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Jan 25

Coaching at NCC

Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 in Pontifications

At National Community Church last year, we implemented a new support structure for our small group leaders consisting of three teams:

  • The Training Team, whose members develop video training modules and lead leaders-only small groups as well as many of our core discipleship groups.
  • The Coordinating Team, whose members are each focused on a different NCC service and responsible for promoting group life there — recruiting congregants into small groups and helping small group members step up into small group leadership.
  • And the Coaching Team, for which I’m the coordinator.

The coaches are tasked with providing support and care for our small group leaders. They are trained in listening well, asking good questions, and helping leaders set goals and create action steps. Although mentoring will undoubtedly be a part of most coaching relationships, mentoring is different from coaching.  Dale Stoll perhaps said it best: “Mentoring is imparting to you what God has given me; coaching is drawing out of you what God has put in you.”

In their first semester of leadership, small group leaders are required to meet with a coach three times — once to get to know each other, once to discuss the “Leading Yourself Well” training module, and once to discuss the “Building Biblical Community” training module.

After the first semester, coaching becomes optional, but our hope is that all small group leaders who can benefit from such a relationship will choose to continue it, meeting at whichever frequency they and their coach agree would be beneficial.  For those who desire a mentoring or peer accountability relationship, our coaches have been trained in helping leaders to find and develop such relationships.

For those leaders who choose not to continue with coaching after their first semester, we switch them to “basic care” status, which simply means they are contacted by their coach once a semester just to remind them that they are available if they need anything.

This is a relatively new system and we are still working out the kinks and hitting our stride.  But we hope that through this system our leaders will receive the support, care, and encouragement that they need as they grow in their faith and seek to help others do the same.

Jan 24

Worshipping Idols on the Sabbath

Posted on Monday, January 24, 2011 in Pontifications

Do you want to know one of the easiest ways to figure out what the idols in your life are?  Just take a look at what prevents you from observing the Sabbath.

Last night (and again today) my amazing wife preached an incredible sermon (per usual) on the Ten Commandments, in which she hit on both idolatry and the Sabbath.  Interestingly, Scripture explains the Sabbath as both a time of rest (as God rested on the seventh day during Creation) and as a remembrance of being freed from slavery, making it a reminder that we should not be enslaved to anything (for more, I highly recommend The Rest of God).

It was well-timed for me, given that I’m trying to observe Sabbath on Sundays but had already concluded that I was going to need to spend my Sabbath not resting, but instead frantically reading one of my seminary books — by midnight Sunday I needed to submit an “affidavit” certifying that I’d finished the assigned reading (what kind of professor does that to you?).

That was my plan — until God pointed out that my professor’s opinion of me had become an idol that I was willing to violate the Sabbath for. I’ve always struggled with being a people-pleaser and here was a case in point – I was enslaved to the opinion of my professor and had turned his approval (and to a lesser extent, my grades) into an idol.

What prevents you from observing the Sabbath?  Does it represent an idol in your life?

Jan 16

My (and Your) Must-Read Books of 2011

Posted on Sunday, January 16, 2011 in Pontifications

A friend recently asked me for my must-read book list of 2010.  After snarkily responding with the required reading for my seminary classes this semester, I gave the subject a bit more thought, especially since I’ll be finishing seminary before the year’s out, so I’ll actually have time for some reading of my own choosing.  That, plus I’m always happy to recommend what should be on other people’s must-read list.

My own must-read list consists of four books at this point:

How People Grow by Henry Cloud and John Townsend — Reading this book diverted me from pursuing a counseling degree to pursuing a seminary degree, so it will be interesting to re-read it once I’ve finished seminary.  Plus, when I first read it I felt like it was a book I should re-read each year, so I’m definitely overdue to revisit it.

Soulprint by Mark Batterson — This is my pastor’s latest book (being released this week), so I’m definitely looking forward to reading it.  It’s about discovering your God-given identity, which is something I’m always keen on.

The Making of a Leader by J. Robert Clinton — I’ve heard a talk based on this book, plus read an article by the author that was basically a shorter version of the book.  Looking forward to diving into the whole thing.  He’s got great stuff on the different stages a leader passes through over the course of their life.

Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders by Bill Donahue and Greg Bowman — I’ve been training our church’s coaches using general coach training and am a bit overdue for reading something on coaching specifically in a church context.

I’d recommend all of the above for your own must-read list this year, although your interest in the last one may be dependent on your role.  In addition to the above, the following are books, plays, or literary excerpts that everyone (especially artists for some of them) should read, so there’s no time like the present to add them to your reading list for the year:

The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot — A fantastic play I hope to produce some day.  Two main story lines involve one person’s “through the glass darkly” moment of recognizing there’s much more to this world than meets the eye, and a couple’s struggle to embrace the vulnerability of a marriage relationship.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim  Potok — My favorite novel, this is about a Hasidic Jewish boy who is a gifted artist in a community that does not value such gifts.

