Feeling bored by life’s routines 
  • Feeling overwhelmed or too busy
  • Comparing our spiritual journey with others 
  • Depression and anxiety

These moments are all difficult, and it is normal–even necessary–for our faith to be challenged by life’s trials. These difficulties provide us opportunities to grow closer to God and become aware of how the Holy Spirit works through us and around us. 

Here are some ways to reinvigorate your spiritual health: 

  • Make time daily for quiet reflection 
  • Read and meditate on Scripture 
  • Read new books, listen to podcasts or watch movies that will prompt new spiritual questions and probe your thinking
  • Join a small group
  • Make intentional time to help those around you
  • Find a spiritual director to talk through your struggles 
  • Confide in friends, family, and most importantly, the Lord

One of the best decisions I made in 2021 was to find a spiritual director to help me process the issues of the day. I did this through 2022 and now, in 2023, I am engaging in the Ignatian Exercises, meeting weekly with my spiritual director to process issues that the Lord has brought to my attention. The encouragement I want to give to you about your spiritual development is this: begin where you are! 

I am a big advocate for the Stop-Challenge-Choose tool, a very simple tool that was introduced by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, Co-Founder of OptaVia. Stop-Challenge-Choose allows us to reflect on specific actions and habits in our lives and consider how we can adapt for the better.

STOP: What do you need to stop doing?

CHALLENGE: What specific actions can you take to achieve different results?

CHOOSE: What new behavior, technique, or mindset changes will you adopt immediately?

Used with permission from Dr. A’s Habits of Health (pgs.133-137) by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen

It is important to remember that well-being is holistic; all areas of health affect all other areas of health. If your mental health is suffering and you are feeling depressed or anxious, those feelings can distract and distance us from the Lord and impact our spiritual well-being. Likewise, if you are in poor physical health, it can have a significant impact on your mental health. Taking care of yourself is a way to honor the Lord. 

Reflection Questions: 

  • Which moments have been difficult for your faith in this last year?
  • Who or what helped you through these moments? 
  • When were the moments you felt closest to God this year? 
  • What sparked these moments? 
  • What is your spiritual routine (prayer? Readings? Reflections?) 
  • What action can you take to grow spiritually this upcoming year?

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Establishing and Maintaining Well-being in 2023: Focus on Emotional Health 

Establishing and Maintaining Well-being in 2023: Focus on Emotional Health 

Today we turn toward emotional health in our series on establishing and maintaining health in the near year. Last week, we looked at the importance of our physical health and maintaining our physical well-being. Now, we turn inward. 

The last few years have been hard. Pandemics, politics, isolation, anxiety, depression, global crises. Many of us are still feeling some damage to our mental health, and the outcome can be felt in just about every area of our lives.

Here are some common signs that your mental health is not at its best:

  • Loss of sleep – Whether you have trouble falling asleep, waking in the night or waking too early, losing sleep is one of the most common signs of depression and anxiety.
  • Lack of motivation – You are less productive, have trouble concentrating and are reluctant to begin or finish tasks you know you need to do.
  • Irritation – You are more irritable with the people around you. Things that wouldn’t ordinarily have bothered you are now frustrating you, maybe even in the form of outbursts or snapping at others.
  • Loss of joy – things that once made you happy, like time with friends or a peaceful walk, no longer bring you joy. 
  • Low energy – You are often tired and feel sluggish.
  • Change in appetite/weight – You are eating more or less than normal and gaining or losing weight in a short amount of time.
  • Withdrawing – You don’t want to see friends, you don’t want to talk to your family, you have trouble asking for help.

Last year at this same time, I shared one of my favorite quotes on mental health along with these three observations: 

“Mismanaged emotions not only determine whether you will become sick but also whether you will be happy, fulfilled, and successful in your life”

Hopelessness And Progression Of Heart Disease, Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis Vascular Biology

Everson, S A. Kaplan, G A. Goldberg. D E. Salon,R. 17, (8) pages 1490-1495. 

