Sadly, the quality of discourse in our society has degenerated.
Witness a recent public radio conversation related to creation and how one’s understanding of creation influences understanding of the gospel. I won’t go into all the details here, since that is a topic for some other journal. But as I listened to the program I was reminded that not all conversations are as valuable as they could be.
The first portion of the conversation was a polite and enlightening conversation between a theologian and the host, who seemed to generally agree with one another. But when a theologian of a different stripe joined the conversation, things took a sharp turn. The two theologians disagreed loudly, took a hostile tone toward one another, and began interrupting each other. In less than 30 seconds the conversation stopped shedding light and began producing a lot of hot air. The discussion devolved into a cantankerous cacophony; I had to turn off the program after about five minutes.
As a coach and trainer of other coaches, I take seriously the ability to have productive conversations. I share with coaching students that coaching is basically a way to have productive of conversations. Unfortunately, not all conversations are productive. In fact, some are destructive. Not so with God. When God speaks, God’s words produce results that are creative, generative, restorative, and positive (yes, even when God speaks judgment). We would do well to imitate God’s way of creating through our words.
I believe coaching gives ministry leaders (and others) new tools and a fresh mindset for seriously improving the quality of our conversations. Those who are trained in coaching carry the capacity to do less telling and more asking; to do less pre-judging and more discovery; to worry less about making others see things our way and more about helping us all see more clearly; to get out of debate-mode and into dialogue.
My hope is that ministry leaders who learn to coach will use these conversation skills for more than having productive coaching conversations. I hope this positive and powerful way of conversing will spill over into all of their relationships, including conversations that happen to involve those with whom they disagree on important matters. When two people see things differently and are still able to converse, then others will want to tune in for that conversation and will find it meaningful.