The Iowa Conference is getting some serious coaching right now. Spiritual Leadership Incorporated (SLI), an organization that seeks to help church leaders grow and put their ideas into action, has provided two coaches to guide two teams – the Bishop’s Operating Team and the Bishop’s Appointive Cabinet – through a year-long process that will hopefully transform the culture of how ministry plans are put together and how lay and clergy leaders are brought into the ministry life at the Iowa Conference.
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“That is the vision that we want to bring to the Iowa Annual Conference,” says Christin Nevins, one of the two SLI coaches that Iowa is working with (the other is Greg Survant). “However, the way that plays out needs to be unique and organic and just work the way that Iowa needs that to work. So we don’t want to be too prescriptive, but we do want to see and encourage that this gets to the local church and this gets to every ministry.”
Helping Leaders Lead Better
Christin, who has been a certified coach with SLI for about three years, always knew that she wanted to help people and organizations progress “from dysfunction to function and from function to excellence.” She had variously thought about doing that as a teacher, a physical therapist, and as a consultant, but her heart was really for churches and non-profits. “Because there are people who are so passionate about making an impact in the world, and especially the church really making disciples. And yet, there’s so many barriers that get in the way in terms of leading well,” she laments. ”It’s such a loss.”
When she learned about SLI’s work, she realized that that was exactly what she wanted to do. “I just saw a spirit-led process that walked alongside leaders, helping them be at their best, that was not prescriptive and controlling, but this framework that was really empowering and freeing, and just really resonated. The more I learned and went through training, and as an apprentice, it just felt like this is the right fit.”
She finds the work challenging but energizing, and loves being able to watch people who really love God and the church have those “ah-ha moments” where they find the missing piece they needed. “I feel like God’s gifted me to come alongside to be a partner and to bring my gifts and my experience to help them be the best they can be. I’m not gonna be a pastor, that’s not my call or gift, but I can help pastors be great
Taking Time To Answer Big Questions
So far the Bishop’s Operating Team has had three sessions with Christin and Greg, and the Bishop’s Appointive Cabinet has had two sessions with them. Christin explains that, in these early stages, there are a number of questions that they tackle. “We spend a lot of time talking about what does it really mean to be a team, rather than a committee, rather than just a group? What does it mean to build trust? What does it mean to be accountable to each other? To build a covenant?”
To really answer these questions, everyone involved has to be prepared to spend long periods of time in discussion. “Doing this in the form of ‘loving, learning, and leading,’ each part takes a good chunk of time, and a group as big as these groups are, we want to hear from everybody. And we want to create space for good, rich conversations that we don’t tend to have in 45-minute or one-hour meetings,” says Christin. “So we talk about some pretty rich topics and go pretty deep and wrestle with some big ideas.”
Iowa Conference Leaders Committed To the Process
The Iowa Conference leaders taking part in this coaching are devoting approximately eight hours a month, plus time to spend with reading and reflecting material, to the process. “The takeaway for me is there are very busy, highly committed leaders who are so committed to the future of Iowa that they are willing to find a way to invest more time to have the right conversations, and to dream and plan and put processes in place,” Christin asserts. “So it speaks to me of commitment and of faith and anticipation of what God is doing and what God will continue to do.”
SLI, which has already worked with numerous other Annual Conferences, isn’t just trying to make a difference for the two teams currently participating. The idea is that the current teams are setting the example for additional groups that will form in the future. “In many ways Iowa is ahead because there are either frameworks for teams in place, or there’s clarity about what those next teams will be. With many conferences, it takes quite awhile to even get clarity about what should the strategic initiatives be, and you already have a lot of that in place. So what we are doing is we are modeling this process as well as living into it.”
A Vision For Ministry
With SLI’s guidance, the Iowa Conference leaders going through this coaching process will hopefully be the vanguard for positive changes in ministry leadership going forward. “We’re listening to God together, we are putting plans in action, but we’re being creative about it, and we’re learning as we go, and we’re always getting better at how we work together as a team and how we do ministry,” says Christin.
“This ought to change the lives of people that have not encountered the church and have not encountered God. We want them to know God, and that’s the bottom line. This is just a way and a resource to do that, that should transform us as we’re living into our calls.”