Friday, October 30, 2009

The Niche & Nuance of Christian Life Coaching

I have spent far more of my professional career providing counseling rather than coaching, but I have to say that (as much as they seem to overlap) I far more enjoy the nuance of coaching and they are distinctly different approaches in the "helping" disciplines. Likewise, I've spent many more years providing secular counseling, versus Christian counseling, despite the fact that I was a Christian at the time. The idea that counselor - or coach - happens to be a Christian (or is providing help to Christians) does not distinguish their practice or methodologies as "Christian Counseling" or "Christian Coaching."

Counseling vs. Coaching

My first "counselor" job was back in '91, but by today's definition, the approach would have more closely aligned with a "coaching" practice. Boiled down to it's simplest form, counseling looks back while coaching looks forward.

Counseling is more problem-focused - exploring the root cause (past) of feelings to arrive at acceptance and resolution with the patient or client in a subordinate role. Coaching is more solution-focused - identifying behaviors (present) and outcomes (future) and creates more of a partnership to achieve the desired goals.

If someone is in counseling, it could create a perception that something's wrong with them. For many, the "something's wrong" is less about them and more about their circumstances. Many people don't want to admit they have problems in their life.

Life coaching on the other hand, does not carry this stigma. Life coaching is all about moving forward, taking action and accountability. People receive results a lot faster when they learn to act on their own behalf, rather than if they spend countless hours re-hashing the past on a counselor's couch.

Secular vs. Christian

What defines life coaching (or couseling) as "Christian life coaching" is about the foundation from which one coaches, not about whether the coach themselves is a Christian, the people they are coaching are Christian or the venue is Christian (like in a church). It's a foundation of biblical principles that shape the coaching practices to provide life tools that keep our eyes on Jesus.

Secular coaching is humanistic and relies on the client's self-imposed goals. Christian coaching is Christ-centered. Within Christian coaching, there is a three-way relationship between client, coach and Holy Spirit. Secular coaching involves a two-way relationship between coach and client.

Christian Life Coaching is about helping to set and achieve Godly goals, getting results, sharing insights and inspirations, applying proven truths from Scripture, building testimonies of God's faithfulness, learning how to love the way Christ loved and coping with issues like health, money and relationships in a way that always points back to Jesus.

God wants us to thrive "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes it's difficult to see God's plan for our lives by ourselves. That's where a Christian life coach can help. Christian coaching is based on the foundation that God empowers and enables you to be all that He destined you to be.

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Philippians 2:13

Why Work with a Life Coach?

People usually begin working with a life coach because they need some professional assessment, direction and motivation. Good coaches specialize in helping people with certain areas of their lives.

Just like athletic coaches, we coaches are not all the same. You wouldn't choose a little-league coach to help you fine-tune your golf game! (Did you know that Tiger Woods still uses a coach?) Some coaches are experienced in personal financial issues, career coaching, health and fitness coaching, and many other areas.

My areas of specialty have long been in executive coaching, performance coaching, career coaching, image coaching, communication and relationship development... but about 8 years ago, God showed me that I didn't need to keep a wall up between my business life and my spiritual life through an unexpected opportunity to witness at work.

That event inspired me to go back to school to get some formal Biblical tools to blend what I already had in my Coaching and Counseling tool kit which ultimately resulted in my BCBC credentials (Board Certified Christian Counselor). In addition to my more "corporate" coaching disciplines, I have also completed studies and develop a coaching and counseling "niche" in the areas of:
  • Marriage & Family Relationships
  • New Generation Parenting
  • Children & Teenagers
  • Stress & Anxiety
  • Loss, Grief & Trauma
  • God-centered Finances & Debt-free Living
Coaching and counseling are biblical. The Bible, time and again, tells us to seek only the counsel of other Christians. But being Christian isn't enough to be designated as a Christian Counselor or Christian Life Coach. If you are seeking the help of a Life Coach or Counselor, make sure that the "Christian" part is foundational to their work with you, intricate to their process and always guides the path taken to achieve Godly goals and outcomes.