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle — A must-read for all Christian artists, this Christian mystic is perhaps most widely known as the author of A Wrinkle in Time.  Here she ruminates on faith and art.

– “Letter to My Children,” the introduction to the book Witness by Whittaker Chambers — One of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve read, it explains the inherent conflict between Faith and Communism.

– The Grand Inquisitor chapter (available online here) in The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky – Powerful story about how Jesus can be misappropriated by the Church.

Creators by Paul Johnson — Fascinating profiles of a lot of creative types.

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard – The kingdom of God is here.  Now.

Have fun reading!

Jan 13

Patronage, Reciprocity & Other Big Words: A post about gratitude

Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 in Pontifications

“The proper response toward a patron is gratitude: offering honor, loyalty, testimony and service to the patron.”

Patron?  What is this, another arts-related post?  Or is it about customer service?

None of the above.  I’m currently reading “An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods, & Ministry Formation” by David A. deSilva, not (unfortunately) because I read that sort of thing for fun like my wife is wont to do, but because it’s required reading for one of my current seminary classes.

I was struck by its explanation of the patronal system in the Greco-Roman world of the early church, in which networks of favor and loyalty were developed.  In short, patrons did favors for clients, who in turn showed loyalty and gratitude to the patron.  Some patrons were “brokers” whose main favor was to connect their client to someone else (often their own patron).  The Christian correlation is God as patron, Jesus as patron/broker, and us as the client.

Which brings us to the appropriate response of the client (us) to our patrons (God and Jesus), mentioned in that quote above (honor, loyalty, testimony and service to the patron and all that jazz).

So here’s the kicker:  “While God’s favor remains free and uncoerced, the first-century hearer knows that to accept a gift also meant accepting the obligation to respond properly.” That emphasis — you know, with the italics and all — would be mine.

My point?  Well, actually, my question?  Does the twenty-first century hearer know that to accept a gift means to accept the obligation to respond properly?

Yes, we’d all assent to the idea that a gift merits gratitude, but given that the whole patronal system thing is less woven into the fabric of our society than it was back in the early church day, do we have a harder time responding to God with the proper gratitude and loyalty?

Jan 4

Ruminate. Ponder. Consider. Introspect. Reflect. Think.

Posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 in Pontifications

I’ve been woefully neglectful of my coaching clients lately.  And in the process of hurried coaching I’ve come to realize I’ve been woefully neglecting something else.

One of my neglected coachees is Maegan Stout, who is seeking to write – on her blog and elsewhere – more frequently.  Several weeks ago I was squeezing time out of my busy schedule to quickly read one of her blog posts, hoping enough of it would lodge in my brain that I’d be able to intelligently comment on it to her later.  That’s when it hit me.  Not only did I lack time to reflect on what she had written, but her post was the product of her own ability to take time to reflect.

Between working full-time, attending seminary part-time, recruiting and training NCC’s coaches, and doing some coaching (however inadequately) myself, I’m beyond busy.  One thing that has gotten squeezed out of my schedule – because it doesn’t generally operate according to a schedule – is time to ruminate and consider.  This isn’t just about pondering deep thoughts but also simply processing life events, reflecting on them and gleaning the wisdom that’s to be had.

This has impacted my schoolwork — many of my papers could greatly benefit from some deep consideration, but far too often I only give the topics the superficial consideration necessary to generate a paper of the requisite pages.  This has affected my coach training — lacking time to develop a coherent philosophy I often feed our coaches a scattershot of advice and best practices, not taking time to think about how it all integrates together and at times only stumbling into important realizations and operational shifts.

And above all this affects my spiritual growth, hindering my ability to learn and develop and become more of the man that God created me to be.

I wish I was writing this to say that I’ve discovered the perfect solution.  But I haven’t.  I know various pieces — the Sabbath I need to be more intentional about implementing, the journaling that needs to be a part of the quiet time that I all too often sleep through, the Bible-reading which should probably occur somewhere other than on the bus on the way to work, etc.  But the ability to actually make those happen is the difficult part.

Even now, I’m only able to think and write about this because I’m out of the office, out of the city, and between semesters for 10 wonderful days [I composed this post a week ago but only posted now].  But on January 3rd it’s back to the office and back to school.  I’m looking forward to shifting to only one class in the summer to finally being done by fall, but for the time being I’ll still be taking my usual two classes.

Which means little time to ruminate.  This blog may very well serve as the best barometer of whether I’m taking time to ponder and reflect.  If I’m not posting, the answer is probably no.  We’ll see…

Jan 4

The Great Re-Jiggering

Posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 in Pontifications

Okay, so “great” may be overstating it just a tad.  I’ve taken the last couple days to give this blog a slight re-jiggering in hopes of making it operational again.  In the past, it was focused on the transformative power of arts and entertainment, and if you scroll down you can see many posts to that effect.  But now I’ve expanded it to include many other regenerative arenas in which I operate, most particularly that of coaching, counseling, and of course my faith which undergirds it all.

I hope you enjoy it.