Three Observations on Mental Agility

  1. What the authors of the above quote are not saying: if you manage your emotions well you will live a healthy, happy, fulfilling and successful life.  We all know people who do all the right things to manage their emotional health yet suffer the cruelest complexities of life. Yet there are things within our control that, if managed well, can mitigate the side effects that lead to some physical ailments. The things that are outside of our control–like DNA, pre-existing conditions, or certain pre-dispositions–we have to navigate as they come.
  2. Happiness is not the same as joyfulness! Happiness is a temporary state.  Joy comes from the ongoing, internal work of the Holy Spirit. You might not be happy at the moment–in fact, you might be suffering, grieving or feeling downright ornery–but you can maintain your joy in the experiential knowledge that God is always at work, knowing He can sustain you through the most difficult life and ministry challenges.
  3. Fulfillment and success are not the best gauge of well-managed emotions! Most–if not all–leaders who have led their churches well through difficult times have at some point questioned their judgment. This has led some leaders to new heights and others to greater depths than they have known before. Leading in this season is a wild roller coaster ride and not for the faint of heart.

Boosting Mental Health

Because mental well-being is so intrinsically linked to both physical and spiritual health, one way to boost mental health is to make sure you are caring for your body and soul well. If you take a look at the common symptoms above, you can see that many are related to physical health (low energy, appetite and weight changes, loss of sleep). Mental health is also connected to your spiritual health. Connecting with a deeper meaning can reinvigorate joy and motivation. 

Here are some ways that you might boost your mental health: 

  • Exercise – Cardio is proven to lessen depression and anxiety. Working out actually gives us more energy and helps us regulate our sleep. 
  • Eating well – trade the chips and ice cream for veggies and hummus (or another healthy snack that you enjoy). Make sure you are getting proper nutrition- it will give you energy and help you focus!
  • Prayer and reflection – taking quiet time to talk to God and share your feelings can be a great release and give you time to think about the underlying reasons for how you’re feeling.
  • Talk to friends and family –  share how you are feeling and why. It will help those around you be patient and compassionate. 
  • Ask for help – finding a counselor to help you explore and resolve some feelings can help immensely. They can provide wisdom and a perspective that we cannot see for ourselves.

7 questions to help you grow your mental agility

  1. What insights about your mental agility can you glean as you have led over the past 12 months?
  2. How can you consolidate those into new behaviors to manage your emotions?
  3. Reflect on a real situation and consider how you can apply that learning in real-time?
  4. What difference will it make if you do this well?
  5. Is the benefit worth the effort?
  6. What will you do to move the learning from a theory to a practice?
  7. After you have taken a step of action, what new insight(s) do you have?

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Establishing and Maintaining Well-being in 2023: Focus on Physical Health

Establishing and Maintaining Well-being in 2023: Focus on Physical Health

Together, we have journeyed through some of the strangest and most stressful years many of us have ever known, and while the year of 2022 brought back some semblance of “normal”, the world is still recovering from years of anxiety, sickness and division. One thing is for sure: our emotional, physical and spiritual health has been on a roller coaster ride. In the coming weeks, as we enter into a new year, I want to take some time to reflect on our well being, considering what 2023 may bring, and how we can support our emotional, physical and spiritual agility in the year to come. 

We are beginning this series on health in 2023 by focusing on maintaining and building physical health. The new year is always a good time to reflect and set some (realistic and achievable) goals. Also, after a busy month full of family gatherings, holiday parties and Christmas ham and eggnog, we might be feeling a little sluggish. 

Why do we struggle with maintaining physical health? 

Some people are really good at keeping commitments to themselves in this arena. Others struggle. In fact, over 70% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, with a population obesity rate of nearly 40 percent. Last year, I compiled a list of some of the reasons people struggle to prioritize their physical health:

  • Laziness
  • Negative experiences
  • Accountability
  • Pre-existing conditions 
  • Weather
  • Motivation
  • Accessibility
  • Vision

Why is physical health important? 

The advantages of being healthy from a purely physical standpoint are obvious: a healthy body lives longer, feels better and is capable of much more than a body that is not being cared for. A healthy body decreases the risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and even some forms of cancer. 