I wrote a post back in June where I talked about God being the ultimate Life Coach, and hands down, He is. But not every average person in need (or even every Christian in need) knows how to find God's will in their challenge without any guidance whatsoever. Sometimes you're just too close to it to see it. In many cases, that's what we might turn to pastoral staff for... teach us, guide us, focus us on Jesus when we stray from the Truth. A Christian Life Coach or Christian Counselor can be a partner in that process as well.

"Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Church Blogging Gone RIGHT!

Blogging is a new – but not so new – communication medium. A lot of people and organizations are doing it because they think or know they’re supposed to, but not because they have any plan or idea of its purpose or opportunity.

From the day I walked into Fair Oaks Church in 2005 I’ve been stunned by the amazing talent of our Worship and Arts Team – I imagine most people coming into Fair Oaks have that experience, how could they not. And it’s not just about the vocal quality or orchestral arrangements or precision performance, it’s about the creativity, the passion, the bravery to glorify God in a way that pushes the envelope and pulls people out of their comfort-zone to see their faith and beliefs from a different angle.

It would be easy to assume that with a group so artistically talented that music is the full measure of their gifts. NOT SO. This group has an authentic spiritual depth that I have had great pleasure experiencing through the FairOaksArts blog, especially over the past several weeks.

The FairOaksArts blog was started in May of 2008 and was launched as a place to “find out info on new songs, videos, updates on current projects, reviews, sneak previews, articles, random thoughts and more.” ... but it has grown a bit since then.

This past September, Pastor Stokes started a sermon series about Worship that was specifically NOT about the songs we sing in a given church service. Although it’s often what we think of first when we hear the word “Worship,” music should be only one of many things on that list, and I wouldn’t even put it first.

The FairOaksArts team picked up that ball and ran with it – or should I say blogged with it. Throughout the Worship sermon series, each of the staff took their turn at expressing their thoughts on worship as more than just the songs we sing in church and I was blown away by the depth and diversity of their spiritual perspectives.

It’s too easy for us to see the people around us one dimensionally – he’s the media guy, she’s the singer, he plays the piano – because that’s all we see of them externally. But that really sells us short, as much as it sells them short. What richness of faith we would miss out on if we never looked beyond the art to the spirit and heart of the artist.

Do yourself a favor and treat your heart to the warmth and passion of these blog posts by the FairOaksArts team:
Let me note that these posts of recent weeks on the are certainly not the staff’s first foray in expressing their faith through blogging (Mike Zizolfo’s are a frequent favorite of mine), but it was the deliberate initiative for all of the Arts Team to build on the collective momentum of the single topic of worship that brought true volume to the Loud On Purpose mantra.

Please check them out!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Defensive Judgment

Have you ever been judged for making a judgment you never actually made? I’m calling this the “defensive judgment” (I also liked “reversed judgment”) where you find that you are being judged for being judgmental about something you’ve actually made no judgment about at all.

An example…

In my office we have a “business casual” work attire and participate in “casual Fridays.” These two terms have wide interpretations (especially across generations and geographic regions) but we have made a deliberate choice not to put clear and strict definitions to them to allow each supervisor the flexibility to interpret those terms as appropriate for their department and the kinds of business they conduct and public they interface with.

Because I came from the corporate arena prior to entering the world of not-for-profits, my wardrobe leans much more to the “business” side of business casual than the casual side. Since you can never go wrong over-dressing (in this context) I just wear what I have. I think it would be silly to spend money to create a different wardrobe level when I have perfectly good clothes in my closet that I like and feel comfortable in. So I ware suits when slacks and a blouse would probably do fine and when it comes to “casual Fridays” I’m typically not wearing the jeans that everyone else is in, but I will tone-down from the business suit to a skirt and sweater – that is casual for me.

But lets be clear … if you roll your eyes or make snide remarks about the fact that I’m not in jeans, that’s not me judging you, that’s you judging me. The fact that I’m not wearing jeans on Friday is not a judgment of you because you are. It’s great that you feel comfortable coming to work in jeans on Friday (and that you have the freedom to do so) – why do you feel the need to judge me if I choose not to. Why are you assuming that a skirt and sweater are judging you? Are you felling silly yet?

