On this spiritual journey of Tending Our Soil (TOS), we have “the opportunity to reconnect with God’s dream for us. We hope to find that our congregations bear great gifts of Jesus’ love to the world.” This theme of the inaugural sermon by the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers resonated with me during the kick-off of the first Learning Lab.
Initially, I did not have a complete sense of how extensive this project was or what a pivotal role coaching could be to the effort’s success. Coaching, however, has provided me with a new skill set for working with leadership teams consisting of one clergy and lay leader per church. On coaching calls, we discuss the challenges and opportunities for building a healthy, spiritual, and vibrant church post-pandemic. These discussions are critical as we look at the current health of our Episcopal churches and the role that church leadership plays.
Each point on the lifecycle for churches comes with challenges. Churches seeking to relaunch face challenges of whether they are up to the task and what to do first. In comparison, churches at the crest of the cycle are challenged with thriving and moving forward. Churches with aging populations and financial resources have the challenge of redefining their mission and themselves amid changing demographics and absent young families.
Each leadership team has different stages of readiness and distinct personalities, but they all share this: They are creative, resourceful, and whole. These leaders are experts in their own lives, capable of walking with the Holy Spirit and their coach to achieve amazing things. One team logs on ready and eager to do the work. They are focused on meeting their commitments and enjoy “big challenges” and probing questions that test their thinking. They are forthright in their worries about whether they and their congregations are up to the task. We have created a safe space where these challenges and fears can be surfaced and examined without fear or judgment. They recognize that they are on a spiritual journey within a “post quarantine church.” In their own words, they are approaching this with “humble and hopeful hearts.”
Another leadership team is working to integrate the TOS Unstuck Survey and Readiness360 Results within the workings of daily church life. They have experience with both coaching and church planting. Their prayer is that God will help them prepare their congregations to be open-minded and willing to go beyond what has been, to establish new traditions that include diverse millennial families and senior leadership alike.
Other leadership teams are hopeful as they begin to work with their congregational TOS team to dig into the data to identify levers to inform and guide their transformation. They are excited about the congregational story to explore their legacy to date and face forward to examine its future legacy.
The coaches have been called “excavators of brilliance in the TOS initiative.” The brilliance resides within our coaching clients. I look forward to the discoveries that will unfold over the next three years.
Deacon Candidate and Tending Our Soil Coach