However, the benefits of physical health extend to all areas of well-being:

Financial: Many of us have faced medical bills at some point in our lives, and we all know how shockingly expensive a trip to our physician can be. Health and Wellness Coach, Gina Reinecke, shares this statistic: “The average annual medical costs for those with obesity are over $1,400 higher compared to people in a normal weight range.”

Mental: Good physical health helps us to be more alert and less weary throughout our day. Our brain relies on healthy foods to stay sharp. 

Emotional: Exercise is a great natural way to combat stress, depression and anxiety. Building routines involving movement will alleviate more emotional negativity than you realize. 

Spiritual: God wants us to be the best versions of ourselves, and this includes our physical health. We become better friends, partners, co-workers and people in general when we are happy and healthy. It is also easier to focus on God’s mission for us when we are feeling our best. 

This is not to say we all need to become bodybuilders or runway models to experience well-rounded health, nor is it to shame anyone for skipping the gym or helping themselves to an extra slice of cake. Feeling good inside and out can help us live the lives that God wants for us. 

Find ways to help you maintain and prioritize health:

  • Find activities you enjoy
  • Take baby steps–like walking your block–and then increase gradually over time
  • Take a health assessment with a health coach
  • Find a buddy to do activities you both love to do together
  • Remove one thing in your diet you are confident is causing you trouble

I am also a big advocate for the Stop-Challenge-Choose tool. This is a very simple tool that was introduced by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, Co-Founder of OptaVia. This allows us to reflect on specific actions and habits in our lives and consider how we can change for the better: 

STOP: What do you need to stop doing?

CHALLENGE: What specific actions can you take to achieve different results?

CHOOSE: What new behavior, technique, or mindset changes will you adopt immediately?

Used with permission from Dr. A’s Habits of Health (pgs.133-137) by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen

7 coaching questions to help guide a physical health journey:

It’s one thing to tell a person what they need to do–it’s quite another to help them discover it for themselves. Here are some coaching questions that can help:

  1. Can you describe “why” it is important for you to focus on your physical health? Your answer(s) might be:
    • play with your grandchildren
    • go on a hike
    • outlive a parent that died prematurely
  2. In what ways does your “why” compel you?
  3. What does success in your health look like?
  4. Identify your greatest challenges?
  5. What changes do you need to make in order to reach your goal?
  6. Who do you know that can help you on your journey?
  7. What is one simple thing you can do that will help you get started?

Do you have a goal related to your physical health in 2023? I would love to know what has worked for you in the past or what you may be doing differently this year!

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Establishing and Maintaining Well Being: Creating Healthy Habits in 2023

Establishing and Maintaining Well Being: Creating Healthy Habits in 2023

When it comes to health, we all face the tension between our ideal lives and our reality. Our ideal lives would allow room for the activities that make optimum well being possible. The pressures of life require that we make choices which challenge our resolve to make health a priority in 2023.
  • How is your health today compared to this time last year?
  • Did your plans get derailed (again!) by the demands of life and ministry?
  • Do you feel empowered or defeated, proud or ashamed of the state of your health?
  • Do you have a vague sense of what you wish to change, or do you have a solid plan in place for your physical, mental, and spiritual well being in 2022?

Putting a microscope to our own habits isn’t always an easy or comfortable task. But doing it in a safe space with other sojourners can take the edge off (and take us off the edge!). Creating a plan is the first order of business!

Here’s what one pastor recently shared about his health journey:

“If I am going to take care of people, the only way I can do that is if I am taking care of myself. Too many times pastors are at the beck and call of staff, congregants, and anyone who has a need, putting our own well being on the back burner.

When I began to give attention to my health I had so much more energy, my sleep was better, I was able to be more alert and present with people everyday.  

It took me from a place of feeling mentally oppressed, to feeling like I could make a difference in people’s lives.”  

