Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord.—Acts 11:23-24
We all need “encouragers” in our lives, those who give us heart to do the work Jesus has set before us. This past week, the clergy of the diocese spent some time considering this.
From Monday to Wednesday, the clergy of the Diocese of New Jersey gathered for our Annual Clergy Conference. It had been two years since we last met. We missed gathering together in 2020 due to COVID19. For this year’s conference, about 60 clergy attended in-person at the Seaview Hotel and Resort in Galloway. Another 70 plus joined virtually through Zoom. It was a fully “hybrid” event and went very well.
This year’s Clergy Conference focused on “Coaching as a Pastoral Tool.” Our diocesan Canon for Congregational Development and Mission Rob Droste has leaned heavily into coaching as a positive skill for church growth and development. Years ago, he began working with Dr. Robert Logan who has extensive background and experiencing in coaching and coaching methodology. In his work with congregations in the Diocese of New Jersey, Canon Droste began to use the book Becoming Barnabas: A Ministry of Coming Alongside which Bob Logan had co-authored along with Tara Miller (Logan Leadership, 2018). This book is a short primer on Coaching in the church context using the Apostle Barnabas as a model. Logan writes:
Barnabases are people who empower others through encouragement, support and prayer. They develop and bring out the leadership gifts in others and ensure that no one is working in isolation. They create an environment that brings out the best in people and empowers them to do all they can for the Kingdom of God.”
During our three days together, the clergy were introduced to the basic principles and skills of coaching and had opportunity to use them. As one person described it, “it’s another tool in the toolbelt” and an important and useful one at that.
I am most grateful to Ann Notte, Office and Convention Manager of the Diocese of New Jersey for her incredible logistical work and Canon Steve Welch for outstanding work organizing the technical challenges of a fully hybrid event. I am also grateful to The Reverend Ann Urinoski, Canon Rob Droste and the members of the Clergy Continuing Education Committee for planning an excellent conference and to Canon Valerie Balling, Dean Caroline Carson and the members of the Standing Committee on Music and Liturgy for the great work they did planning our worship. Conference presenters The Reverend Shelley S. Smith of Ferry Avenue United Methodist Church in Camden, The Reverend Amy Cornell, Rector of St. David’s, Cranbury, and Canon Rob Droste all did an outstanding job as did special panelists, Canon Clive Sang and Fr. Juan Monge. Fr. Monge’s work as a translator was also a great gift for which I am grateful.
It was a special blessing to me to listen to a reflection offered by my brother, The Rev. Dr. Ted Cole, during our Evening Worship on Tuesday. He came to us from his home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts where he serves as Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Ted did a beautiful job interweaving the lives of the English Mystics Richard Rolle, Margery Kempe and Walter Hilton, with the coaching theme of our conference and our experience as clergy in a COVID19 world. I couldn’t have been prouder of him.
To date, under the leadership of Rob Droste, the Diocese of New Jersey has trained close to 40 people, lay and clergy representing the full diversity of the diocese. These persons have completed a rigorous six-month training program requiring more than 40 hours of instruction and practice. As Canon Droste notes, “Our coaches learn coaching basics and add a focus on developing faithful followers of Jesus. This centers them in the church and differentiates them from the secular coaching that is found in nonprofits, businesses and other organizations. Thus, they offer the best of both worlds.”
Several of our diocesan coaches have gone on to advanced coaching training, and are on track to earn their International Coaching Federation (ICF) certifications. The ICF is the gold standard of coaching certification in the US.
General information about coaching in the Diocese of New Jersey can be found online here. If you want to know more, check out the inspirational video “Why I Coach” which can be viewed on the diocese YouTube channel. This video includes testimony from a range of people in the Diocese of New Jersey who have participated in the coaching training and who are ministering as coaches in the diocese.
Canon Droste is succinct about why he, and we as a diocese, have leaned so strongly into coaching as a tool of Christian ministry and discipleship development. He says, “We teach and support coaching because it is an essential tool of parish leadership. It creates a culture of accountability, accompaniment and encouragement. It is an important addition to the skill set of all parish leaders.”
As I said, we all need “encouragers” in our lives.
Blessings and peace,
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey