Coaching into Hope
Hope is our theme for the merry month of May. If you remember the staff-led sermon back in March sharing our words for the year, you will know that the word I chose for 2021 is “hope.” There is much philosophy and poetry around this human phenomenon of hope — hope springs eternal, hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. Hope is the promise of light in the darkness, of rain after drought, of peace after destructive conflict. While some choose to rely on divine providence for their hope to be fulfilled, my source of hope is in our human presence, our power, our agency, our effort and our joy, to bring about the transformation we seek. I rely on human providence.
I was talking recently with a member of our beloved UUCCH community, as they were asking about my role in some recent church happenings, and expressing their hope for how this community might evolve. In our conversation, they asserted, “Well, you are our developmental minister, you are here to make everything right, to wave your magic wand and solve all our problems!” I paused, breathed and then I just laughed. Not only do I not own a magic wand (I can only wish!) but I know very well that any magic I might work would only last as long as I am here. I am not anyone’s magical godparent, I do not turn coaches into pumpkins, and even if I could, the changes would not last after I left. Like Cinderella, at the stroke of midnight the church would be right back where it started, with a pumpkin sitting in the parking lot, and you would be back to wondering when the prince would show up with that glass slipper you left behind.
I have said this many times to the Board and other leaders, but maybe I have not said it to you: I am a coach – a teacher and a trainer. My profession and my joy is to coach this faith community into the transformation you seek, into your own hope. I am a coach for hope. And yes, I even have the hat and the whistle to prove it. That means that I am the coach and you (collectively) are the athlete. If you want to get results, you are the ones who need to run the laps and do the pushups. If you want those results to last, you are the ones who must write the playbook, run the plays on the field, and own the game, so that you live into the reality you hope for. That will take intention, determination, time and effort, and sometimes it simply takes grit, the commitment to do what it takes to get the results you seek.
My profession and my joy is to coach this faith community into the transformation you seek, into your own hope. I am a coach for hope.
In November 2019 you (collectively) decided and affirmed that you want to create a church culture of greater trust, connection and abundance. Those are the results I have in mind as I work through the challenges of coaching you in this developmental time. I have come to realize that trust, connection and abundance are not goals we can work toward directly. Rather, they are the outcomes of systematic, intentional processes and structures that create a stable, predictable environment in which members experience welcome and affirmation, and in which ministers, staff and congregational leaders are valued and supported to carry out the roles with which they are entrusted.
Trust emerges in an environment of shared vision and values, with structures that provide clearness, fairness and predictability. Connection emerges when a community has the skills to transform their differences into shared learning and growth. Abundance can flourish when members feel secure and connected, so that even when they disagree with a particular decision or an action, they stay at the table in the interest of collective wellbeing over their individual priorities.
As your coach, my role is to offer resources and opportunities for you to deepen your skills and to create your own transformation. To that end, we held the startup retreat in November 2019 in which you named your hope for this time. The Board of Trustees has been meeting monthly this year to deepen their understanding of how they can lead with greater clarity, fairness and predictability. In March 2021 we offered the workshop on Conflict Transformation, and in April we began the Stakeholder Conversation about the spaces you share. Throughout this time I have been doing my best to model a stable, predictable ministerial leadership/partnership role so that you may learn what it means to partner productively with a committed ministerial leader.
My role is to coach this congregation into deepening and transformation, so that you may develop what you need to create and sustain the future for which you hope. So when you photoshop my image, please substitute a coach’s hat for the gossamer wings, and a whistle for the wand, and (to borrow from Brené Brown) let’s all DIG deep with Determination, Inspiration and Going into action to do this work together. Hope springs.