Here are a few suggestions to create your own 2023 health plan:

  • Discover your “why.” Why do you even care to be healthy? What difference will it make to the quality of your life and ministry? What has God called you to, and how can you powerfully step into that with your mind, body, soul and strength?
  • Evaluate your current reality and discover some simple approaches to shore up areas that are holding you back and draining your energy.  If you would like to take a brief assessment and schedule a free follow-up conversation with my wife Gina Reinecke, certified health coach, you can contact her at ginareinecke@gmail.com.
  • Learn basic strategies to upgrade your physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. There is ample information available at our fingertips via a quick search on the internet. Ultimately, this is a great way to kick off 2023!

Throughout the month of January, I invite you to do a thorough assessment of your physical, emotional, and spiritual goals so that you can make the most out of 2023.

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New Years Greetings from InFocus!

New Years Greetings from InFocus!

We are soon going to be ringing in the new year. Typically, this time is filled with sharing goals, hopes, dreams, and wishes. This week, let’s take time to reflect on all God has done in and through us this past year. What a blessing it is to be His children and his vessels to those around us!

“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.”

Psalm 98:1 (NIV)

As we enter into 2023, we pray that you are reminded of all God has done this last year and is still yet to do in this new year! Let’s welcome 2023 by putting Christ in the center of our celebration.

To all of you, we wish a very Happy New Year!


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Christmas Greetings from InFocus!

Christmas Greetings from InFocus!

We at InFocus hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” // Luke 2:10-11 (NIV)

“I bring you good news.” Good news, indeed. 

Jesus Christ, born unto us, to be our greatest joy! This is the true joy of Christmas, that none should be lost but all should hear the good news of Jesus Christ. As we continue through this Christmas season and enter into the new year, may this verse serve as a reminder of the good news we have and the good news we are all called to share.

We are so thankful for you, and we pray over you and your families this Christmas. May you experience the true joy and peace that comes from the good news of Jesus!

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What I Learned about Coaching This Year

What I Learned about Coaching This Year

If the last few years have taught you anything, it’s that adaptation is necessary and good. Finding the best ways to support people and teams in their personal and ministry development is an ongoing, life-long process.

What worked last year might not work this year. And things that you have used in the past can improve through practice and repetition. Simple things like reading books, taking an assessment or participating in a cohort are great ways to improve.

Even as a Master Coach, my goal is to get better and better. Here are 10 things I’ve gleaned from my experience that have helped me improve my coaching.

10 Things I learned this year that have helped me get better as a coach:

1. Mirror Investment

Don’t desire something for someone more than they desire it for themselves. This is a lesson that will be learned over and over again. It’s easy to get in the way of ourselves and put our expertise ahead of our clients’ needs. It goes back to the principle that your client must want whatever “it” is bad enough that they are willing to take responsibility for it.

2. The Holy Spirit wants in

The power of “holding space” for the Holy Spirit to speak, nudge, and inspire can’t be underestimated. When appropriate, I integrate the practice of “holding space” into my coaching appointments. When I introduce the concept to clients, I communicate the exercise with a statement like, “This is a practice I’m learning in a cohort on spiritual formation and direction; would you join me in this?”  It has been met with a positive, open response and the result has been refreshing and impactful.

3. Trigger warning

It is so important to be aware of your triggers. I was really caught off guard this year when I was discussing the launch timeline for a new work with a church planter. He mentioned two things that “triggered” an emotional response from me. The two issues had to do with disciple-making communities, and they were hitting against a core value of mine that triggered an emotional response. I can’t remember having such a strong response in my 35+ years of coaching. It certainly did not come off the way I would normally respond; I reacted way too passionately. It reminded me of the importance of knowing my values, what triggers me, and the importance of responding appropriately.

4. Quality tech 

A shift has occurred in video conferencing. An attractive background, ring light, quality camera, and a higher grade microphone are becoming the norm. The investment in a couple of key components will improve the quality of your video calls, moving them from good to great! The small investment you make in each of these is worth the cost. Here are four ideas to consider:

5. Make the ask

There is a lot that goes into the work of creating a coaching ministry or practice. You can have a really great product. You can be a very skilled coach. You can be fully trained and credentialed. In fact, you can have an amazing marketing funnel (checkout my favorite CRM – Less Annoying). But if you can’t make the ask, you will never be able to build a coaching ministry or practice.