While we’re at it …

If I don’t drink, it is not a judgment of you because you do – it’s just my choice.
If I eat meat, it is not a judgment on all vegetarians and vegans – it’s just my choice.
If I send my kids to public school, it is not a judgment on private schools or homeschooling - it's just my choice.
If I don’t have a tattoo, it is not a judgment of you because you do - it’s just my choice.
If I work outside the home, it is not a judgment of you because you don’t – it’s just my choice.
If I drive a gas-guzzling SUV, it is not a judgment on your Hybrid – it’s just my choice.
If I don’t smoke, swear, gamble … are you seeing a pattern here?

Is it really too much to ask that you give my choices the same deference you demand for yours and give me the benefit and opportunity, without assumptions, to respect you for your choices. I don’t walk in your shoes or live through your experiences, who in the world would I be to pass judgment for any of your choices? And the second part of that is “and who are you?”

I can’t help but wonder (just a little) about the person who is so self-absorbed that they think someone - as insignificant to their life as I surely am - is sitting back, plotting against them through my wardrobe. Just waiting for the chance to make a public mockery of them by wearing a skirt, or eating meat or not having a drink.


“Yes, I’d like a Margarita, please… oh wait, SHE’s having a drink? Well let me completely overhaul my entire lifestyle just so I can make her feel judged by my Sprite. That’ll show the light of Christ in me!”

If our choices don’t have a material impact on each other (and are not a conflict with our common Spiritual beliefs), I don’t see the value in even drawing attention to or defining them, much less judging each other for them. What’s the point? Wouldn’t your life be so much easier if you didn’t feel some self-imposed pressure to live up to an imaginary standard you attribute to me that, in fact, doesn’t exist?

You know what’s the saddest part, I'm really not as passionate about a workplace comment about jeans as it seems, but something Pastor Stokes said in his Wednesday sermon last week got me thinking about it …

He was taking about when he preaches at other churches as a visiting Pastor that he respectfully and thoughtfully asks about things like, which version of the Bible would you like me to preach out of, what kind of attire is appropriate at your church. His inquiry is not a judgment on them because they don’t do it the “Fair Oaks” way, he’s being respectful of their choices as a church. Pastor remarked that occasionally they’ll even apologize in their request, “oh I’m so sorry Pastor Stokes, I know you’re used to a casual atmosphere, but we’re a suit and tie kind of congregation.” And Pastor Stokes said “don’t apologize, those are your choices. There’s nothing to apologize for.”

So here’s me, not apologizing. My choices are not an inherent judgment of your choices and I don’t want you to feel like you have to justify or apologize for yours any more than I care to justify or apologize for mine.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Experiencing Worship

Recently, Fair Oaks Church’s Worship Leader Joel Slater posted an article on the FairOaksArts blog called “Where’d the Worship Leader Go?” that had me smiling as I read it.

In the post, Joel describes his experience of leading the Sunday worship and taking a moment to pull back from the microphone so that he can hear the voices of the congregation lifting up the Lord in song. Joel characterized this moment as one of his “greatest joys” in worship because it means he’s done his job in bringing everyone else to an authentic place of worship, not just listening to a musical performance of worship songs by the worship leader.

This touched me in a couple of ways … as a member of the congregation, this is one of my favorite experiences too (not that I don’t appreciate Joel’s vocal leadership) but there’s just something raw and true about all those voices joined together to praise God. That’s probably why I’ve always enjoyed choirs – especially a good gospel choir – whether joined in unison or singing 6-part harmonies, the abandon of the one for the unification of many to sing praises to our God as one is a picture of Christ’s church as it should be.

Years ago, at what may have been my very first Contemporary Christian concert, Bart Millard, lead singer for MercyMe, ended his concert by leading the audience in the classic hymn, Amazing Grace. By the second line of the first verse the band had backed out and by the end of the first verse, Bart had faded out. The audience, unaware that the band was in fact exiting the stage while eyes were closed, hands lifted high, continued to sing all 4 traditional verses and with at least four parts of harmony wafting up the stadium seating of this congregation of thousands, oblivious to the band’s departure. Now that’s worship! No one was leading us what to sing next or for how long or in what key or how many parts, we just did it out of the true expression of our love for Christ and somehow it just came together... one of my all time favorite moments of worship.

