Coaching and Mentoring

Stuart Burns

What’s the best way to engage people who are seeking help with their vocation? What do we mean when we talk about coaching or mentoring? How can you integrate a coaching or mentoring approach to a wider organisational culture? In this report Stuart Burns explores the application of coaching and mentoring practices in dioceses and asks the question ‘Is it worth it’?

The Experiences of Ministry survey reports from 2011 and 2013 reflect the changing cultures of ministry development across the Church of England. Taken alongside wider learning (for example research in the Church of Wales, reflections from providers of ministerial development) it is of note that there is an increasing interest in and use of coaching approaches to ministry and professional development. On further investigation it is also clear that the term ‘coaching’ covers a wide variety of both interpretation and practice, and although the language is becoming more commonplace, the meaning and understanding of the terminology and practice varies. The Church of England CMD Panel recognised that a reflection that sought to bring clarity to this development would be beneficial. This paper is a brief contribution to the emerging coaching climate in the Church of England and Church in Wales, and will draw from three dioceses who have sought to integrate coaching into their ministry development (Leicester, Liverpool and Bangor), a 3rd sector organisation who have been incorporating this approach, as well as providers of ministry training (CPAS, 3DCoaching).

Generally, coaching is requested or sought as a ministry development or learning intervention through a recognised presenting need. For example this can be an individual seeking help around clarity in vocation, someone wanting to talk through an issue or problem they face at work or in ministry, or a question of transition to a new role or job. These may have been initiated as a response to an organisational offer of coaching provision, or through an organisational directive (e.g. Ministerial Development Review follow up). Often during the first coaching conversation ‘clients’ will be unaware of the range of developmental or learning interventions on offer, or of the different approaches available. In all cases clarity of definition is crucial, and misunderstandings can occur when there is a mismatch in language and expectations.

Tensions can also occur when a ministry development intervention is requested by a 3rd party client. For example, a CMD officer being approached by an Archdeacon to ‘Do some coaching with X’. This is an area open to misunderstandings, (to say nothing of legislation) and potential disappointment for both coach, coachee, and the request initiator (client). For such requests clarity of both process and meaning would alleviate much of uncertainty.

Coaching is not a panacea to cover all training needs, or ministry deficiencies. It is a highly effective approach to ministry development that when used with foresight and appropriate contracting and can be an important factor in individual and organisational development.

Through conversations with coaching deliverers and practitioners three key questions have been identified that will form the basis for this brief paper.

  • What do we mean when we talk about coaching or mentoring?
  • How can you integrate a coaching or mentoring approach to a wider organisational culture?
  • Is it worth it?

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