6. Stay ready to grow

Every single coach has room to grow. It’s important to maintain a habit of sharpening your coaching skills. Be creative and use opportunities that feel most natural and conducive to practice your coaching skills. It may be while leading a small group or ministry team, or dealing with family members in important conversations. Or how about when you are getting to know someone for the first time – make it about them and not about you!

7. Be generous

It feels amazing to receive–pay it forward and give back! When you know people that could benefit from an introduction to someone that can help, make the introduction. If you have resources, share them. If you are able to give of your resources–time, money or materials–give generously. One way I am doing this is serving in a ministry that is training “coaches” to empower people experiencing homelessness to get off the street and move into self-sufficiency.  It’s very difficult and hard work, but it’s a place where coaching allows me to pay it forward.

8. Develop your network

I’ve been working with learning communities for a couple of decades but the last year has reminded me of the joy I have in creating peer learning environments in cohorts. Whether it is developing disciples, leaders, or coaches, the principles of a great learning community are the same: trust, vulnerability, high-quality content and accountability, among other things. The mutual learning and community are huge benefits of these learning environments and set them apart from other ways of training leaders. 

9. Connect to the “Why”

Intrinsic motivation fuels action. My wife Gina is a health coach. She literally asks her clients the “Why?” question seven times before she is confident that the client gets to the root and declares their real reason to get healthy. That is about 6 times more than I normally ask! But when I’ve gone through the slow and sometimes tedious process of going deeper, the real reason people want to change usually finds its way to the surface.

10. Take care of yourself

I mean that in every dimension of your life, especially emotionally and spiritually. It is no wonder we are confronted with a worldwide mental health crisis. I’m not certain we can truly understand the wide range and long-term aspects of the pandemic on the emotional and spiritual well being of the world’s population. But from personal experience–it was hard! I’ve adopted a more rigorous habit of doing three things first thing in the morning: reading through the Bible (using the Bible in One Year Express app with Nicky Gumble from Alpha), a gratitude list, and contemplative prayer. For the latter two, I set a 10-minute timer because it helps me stay focused. These three things have helped me steady the ship when the seas of life are turbulent.

 

What are some things you’ve learned this year to improve your coaching?

Remember to consider the next Coach Excellence Cohort in January 2023.

 

 

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Blessed are the Peace Makers

Blessed are the Peace Makers

The holiday season is upon us, and family gatherings are about to begin! The anticipation of family gatherings may provoke mixed emotions; you may be excited to see loved ones, reminded of the loved ones that have passed that will be absent this year, or dreading unavoidably difficult conversations. Discussions about contentious political topics often sour a previously joyful gathering. One of your family members may interrupt the conversation by baiting others to provide their opinion on who they voted for in the midterm election or a recent government ruling. Unfortunately, these conversations can quickly evolve into debates where each person tries to convince others that their political opinions are superior and worthy of wholeheartedly embracing. Tragically, political discord can negatively impact our relationships.

Porch Talks is an organization that seeks to shift political conversations with loved ones from becoming a harmful debate to eliciting empathy and understanding. Central to Porch Talks is the dialogue toolkit that guides participants as they embark on the journey to mend relationships that have been damaged by divisive politics. Through independent reflection and dialogue, the toolkit helps participants explore how their personal experiences have shaped their views.

The current political climate has forced Americans to align their views with those that resemble the Republican or Democratic party based on divisive social opinions on race, sexual orientation and gender identity issues, to name a few. However, Porch Talks believes that there is great value in allowing people to add nuance to their political views. When nuance is allowed, similarity and connection can be realized.

What the toolkit is not:

The toolkit is not a resource to help you convince others that your perspective is correct or to solve a familial conflict. Instead, when trusted, the toolkit will ensure that each individual feels heard.

