Stories bring flavor. Stories paint a picture. Stories give depth. I am a stories person, and so I take notice of how storytelling is interwoven into our DNA. What I mean by that is simple and not surprising to anyone. Take a look at how sharing stories appear in our social platforms, in our entertainment, in our family gatherings, when we check-in with friends, when we get back from an event or vacation, when we take a thousand photographs and when any kid is left waiting around at church, rolling their eyes, waiting for their parent to finish telling a story when so many other people already got to leave! Our bible traditions have story-telling at their core. So yes, I’m a story guy.
I have had the privilege to sit across from people who, like me, have found themselves living “that ministry life” and all that comes with it. I have heard stories of their big wins and challenges of the deep lows. In times of coaching, those stories have so much meaning and weight written in-between the lines. These stories can reveal hopes, plans, challenges, and the most immediate of struggles. These stories can allow the teller to decompress, to develop clarity, and be heard in a way they can’t in their home church.
One of the exciting bonuses of the National Youth Workers Convention is the free 45-minute YS Coaching Session that is open and available to every single person attending. Many of us arrive at NYWC with some of our focus left back in the place where we started that day’s journey. We arrive ready to hear new things, be challenged, find some great food and so much more. But this short time spent with a coach fits perfectly within a wider story of every person at NYWC.
Here are four ways the opportunity for a free YS Coaching Session at NYWC can bless your ministry story:
Talking about your story gives your experiences a voice. Sometimes church ministry can be a tight rope. Sometimes we feel compelled to downplay or hide the amount of pressure we’re under; or worse, you may feel that it will be seen as a sign of weakness rather than an opportunity for development. It may be that for so long you have tried to have your voice heard, but your story bounces off the walls and makes no impact on those that should be hearing it. As you take the opportunity of a coaching session, you get a time to give your story a voice with someone outside the situation. You not only have someone hearing your story, but the coach will reflect back the story they hear you telling.
Talking about your story reveals unspoken values, hidden challenges and forgotten ministry passions. So often, when we are in the everyday of ministry, the here and now has the potential of overwhelming our philosophy of ministry and our reasons for getting into ministry in the first place. By sharing your stories with a coach, you will draw out things that have become hidden. The coach will reflect what they are hearing you say. As a result, you will begin to hear yourself say things like, “Hey, I’d forgotten that”, or “Wow, I can’t believe I just said that. That’s not me at all!” Creating this space with a coach allows both you and him/her to go deeper and, after drawing out these realizations, think about how you should then move forward for both your personal development and the development of your ministry.
Talking about your story allows you to answer your own questions. As you hear yourself talking and telling your story, you sometimes recognize that you start to answer your own questions. If you don’t hear yourself answering those questions, a good coach can help identify when this is happening! Having an external voice can also highlight when your solutions are not in line with your current actions, and simply help you ask the question, “So, what needs to change?”
Talking about your story reveals the next pages that are being written. This is my favorite part: Even in your free 45-minute coaching session at NYWC, you will start envisioning what the next pages of your story may look like. Once you have identified your story and understand the questions you’re asking, your coach will help you think practically about the next steps you can take to make that vision a reality. This is really useful if you’ve developed the ministry version of writer’s block!
I encourage you to tell your story. The story of you, your relationship with God, your family, your ministry, your passions and your hopes. If you are joining us at NYWC this year, I hope you’ll schedule time for a free coaching session online or at the booth. Take the time to sit down with a coach who’s been through the ups and downs of ministry and share stories. These stories will give depth, understanding, and energy to all that we will do when we leave St. Louis.
Carl Dodd is Chaplain & Director of Student Ministries at Eastside Academy in Seattle, Washington. His team works with at-risk students to provide high school education, counselling support and substance abuse recovery support. He also runs ‘Adventure Together’ (www.adventure-together.com) exploring different ways of ministry that bring students alongside to lead, participate and co-create ministries, rather than being simple consumers. Carl is married to Rachel and enjoys the outdoor life with their two girls in the lakes & forests of Washington.