Friday, February 19, 2016

Looking for a Life Coach

Life Coach  was a new term for me when Mark Tidsworth approached me about becoming one almost 8 years ago. Although Mark assured me that I already had the gifts to do this because it was what I had been doing in my ministry for years, I made the commitment to receive formal training and seek a certified coaching credential.

I eventually completed the necessary training, the hours of being coached by a mentor, and the required number of coaching hours—both paid and pro bono—and ended up with two coaching credentials.  Part of the requirement to maintain one of those credentials is continuing education hours and on-going mentor coaching.  In other words, I am committed to being a professional in my field of coaching.

Coaching is an unregulated industry at present.  Anyone can set up a website and print up cards claiming to be a coach.  This may change due to abuse on the part of some who have abused this freedom.  A recent lawsuit  in Colorado shows how the system is open to fraud. Legitimate coaches are not afraid of being examined because they have taken steps to act as professionals.

I have found coaching to be a very effective way to learn and grow in one’s personal, professional, and spiritual life.  Anyone would benefit from working with a coach. If you are beginning  the process of finding a coach, however, here are some things to consider.

First, what is the person’s level of training?  The International Coach Federation is a globally recognized organization that credentials but does not train coaches.  There are also Board Certified Coaches who have achieved specific standards of competence.  Training is not mandatory for a person to be a coach but training makes a good coach better.  It also attests to the person’s commitment to the profession.

Second, does the person subscribe to a code of ethics?  This is part of the requirement for a coach to be in good standing with the International Coach Federation and the organization has just added additional requirements for ethical training as a requirement for renewing one’s certification.  A code of ethics reminds one of boundaries and responsibilities.

Third, what is the person’s track record and experience?  A person who has been coaching for any period of time will be glad to provide references to potential clients.  Of course, they will only do this with the reference’s approval.  If a coach has been effective with a previous client, the client is usually happy to provide a recommendation.

Fourth, does the person provide clear guidelines in writing about the coaching agreement including costs, termination, and referrals?  A reputable coach wants clarity and makes every effort to head off potential misunderstandings about the relationship.

If you would like to learn more about coaching—either as a client or as a potential coach—please feel free to contact me.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Unity or Division?

Our family became  members of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Tennessee, while I served as campus minister at Carson-Newman College.  The church is located adjacent to the campus and is an integral part of campus life.

The first Sunday we were there, we noticed something interesting.  Women were taking up the offering.  We soon discovered that these women were deacons and that the church had been ordaining women as deacons for several years.  This made a very positive impact on our eight-year-old daughter, Stephanie.  When we left Jefferson City and joined another church in middle Tennessee, she began asking, “Why doesn’t this church have women as deacons?”  This is how revolutions start!

Given this history, I was surprised to hear that the local Baptist association in Jefferson County took action this past  fall to remove First Baptist Church from its membership citing the fact that the church  ordained women as deacons and ministers.Evidently a practice that had been in place for 40 years was suddenly unacceptable.

Pastor Gene Wilder provided a gracious and well reasoned explanation of the church’s practice  at the annual meeting of the association, but the vote was taken to remove the church from local rolls. I believe that this will have to be voted on one more time before it is final, but the outcome is clear.

In a Facebook exchange with a friend, he made the comment that he was surprised that the church had not left the association as well as the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention  years ago.  I pointed out to him that this is not the way that moderate Baptists work.  Moderates tend  to stay until they are asked to leave, hoping to continue to find ways to collaborate and cooperate with others in the group.  After all, SBC entities use language like “in friendly cooperation with”  as part of their legal documents.

Moderates are not party crashers, but people who helped to organize the party to begin with and are now no longer welcome in some situations.

Of course, it is true that when the “hostile takeover” of the Southern Baptist Convention occurred in the 1980s, some Baptists felt compelled to develop alternative structures like the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  A closer look at the grassroots—where the churches are located—shows an interesting dichotomy. Many  of those churches that  are listed as part of CBF are part of SBC as well.  They send mission dollars to both.  Their members have found ways to continue to work together on the local level for fellowship and ministry but allow each other to choose where their national and international mission dollars will go.  They don’t want to waste their time on conflict but would rather pursue mission.

This is rather messy but we are, after all, Baptists.  There are individuals who have tired of this messiness, picked up their baggage, and moved to other faith communities.  They have enriched the work of other Baptist groups,Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Lutherans, United Church of Christ, Episcopalians and others (but I wonder how many are still Baptists in their hearts).  As an itinerant educator, I find myself working more with non-Baptists than with Baptists.

The action of the Jefferson County Baptist Association to remove a church is not an isolated incident.  This is happening across the region, especially related to churches that have called women as pastors.  The tragedy is that we live in an  era when Christians should be finding ways to unite rather than to divide and to work together rather than compete. There is one Kingdom of God but the tendency to divide that Kingdom into competing fiefdoms detracts from the mission that God has given to all believers.

Let’s find ways to unite rather than to divide.