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Conversations and insights about all things Episcopal

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Twenty years ago, “executive” or “professional” coaching was about fixing toxic behavior at the top of an organization. However, today, “executive” or “professional” coaching is about investing, developing, and supporting high potential leaders in an organization.

Clergy coaching is executive/professional coaching for ordained leaders in the Church. The most successful and innovative leaders in America have coaches who further develop their leadership and vocational excellence. Athletes like Serena Williams and Tom Brady rely on coaches both on and off the court/field. Excellence is not accidental; excellence happens when it is cultivated and embodied by an organization’s leaders.

Clergy coaching is not therapy. It is also not primarily consulting. A coach’s role is not to give answers and solutions; instead, an excellent coach engages in their client’s professional journey through observations, questions, education/resource sharing, advocacy, and empowerment. The ideal coaching environment is achieved when the clergyperson is highly professionally motivated, committed to being coached, and embodies a fierce desire to learn and grow.

How involved should the congregational/organizational leadership be in the coaching experience? Clergy coaching is ideally a three-party relationship between the church/organization, the clergyperson, and the coach. The clergyperson and their coach carry out the bulk of the work. Yet, coaching is a forward-looking endeavor that seeks to enhance the individual leader and the church or organization they lead. A three-party partnership better articulates and strengthens the unified goals, supports healthy and transparent communication practices, and best supports the clergyperson’s well-being and success both professionally and personally.

Rite One Consulting offers to individuals, congregations, organizations, and Dioceses an extraordinarily cost-effective and straightforward way to invest in your clergy’s well-being and success through our clergy coaching (executive coaching) program. Coach and client, seek to create bridges to navigate difficult waters, bridges to new ideas and innovation, and bridges to improved personal balance and well-being. To learn more, visit our clergy coaching website.

At Rite One, we are proud to announce our "Joy Projects" initiative. We pledge to offer 20% of project and technology consulting services time to Episcopal churches, schools, and organizations PRO-BONO (free or at a significantly lower cost). We are actively seeking to partner with Episcopal communities where the need is much greater than the available resources.

You DO NOT need a specific project in mind to begin the application process. Part of our role is to help your leadership team to identify the best project for your church, school, or organization. By design, we do not set onerous guidelines for a project application. We want to help Episcopal communities to dream, discern, and decide. The most crucial expectation we have for Joy Project recipients is that their leadership team is 100% behind the project and is willing to be active and engaged partners with our Rite One Consulting team in helping make excellence happen.

For Episcopal communities interested in applying for a Joy Project, we ask you to fill out the interest form. A member of our team will contact you for a preliminary conversation. A more formal but simple application process will follow if you decide to proceed with a Joy Project application. Our goal is to work on at least one Joy Project each quarter. However, pending on the scope of projects and our available resources, we will strive to add additional Joy Projects quarterly. Please note: Clergy Coaching services are not eligible for Joy Projects.

We invite you to visit the "Joy Projects" webpage.

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For six incredible years, I served as a rector and head of school in paradise. Literally, I served in paradise on the Garden Island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i. The job’s perks were amazing: Walks along the sun-drenched beaches, fresh tropical fruits growing in my backyard, eating the finest ono (tuna) right off the boat, and the beautiful people and culture of Hawai’i. All Saints’ was (and is) a faithful community overflowing with ‘Aloha’ and so much potential. Over the course of six years, we transformed All Saints’ into a lively “cathedral” for the people of Kaua’i—a center for worship, education, outreach, and the arts.

It was an extraordinary ministry opportunity. Also, it was the loneliest professional ministry experience of my life. You cannot go more westward in the Episcopal Church (except for Guam) than Kaua’i. Despite the Diocesan team’s best efforts based in Honolulu on Oahu, ministering on a small remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining because I was on an island—not only a physical island—but a professional island.

Unfortunately, too many clergy feel like a modern-day, professional version of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway). After an airplane crash (hopefully not too synonymous with the clergy search process), Chuck is left to survive on a desolate island with very minimal resources and no colleagues. His only counterpart is a freaky, blood-stained volleyball named Wilson that gives life to Chuck’s voice in his head. The island is relentless and unforgiving, leaving Chuck tired, malnourished, bloody, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. Sound familiar? Even the most connected and grounded clergy have days or even seasons where they can feel disconnected from the Church, their colleagues, and their calls.

During and especially after my tenure in paradise, I began discussing the idea of “ministerial isolationism” with Episcopal clergy from all over the country. I soon learned I was not alone. Clergy from the boondocks to the burbs shared with me similar feelings and experiences. More surprisingly, many of my clergy colleagues in the dense and bustling cities of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, and so on feel as-if they are ministering on an island. Ministry can be a lonely, frustrating, and unfulfilling endeavor, especially on a professional island. In Hawai’i, when the isolation becomes too much, and you need to escape, they say you have “Island Fever.” More than ever, amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, clergy are suffering from the effects of professional Island Fever.

If ministry is a community endeavor, why do so many clergy feel so isolated from their congregation/organization and colleagues?

Despite having a regular spiritual director, the occasional therapeutic relationship, and cherished clergy colleagues, I realized I was missing an essential instrument in my ministry toolbox that exacerbated my “Island Fever.” I lacked a trusted, objective, experienced colleague and coach who could help me navigate the professional ministerial challenges I faced every day as a rector and head of school. I needed someone who could push me professionally, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally to be a better leader, pastor, and balanced person. I needed a clergy coach who had experienced the ups and downs of professional ministry every day and now had dedicated their ministry career to helping other clergy.

Over my twenty-five years of ministry, I have learned that professional coaching is an indispensable clergy resource. They are both a strategic partner and provocateur.

For anyone who has played a team sport with an exceptional coach or had a fantastic personal trainer, the great coaches/trainers push us well-beyond our perceived ability of excellence yet can embrace and empower us by their words, experiences, insights, and support. A clergyperson’s success and professional satisfaction directly correlate to feeling valued, supported, and connected. A clergy coach provides confidential and objective support, insights, prompting, and accountability that other colleagues and professionals cannot offer.

As clergy, we are called to many roles and responsibilities, but we are not called to exercise our ministry on a professional island. None of us should be expected to endure “Island Fever.” As we are called to serve others, it is our duty, and our ministry partners’ obligation, to ensure we have the tools and resources to thrive professionally and personally.

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The Reverend Ryan D. Newman is an Episcopal priest and the founding principal of Rite One Consulting with over 25 years experience in professional ministry. Rite One’s core mission-driven goal is to address the overwhelming challenge of clergy burnout, professional dissatisfaction, and employment turnover.

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