By Carol Clark
21 November 2022
I recently remembered an encounter from my time as a consultant in a Sydney corporate communications consultancy. Despite being well qualified, I sometimes felt ill equipped to be working in a business context.
At the time I had a wise, experienced manager. One day after he’d helped me solve a sticky work issue, I said, “Tom, I couldn’t do this job without you!” and he replied, “I feel the same – I couldn’t do my job without you either”. His comment surprised me as I had projected complete competence and confidence onto him as my boss. But to him it was natural that I should ask him for help, just as he would ask me for guidance on an issue when he needed it.
This encounter connects with another conversation I had – this one with an Anglican priest who shared that being a priest was one of the loneliest roles he’d ever had. I was surprised, having witnessed his skilful, enthusiastic leadership. He was indeed skilled but he also felt very alone – and now through his coaching he got clearer about the purpose of his priestly ministry while starting to share and learn from his experience of loneliness.
Leadership is particularly challenging in voluntary organisations like churches. We may lack resources or experience differences with parishioners and fellow ministers, even as we seek to love them. No one is fully prepared for the challenges that arise – strategic, relational, or spiritual – and we rely on each other’s wisdom and support as members of the body of Christ.
To ask for this help requires a learning stance and the courage to learn in public – whether it’s alongside colleagues or in more structured sessions of coaching and supervision. Of course, if we don’t let ourselves ask for help, this too will be a problem for our leadership.
But we don’t need to journey alone as leaders. Through the coaching program offered by the diocese – and now through professional supervision – we can reflect confidentially on our ministry journey with a skilled guide. Coaches and supervisors will offer some input, but their role is primarily to help us reflect and problem solve: to find the way forward that resonates for our ministry context and extends us as leaders; to help us understand our role in what happens.
Coaching focuses more on how we function and get things done in our roles, helping us to develop new ministry initiatives and make clearer strategic decisions for church growth and flourishing. Overlapping with this, supervision supports us in developing vocationally as wise “in touch” leaders: modelling ethical ministry and maintaining personal (including spiritual) well-being and for our people.
Through all these opportunities, we’re invited to stay present to the work of the Holy Spirit in our life and vocation. The apostle Paul exhorts us to live (and lead) in a way that is worthy of our call – in humility, gentleness, and patience (Ephesians 4:2). In our disparate roles as prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers we’re gifted and equipped to do the work of ministry, to attain maturity – not just for ourselves but to build up the whole body in love (Ephesians 4:11-13).