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By Ven. Perry Chuipka

Let me begin with the sign that you see in the picture of this article. Notice the message about not needing a pew along with the website. This is a sign that was put up because of the pandemic.

It speaks to me about the changing times that we are living through with COVID-19. Many of us would not have thought that 2020 would be the year when a pandemic motivates us to be technologically focused in how we do our work.

It was very challenging at first, as everyone was getting used to Zoom and other ways of communicating on their computers. This was no different for our congregational coaching team. Although we had the odd Zoom meeting before, it was often through the winter months and only for our meetings. Now we had to figure out how to use our tool box of resources through electronic means. Like everyone else, our coaches are figuring it out.

As I think about it, the basic principles still apply in using our tool kit resources when we used them at in-person gatherings in the past. For example, I am doing a Lenten study with my congregation. We have twenty-six people attending, which is our main group. Then we get people to go into smaller groups to discuss specific questions. After some smaller group discussions, we come back to the larger session to discuss people’s insights. We have two people recording things so that we can refer to that information later. We also give out homework to be completed for the next session. The key in all of this is sending out work booklets to everyone so they can use them from home. This coaching process is very similar to the way we would lead in-person gatherings for congregations.

One of our coaches was helping a congregation using our VIVA resource which he said worked out very well. He also discovered that it is really not that different from actually being in-person with a group of people. We have coaches using Zoom to help congregational leadership teams plan surveys for their parishes and then have discussions to clarify priorities for action planning the road ahead.

Some coaches are leading book studies which are focused on particular topics relevant to the congregation. These book studies can take different lengths of time and various formats to suit the need. Sometimes it is a quick phone call regarding resources available, or perhaps a coach can be that sounding board to sort through issues. It could be teleconferencing with a leadership team, or perhaps a Zoom meeting with a larger group may be best.

There have been several valuable learning opportunities available for everyone through the use of technology. Coaches have attended webinars that have been helpful in dealing with this new world we live in. One such educational event was the webinar on, “Leading Rapid Change” by Kotter International. Another was the presentation provided by Huron University College, “Flourishing Congregations for Today and Tomorrow”.

Other webinars were inspired by feedback from our Bishop’s Charge to Synod last year which was requesting resources to assist with congregational growth and development. One such idea was providing workshops for churches in this challenging time. With Bishop Todd’s support Credence & Co. was hired to provide three workshops: a) Saturday,  March 6, Home before Midnight: Leading Meetings; b) Saturday,  April 10, Navigating Change; and c) Saturday, May 8, Tackling Tough Conversations. There have been many workshops and webinars available this year and everyone is encouraged to participate. We can truly become a “Learning Church”.

As you can see, Congregational Coaching is still available during this pandemic. Maybe you or your congregation has a particular need that the congregational coaches can help you with. Please feel free to check out our website   and/or give us a call. Perry Chuipka 519-534-2607 Paul Townshend 519- 433-5406 Feel free to contact our coaches listed below.

Our Coaching Team: Rev. Elise Chambers,   Helen Cole,   Sandra Coulson (on sabbatical),  Linda De Burger,  Rev. Dr. Stephen Hendry,  Rev. Cheryl Highmore, Rev. Matthew Kieswetter, Shirley Sewell,   Rev. Paul Silcox.

Archdeacon Perry Chuipka is the Archdeacon of Congregational Development.