Teams live as Barnabas


By Neville Vanderburg
Guest Columnist

Do you know Barnabas? The name translates as "son of encouragement," and as you read his story in the book of Acts it will become clear why that is true. Already, the second year of the A2/A29 process, it is clear that there are churches that could use some encouragement.

The A2/A29 process has moved our churches toward an overall evaluation of their health, which is a "good thing." But, it is only the first step. A "better thing" is to take action to become healthier. As churches ask the hard questions about their ministry, it can become overwhelming. As Bishop Hope Morgan Ward said in the beginning, "Each local church will talk together…Where is our mission focus? Where do we celebrate strength? Where are we called to give attention? What weaknesses threaten to impede our witness for Jesus Christ?"

Those are not easy questions to answer. Many churches know they need to change and have set that goal for themselves. Yet, reaching that goal requires identifying the destination. Like the church of old, they need a Barnabas to come alongside and walk with them on their journey.

Toward that end, a group of people from across the conference recently gathered for a two-day seminar on congregational coaching led by the Rev. Dr. Doug Ruffle of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. The group gathered at the behest of the Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson, administrative assistant to Ward. Jackson embraces the A2/A29 process and has been in ongoing conversations about ways to keep the effort moving forward.

The seminar introduced participants to the "Five R's" of coaching:

• Relate

• Reflect

• Refocus

• Resource

• Review

Coaching can be a useful tool to move the A29 process forward. The A2 assessments have highlighted areas of strength and weakness, and A29 plans have begun to take shape to address those areas. But, as the authors of the book Coaching 101: Discover the Power of Coaching, point out, many churches only have an "explorer's map" to guide them. They continue, "They don't have an address. Instead they begin to draw the map as they go -- like an explorer. An explorer may have a general sense of direction and purpose, but much is left uncertain. Coaching is a way of improving the map as the journey continues."

At the conclusion of the seminar, participants were asked to enter into a covenant agreement to serve as congregational coaches for a minimum 13 months. The Senatobia District A2/A29 team is excited about developing coaching relationships with individual churches as well as developing a coaching network across the conference as well. We invite our churches to explore the possibilities offered by coaching and look forward to their invitation to come alongside and journey together. The spirit of God continues to move, inspiring us to become like Barnabas and help answer the question, "What will God have our church do in our time?"

Vanderburg is a member of Maples Memorial United Methodist Church in Olive Branch and a member of the Senatobia District A2/A29 team.