In my personal space of worship, my most cherished moments are the ones where I’m moved to silence. Music is very personal to me – it tells a story – even if it’s not my story, it somebody in that room’s story and I feel that with every word and note. It’s not uncommon for me to be in the middle of singing and find the words of a given song have convicted me or consoled me with such depth that the lump in my throat leaves me silent and breathless.

That was actually something I prayed long about and weighed carefully when Joel asked me if I’d be interested in helping to lead worship on Wednesdays at Fair Oaks. Can I make an emotional separation from the music so that I’m effective in leading others? Do I want to make the separation? Do I have to make a separation? Can I maintain my authenticity and spiritual connection in worship and not inadvertently bring everyone else’s experience to a screeching halt? In that shift, I have a duty of care to their worship experience over my own and I can intellectually accept and embrace that, the question was (and occasionally still is) am I ready for that.

I’ve always been a believer that God does not call the equipped but rather equips the called, so perhaps in my weakness God makes me strong enough to get through 3 songs each Wednesday without choking up or breaking down so that He can use me to lead someone else through his or her raw emotional connection with Him experienced through the music.

Bravely (or perhaps just stupidly) the second time I lead worship for Wednesday services I picked a song that always chokes me up. In the bridge of “Here I am to Worship” is the line “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross” (I can’t even type it with out tearing up) and it always brings me right back to the spring that I was saved. I experience that moment as if it were new each time I sing that line.

I surely can’t be alone here … is there a song or a line or a passage of scripture that no matter how many times you sing it or read it, it moves you with the surprise of emotions it did the first time?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Countdown to Congress - Salt Lake City Bound!

I don't blog about my "day job" too much, but in about 10 hours my alarm clock is going to go off and I'll finish the last of my packing to head to Salt Lake City, Utah for my company’s “Annual Congress” - a week long event of conference, expo and governance meetings for the association's leadership and general membership.

Conventions can be a great time of renewal when you're an attendee (about 6000 this year) ... not quite the same experience when you're running it. The new role I moved into with my organization last year has put me working directly with the Board of Directors which has meant a lot more travel for governance meetings. Fortunately, DC makes a great central location for our BOD to fly into, so I haven’t had to go very far to work with them.

As I began to plan for this trip to Utah, it occurred to me that this is the first time in two years I’ve been on an airplane … it’s only been 3 times total in this millennium – once before 9-11 and twice after.

Yeah, I’m not much of a world traveler. If it were a reasonable option, I’d rather drive to get to my destination. I’m not afraid of flying by any means – the first job I had out of college had me on a plane 8 – 10 times a year. Perhaps it’s that I have a family now that makes a difference.

Although the kids have been shipped off to a grandparent or aunt and uncle for a week here or there, this is actually the longest I will have been away from my husband since we were married. Is that odd or typical? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess I’ll know better by day eight.

Pray for my safe travel and for those five boys (3 human, 2 canine) not to kill each other while Mom’s away.

Friday, October 2, 2009

(My) Man vs. Food

I must confess, we watch a lot of food shows. Between the Food Network, TLC and the Travel Channel, there's a lot to choose from. Anyone following me on Twitter may have seen a Tweet from me Wednesday night that I was watching Adam Richman's "Man vs. Food" on the Travel Channel. At 10:00 at night, this is rarely a good idea.

I thought I was watching it by myself (the intermittent snoring was apparently a clever cover) when apparently the description of the item being made pulled my husband Edward out of a dead sleep. It's entirely possible the smell actually came out of the television to wake him... even the dogs perked up.

What were they making that was so intriguing? For the first stop on the Baseball Special, Adam was at Gateway Grizzlies, one of the restaurants at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, IL. One of their unique specialties is a burger served between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Ohhh yeah, you heard me.

Doughnut sliced in half and fried face down on the skillet, burger, maple bacon, cheddar cheese all fried and melted together. Yeah, that'll pull you out of a dead sleep. Other than some mutual elbow jabbing while watching the show, nothing else was really said about it.

Today when I got home from work my dearest husband was slaving over the stovetop recreating this dreamy masterpiece we'd seen on TV and I have to say it was AMAZING. How could it be anything but? It was dinner and dessert all rolled into one. Almost like a poor man’s Monte Cristo, it's so simple not to try. You won't regret it.