Application during the holidays: 

Although it may not be possible or practical to dedicate a couple of hours to the toolkit during your holiday gatherings, strategies embedded throughout the toolkit will prove helpful to:

  1. Encourage your family members to tell a story about how their personal experiences and upbringing have shaped their beliefs. Potential questions that can encourage your loved ones to tell their story include:
    • When you were growing up, how did this particular issue impact you?
    • What was your first experience with this topic?
    • How did your family talk about this issue when you were a child?
  2. Ask your loved one about how their opinion on the particular topic has benefited or hurt them.
    • What is a specific instance in which you have benefited or been hurt by the opinion you hold?
    • What benefit has your perspective brought you?
  3. Acknowledge their opinion and ask them to tell you more. To genuinely acknowledge the opinion of your family members, you must be actively listening and asking open-ended questions motivated by a desire to understand their story. You can practice active listening by:
    • Reflecting and summarizing what you heard them say by using their own words. This can be done by saying “what I hear you saying is…”
    • Respectfully communicate with your body language.

As a church leader, the toolkit can help in a variety of ways (for instance, in a difficult conversation with staff or congregational members). Imagine navigating a conversation where you and your elder have divergent views of the role of women in ministry. Laying a good foundation, embracing the non-negotiables of your relationship and then applying good listening skills with the goal of understanding before being understood make for a more productive dialogue. What difference would this make in this conversation? What difference will this make in the relationships with your team? What difference could this make within your congregation and the community it serves to become known as a community of peace?

My hope is that this holiday season allows you to hear the stories of your family members, learn something new, and begin mending broken relationships through understanding and respect.

Thanks to Zoe Reinecke and her contribution to this blog. To read more about Zoe and the Porch Talks team – CLICK HERE.

Training Small Group Leaders

Training Small Group Leaders

The health of any group is largely determined by the leader: the practices they embody, their EQ, and their competencies. All will deeply affect the group they are leading. So when it comes to training small group leaders, it is important to be clear what the expectation is and repeat it often.

When training small group leaders, there are two methods I often use and fondly refer to as “Show-How” training and “Just-in-Time training.

“Show-How” Training

I asked all of our small group leaders at New Song to nurture an apprentice to reproduce a new small group. The best way to do this is through modeling, or a “Show-How” training process. It centers around a small group leader, coach, or trainer modeling behaviors and skills using the following process:

  • You do it, the apprentice watches
  • You and the apprentice do it together
  • The apprentice does it while you watch
  • The apprentice does it alone
  • The apprentice shows someone else how to do it

Just-in-Time” Training

The most desirable time to train a small group leader is on the job. When coached properly, the small group leader will develop their independence and confidence as they lead. The benefits of this method are many: we often learn best in those timely and important moments. It pushes an apprentice to jump into the deep end when he or she may not feel completely ready–but that’s when we learn most. This kind of learning is situational, apprentice-focused, and outcome-driven.

Conversely, “Just-in-Case” training is a more classical, structured method. It is comparable to what most seminary students experience. There is a clear beginning and end point. A course to follow. And content is delivered, whether it is applicable to the situation at hand or not.

Ultimately, when training small group leaders, these methods all come into play. We have to orient leaders to the philosophy of the small groups, the agendas, and the tools at their disposal. But, still, the best way to empower leaders is through a coaching process.

Here are a few helpful questions to reflect on while planning your training for small group leaders:

  1. What skills do your small group leader require?
  2. What resources do leaders have access to?
  3. Who could small group leaders ask to help them find resources they don’t already have?
  4. How have I used the “Show-How” method in the past?
  5. How have I used the “Just-in-Time” method in the past?
  6. In what ways might I need to adjust my approach?
  7. What specific ways should I ask God to help me?

We’re excited to announce the release of the Christian Coaching Essentials book and cohort. One of the benefits of using this book for your development is a self-led, independent study that helps you further reflect, digest, and apply a Christ-focused process into your coaching. Moreover, you can train other leaders on your team or in your network to embrace a comprehensive coaching process that is firmly anchored in Christ.

 

Photo by Medienstürmer on Unsplash