For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
I entered the world of coaching for one primary reason; I had a great coach. I was blessed to spend the better part of a year working with Fran LaMattina, MCC. Fran helped me navigate a season in which I left my role as staff pastor at one of America’s 100 fastest- growing churches. I spent a great deal of time in prayer and searched for God’s next steps for me, and He clearly led me to coaching.
During my training as a coach at the Professional Christian Coaching Institute, I participated in a thorough discussion of the power of a compelling life vision, purpose, and mission. I felt like my long season as a pastor and my gifting as an encourager made coaching the clear path for my life, but having a life vision to be a great coach wasn’t compelling for me. I needed a different vision. I also learned in my training that the one important dynamic that gives us as Christ-centered coaches a genuine leg up on others in our field is that we aren’t alone in our process. We have the power of God aligning us, guiding us all along the journey of coaching. We see how God intervenes all the time with clients, but sometimes we forget that God is also present in the development of our practices.
I began to turn to God and ask Him to reveal a clear and compelling vision for my coaching practice and my life. I felt foolish that I hadn’t really asked God what my version of coaching should look like and whom should I coach. He provided amazing clarity and gave me with a clear vision for practice: “Make the world a more effective and God-honoring place through coaching.”
When I first put these words on paper it felt far too audacious, too lofty. I nearly threw it away forever, but again God intervened and reminded me that since He provided the vision, He’d provide the method. But how could a coach, especially one with limited experience, “Make the world a more effective and God honoring place”? He was weaving that together too!
During my last assignment as a pastor, I was responsible for reaching out into my community. As a part of that, I worked with the local chapter of the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA). I was honored to serve as their chaplain. During that time, I recognized a repeated theme: Doctors have lives that are far out of balance.
Scheduling time for them to fellowship together was almost impossible because of the frantic pace mandated by their careers. My anecdotal experience with the CMDA led me to explore the world of medicine and burnout. The results were alarming.
Medical professionals, doctors in particular, are burning out and leaving the field unlike any other time in history. According to a University of Rochester School of Medicine study, more than half of all doctors are getting burned out. More than 30 percent of all doctors say that they would like to be out of medicine within the next five years. Looming medical reforms, greater legal risks, and convoluted spiderwebs of insurance reimbursement have doctors and other medical professionals looking for a way out. Having fewer doctors creates a greater societal need for those that exist. As a result we have less availability to medical care. And even more stress is placed on the doctors who remain. The general perception that doctors are unhappy means many highly capable students that would have entered medicine a generation ago are instead looking for other career paths. This results in fewer future medical advances. Society needs good doctors and medical professionals. The world can be more effective and God honoring with more effective and God-honoring medical workers.
During my season of soul searching, the CMDA chapter invited Dr. David Levy to speak to local medical professionals. Dr. Levy is a world-renowned brain surgeon and is the author of Gray Matter in which he details his spiritual transformation when he started praying with his patients. His presentation was amazing and informative. In the middle of it, Dr. Levy threw a curveball to the crowd by talking about the Sabbath–taking one day in seven to rest and worship.
“I take a twenty-four-hour period each week off, but it wasn’t always that way,” Dr. Levy said. “I was raised with an understanding of the Sabbath, but as I became a doctor I was taught that I was exempt from it. I took pride in that.” Dr. Levy learned, though, that the concept of observing the Sabbath is good for everyone. “I have to fight for it and schedule it.”
Dr. Levy talked about how important it is to totally unplug, which he inferred meant no phone, no media, and so forth. He talked about how the brain physically needs this rest to properly balance, and how productivity increases when we unplug.
While listening to Dr. Levy, I received my final confirmation; God was going to use me to impact the world by coaching doctors and medical professionals.
Immediately after this evening with Dr. Levy, God started sending influential medical clients my way. The Chief Operations Officer of one of America’s largest healthcare networks asked me to be his coach. His goals were to improve balance his work and personal life and to establish his priorities. Another client was a health physicist at a globally renowned cancer treatment facility. He needed help at staying mentally and emotionally present at home with his family.
I’ve learned so much by working as a coach, particularly in the medical community. Medical professionals are deeply rewarding to coach because of their purposefulness to do the needed hard work. They see the value of ongoing professional development, so the act of personal development seems natural to them.
I’ve found that there are few coaches reaching out to medical professionals, and virtually none from a Christ-centered perspective. I am grateful that God gave me a vision to make the world a more effective and God-honoring place through coaching.
Coaching the Coach Tip:
It’s easy as a Christian coach to see things like our niche or our marketing strategy as purely secular endeavors. In reality, God uses these things, like showing me the niche of coaching doctors, to reveal His larger will. We encourage our clients to listen to God through the process and we try not to rush to develop a strategy. Often for our own practices, however, we put some things, like which niche to peruse, into the secular box and rush to strategize without first flooding our thoughts and ideas in prayer and listening to God.
God has plans for each of us. Talking and listening to Him is vital for discovering those plans. Without talking to God and looking and listening for where He was speaking I would have missed the best strategy for my coaching practice, God’s.
Matthew Reed is a coach, speaker and blogger at www.matthewreedcoaching.com. Before entering coaching Matthew spent 16 years pastoring at two dynamic and fast- growing churches. His specialty is helping professionals, particularly those in medicine, who are successful in the workplace achieve the same level of success in their personal lives. In addition to coaching, he serves on the steering team of Christ Healthcare Ministry of Orange/Sullivan Co. NY, a free clinic seeking to share the Gospel through medicine.
Georgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.