by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister          –          May 1, 2019

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

As many of you know, I was away for a week last month, selected to participate in a special clergy training focused on Clergy Coaching. I thought it would be helpful to share a little bit about the experience, what coaching is, and how it will be of benefit to us.

First off, it was an amazing experience that taught me a lot and has given me new tools to incorporate into my ministry here at BCCUCC. This special training was a key component of a $1,000,000 grant provided by the Lilly Endowment and received by the Together As One conferences (MA, CT, and RI UCC). The grant, known as Together We Thrive, is designed to increase clergy effectiveness and vitality throughout our conferences along with two other judicatories in southern New England: the New England Synod-ELCA Lutheran, and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Three people from each of these bodies (15 people total) were selected to participate in 60 hours of training held in Framingham, MA, led by Coaching for Clergy. This training is an $8000 gift to BCCUCC and me! Thank you Lilly Endowment!

As I arrived at the training early Sunday afternoon, I had one burning question, “Is this workshop training us to be coaches of clergy or coaches who also happen to be clergy?” The answer was an entirely unhelpful, “Yes!” The truth is, I joined up for this event not really having a firm grasp on what clergy coaching is or how I would utilize it. What I eventually learned is that coaching is a set of tools, and a way of leading, that taps into the expertise and knowledge already present in those with whom the coach is working. As a result, it is a technique that I can utilize in nearly every aspect of my ministry (and in my “normal” life too!).

Two of the most important aspects of coaching are deep listening and powerful questions, and they go hand in hand. It is through listening intently to others, that one can glean which questions will lead to new insights. In turn, those insights can help people and organizations see new opportunities and/or break unhelpful patterns. You will note that it is not the coach’s job to come up with the solutions or new insights, but rather to guide a process that allows those being coached to come up with the most appropriate solutions themselves. This provides for more buy-in and greater self-accountability.

During my week with the other trainees, I practiced coaching with both individuals and groups (as well as sitting through countless hours of lectures!). And since returning I have found numerous opportunities to continue developing these skills. For those you working closely with me, you may begin to pick up on the subtle, or not so subtle, changes in leadership style.

When all is said and done following our second training event in the fall, I will have all the coursework completed to hold a Professional Coach Certification (PCC), as accredited by the International Coaching Federation. As I said earlier, this is a tremendous opportunity provided by the Lilly Endowment and the Together as One Conference (or whatever our new Conference will be named once it is decided). The one catch before receiving my PCC is that I will also need to complete 500 hours of coaching. Since I will be utilizing coaching in many different aspects of my work at BCCUCC, this number isn’t entirely daunting. I will slowly be able to accrue hours over time. In addition, the Together We Thrive grant requires me to provide 20 hours of coaching to clergy colleagues throughout southern New England. Finally, there is one last way for me to gain hours…

Are you interested in experiencing coaching?

If you read this and wonder whether coaching could be beneficial to you, I formally extend the invitation. Just as my pastoral counseling degree can be of benefit in many pastoral care situations, so can my clergy coach training. Utilizing any and all my skills my to the benefit of our members, our ministries, and our community, is what I am called to do. I believe coaching can help you become a more effective member of our church, a better minister in our broader community, and perhaps a more dedicated person to your family, career, or whatever other personal endeavors you are pursuing. If you are interested or curious, just give me a call or send me an email. It’s now part of what I bring to being your pastor.

In closing, I want to thank you, BCCUCC, for supporting my growth and development as a pastor, along with the Lilly Endowment, the Together As One conferences, and the Together We Thrive steering committee for this opportunity.

Thank you.