Coaches Help Clergy Maximize Potential

One significant change in the Diocese is going on behind the scenes as clergy who are coaches certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) meet regularly with 39 persons for coaching session. In sports, we know that great coaches bring the best of the abilities out of an athlete. Likewise, many top professionals in a variety of industries have discovered the value of a trained coach, but religious groups have been reticent to consider this approach. The Diocese of Georgia placed a high value in these one on one coaching relationships as one of the strategies in the Campaign for Congregational Development. Now several years into the program, we are seeing the fruit of this approach.

“The peer coaching program serves as a helpful mirror to reflect on how to be a better, more effective leader,for clergy throughout the Diocese and allow for a more peer coaching relationships.” said the Rev. Dwayne Varas, Rector of St. Thomas, Thomasville. An experienced priest, Varas has enjoyed the benefit of a coach. He said, “Accountability is key, and taking the time for self-reflection enables me as a spiritual leader to apply lessons learned within my community.

The Very Rev. Billy, Rector of St. Alban’s, Augusta, is one of our certified coaches. He noted that, “We are an expansive Diocese, and as a priest, it can often times be isolating. The peer coaching relationships enable us to come together and seek insights and lesson learned from each other.”

Seeing the value to those served by the clergy who have a coach, he said, “This program benefits not only the priest, but their congregations as well. What does it mean for a community to have a confident and self-assured priest? I would argue a lot.”

The Rev. Ellen Richardson, Associate at St. Anne’s, Tifton, said, “Coaching is part of the larger gift the Bishop has given us. An opportunity for participants to examine their goals, strengths, weakness, and be held accountable by coaches for successes and development areas.”

Coaches are required of all seminary graduates as well as priests moving into the diocese for their first two years. We are finding that those clergy extend the relationships as they see the value in having a coach. The program is also available to clergy no matter how long they have served and to other lay leaders.

Coaches are able to take a more general idea like “I want to improve our Christian Education program” and assist the priest in breaking down this goal into manageable tasks and next steps and then holding the priest accountable for taking those steps. So whatever identified goal the priest sets will become action items with follow up. This process and its built in accountability is a benefit not just to the priest or deacon, but also to the congregation she or he serves.

Varas noted that his congregation also sees the value in him taking time to participate in the program and added, “I believe we need to begin to train more coaches to have a broader pool available for clergy throughout the Diocese and allow for a good peer coaching relationship.”

More information on the Peer Coaching Initiative is found by watching the video linked at the top of this article and at the diocesan website: Peer Coaching Web Page


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