New worshiping community experiences the value of coaching
July 23, 2019
Beth McCaw didn’t know what she was getting into when she first heard God’s call to start a new worshiping community. As a social worker, she was a long way from the challenges she would face in launching a new faith community.
As a midlife transfer into vocational ministry, she displayed the characteristics of a church planter — the drive to gather people together, the willingness to step into other cultures and a fearless curiosity about her surrounding community. Yet she didn’t feel like an entrepreneur and was frequently overwhelmed thinking she had no idea what she was doing. To activate the productive characteristics, she needed help — and that’s where a coach comes in.
“Frankly, my coach, Shannon Kiser, saved by life and continues to do that,” McCaw said. “Frequently overwhelmed, I’d think, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’ But then, thanks be to God, I’d realize I have a coaching session coming up.”
Kiser, who calls McCaw “very coachable,” helped keep her focused by asking, “What is most important to the mission of the community now?”
“Once I can answer that, I can do what is necessary,” says McCaw.
Calling coaching “the stabilizing force” during the roller-coaster of her first year leading the worshiping community, McCaw said she’s amazed how a coach brings the answers of what to do next to the surface.
“It was trial by fire,” she says. “The fact is, I didn’t start it. I just jumped on it as it went by.”
Having just started at Southminster Presbyterian Church, a small congregation in Nashville, Tennessee, she was asked to come to a meeting of parents involved in a child care center that the church’s session had reluctantly decided to close. McCaw quickly realized the parents would do anything to keep the center open.
“What I saw was an intentional community committed to a cause,” she said, “and I became an interpreter of sorts between the older congregants and the young families.”
As McCaw continued to coordinate discussions, parents in the group provided hours of help and expertise to get the center reorganized and running smoothly. When Southminister’s session saw their desire and commitment, the child care center received a reprieve.
Excited about the emerging relationships that came from that experience, McCaw began to talk with child care parents about forming a new kind of community. As she explored what was happening in people’s personal and spiritual lives, she invited a small group to dream with her about what church could be.
Before she knew it, McGaw had the beginnings of Telos at Southminster. In ancient Greek, “telos” means “purpose” or “wholeness.”
“Besides excitement, I was immediately struck by fear — the fear of not knowing what to do,” McCaw said. “Thank goodness I had a Shannon to talk with.”
It’s all part of a coach’s job, Kiser said.
“One of the coach’s roles is to help manage the uncertainty and even fear that comes with leading a worshiping community so that it doesn’t drive mission,” says Kiser. “Beth delves into the complexity of mission and continually moves forward — and because of this, her worshiping community continues to build momentum.”
Lately McCaw is confronting another fear — her hesitancy to talk about money. She knows that in order to sustain the community, she needs to be able to help people understand that giving is important — not only for continuing the community’s mission, but also for the spiritual health of its members.
“Coaching helped me see that while I can’t control how much money is given, I can determine what is being done to encourage generosity,” she says. “I’ve figured out a way to talk about money without begging or selling. Now, each time we worship we ask the question ‘Where will you be generous in the coming week?’”
McCaw keeps a note at her desk that bears of the message of Isaiah 30:21: “And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
“Shannon is very often that voice, helping me to know where to put my feet down next,” says McCaw. “I can’t imagine doing this kind of work without a coach.”
Jeff Eddings, associate for the 1001 Coaching Network, says he hears time and again from leaders like McCaw how much coaching means to them — by providing assurance, connection and encouragement.
“It helps them discover the truth that God is equipping and guiding them in this work,” Eddings said.
Jon Moore, Mission Engagement Adviser for 1001 New Worshiping Communities, and Paul Seebeck, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: 1001 Coaching Network
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Lord, give us the resources we need to minister to those you call us to serve. May our work bear testament to your love, manifested in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.