Just as Christ asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" a trained coach asks powerful questions to help parish leaders clarify their values, priorities, and next steps.
Fr. Barnabas recalls a sermon to "know thyself" and acknowledges that fear or arrogance protects one from being discovered. "Coaching helped me get behind the curtain and to better know myself . . . to know my strengths and weaknesses and to avoid stumbling over stuff that catches me by surprise, even in my own heart."
Dean Harbry, PCC, and Fr. Barnabas Powell discuss the benefits of coaching for any Christian leader. Learn more and take advantage of this service through the Orthodox Coaching Network!
Read the full episode transcript here.
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Hollie Benton 0:02
You are listening to Doulos: a podcast on the Ephesus School Network. Doulos explores servant leadership is an Orthodox Christian, I'm Hollie Benton, your host and executive director of the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative. Today I have two very special guests with me Father Barnabas Powell, pastor of the saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox Church, which serves as an intentional Orthodox Christian community for North Georgia, and Dean Harbry a professional certified coach who serves as president and chief operating officer for Brightworth. He and his wife Janet are members of St John the Wonderworker OCA church in Grant Park Georgia. Dean also serves on the board of directors for the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative. Both Dean and Fr. Barnabas have provided insightful and challenging presentations at our annual leadership conferences held each September at St. Vladimir's Seminary. Father Barnabas and Dean, welcome to the show.
Fr. Barnabas Powell 0:59
Thank you, Hollie, Christ is risen.
Hollie Benton 1:01
Indeed He is risen.
Dean Harbry 1:03
Very good to be with you today Hollie. Thank you.
Hollie Benton 1:05
So Dean, you've been instrumental in developing an Orthodox Coaching Network, which is a new offering of the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative. For our listeners whose ears have perked up and they're imagining a network of athletic coaches or perhaps they're familiar with coaching in a corporate sense and may be bracing themselves for that dark day when the church turns to those suspicious business and corporate practices, help our listeners understand what coaching is and how coaching can be beneficial in an Orthodox Christian context.
Dean Harbry 1:40
Hollie, the reality on the corporate side is that the corporate community could really learn from the church how they do things well. It's interesting because a lot of our coaching efforts have been an effort to try and take Orthodox principles to the workplace. So I hope we're reversing the trend there. Anyway coaching is just really a way to help people get clarity about next steps, and I really love the process. Coaching principles are, you know, really, more aligned around asking good questions, pulling information out of our clients rather than being directive or trying to tell people what they ought to do. You know, I think that's part of the benefit of a coaching platform because you really get to dig deep with people and let them say instead of you saying it as a coach. I always had reflected on Jesus asking Peter, you know, who do you say that I am, which was a great question. And of course when Peter answered that question it was crystal clear in his mind and I'm sure that insight that he garnered from that moment probably provided a shining light for him in other parts of his life.
Hollie Benton 2:40
You know, as we were thinking about rolling out this Orthodox Coaching Network we wanted to think about who has been coach who are coaches in our community and who's received coaching and father Barnabas you're one of very few priests that I know have who have intentionally sought out coaching, and you've received coaching services. Could you share a little bit about those experience? Why did you seek a coach in the first place, and how has it helped you in your ministry?
Fr. Barnabas Powell 3:05
Thanks, Hollie and Dean, I appreciate that very much. It's father Evan Armatas' fault. Exactly, that's the whole thing. But you know, the thing is that I became a priest later in life. I had been a pastor of a Protestant church in metro Atlanta for several years. And we had had a lot of frankly corporate training in my previous evangelical Protestant days. And so, seeking help or asking for help from a coach was kind of natural but it was Fr. Evan Armatas when we were out together in the West Coast doing an evangelism conference, he was sharing with me about his experience in getting coaching from a parishioner in his congregation, and man it just started setting off all kinds of bells for me that I really, I really wanted to do this and so I got Dean Harbry to help me out and he did it. When I began to look into this a little bit more I listened to a sermon from my metropolitan, metropolitan Alexios, and he quoted an old saying from the Delphi Oracle. This is something that's in Greek, it's in Latin, it's just one of these very, very old concepts and ideas. Know yourself. Know yourself. gnōthi seauton. That whole concept of knowing yourself is at the heart of the Orthodox Christian spirituality and disciplines of the faith, to help you become who you really are. Most of us stay strangers to ourselves, most of our lives. We were built to be in communion and being in communion, especially with the way the Orthodox Church understands the whole concept of the Holy Trinity and what it means to be church, asking for help and asking for guidance is absolutely just natural. Of course, we would have coaching. Of course we would get people to help us to help us know ourselves. Like I told a group of people at a conference recently I said you can't know yourself by yourself.
Hollie Benton 5:07
Fr. Barnabas Powell 5:08
You just can't, you can't know yourself by yourself. And in fact it's an arrogance, arrogance, and it's fear of being discovered. And especially if you're a priest, if you're seen as the Father, people kiss your hand and you wear the really nice outfit on Sunday. People are deferring to you all the time and pretty soon, Hollie, that becomes a huge place to hide from yourself. You've got this persona that you've got out there and for me, coaching for me helped me get behind the curtain so to speak, and really kind of know myself and know where I've got strengths and know where I've got weaknesses and avoid, avoid stumbling over stuff that catches me by surprise, even in my own heart. And so it really helped me a great deal.
Hollie Benton 5:57
Wow. So, who might be a prime candidate for coaching services offered in an Orthodox coaching context? What situation might a clergyman, or any person be and where coaching might help provide some clarity, a path forward, recognize the fears or the arrogance that might be tripping them up, making them stumble as you were talking about?
Fr. Barnabas Powell 6:19
Well, other than everyone. I don't know who would really be. If you're gonna be a leader of people, I especially have deep love and a great deal of affection for our young priests. Young men who have not been in a situation I for instance before I was a Protestant pastor I was a police officer. And we had some specific training and conflict resolution that I think ought to be, frankly, something that every priest has goes through because every priest is in a community that's going to run into a situation now and again where there's going to be threats to the unity to that community. There's gonna be different personalities, coming into play and there's leadership stuff and there's passive aggressive actions and there's all kinds of stuff that if the priest doesn't have some kind of self knowledge, self awareness of himself, all that energy and all that fear can plug into some of his own insecurities and he overreacts and makes things worse rather than makes things better, just in the interpersonal relationships that exists in a parish, right. I can't imagine, especially a young priests maybe a seasoned priest has gone through some battles that might have a little bit more insight.
For instance, just give you a perfect example. One of the things that we went through when I was a police officer was called Verbal Judo. How do you defuse a verbal argument that's going on in community? I don't know if you guys have ever been in church before but sometimes people disagree with each other, it's amazing.
Hollie Benton 7:45
Fr. Barnabas Powell 7:46
Yeah they do. And sometimes those disagreements become extremely heated, and all kinds of personalities, get involved, everybody's insecurities get involved in the priest gets pulled into it and and poof, you've got the recipe for disunity rather than unity. This learning how to do Verbal Judo and using people's words to help defuse the situation. I can't imagine a leader not wanting to have that kind of skill in his arsenal. So that he can serve His people.
Hollie Benton 8:14
Exactly, exactly. Dean anything you want to add to that?
Dean Harbry 8:18
Well yeah, I think there's a number of circumstances where this would apply. I love what father Barnabas has said here because, you know, dealing with people can be the hardest part of something like this, people come in all different flavors, right, when you look at different personalities, different personality types. It's really important for us to understand and be able to speak to people that aren't like us, in a sense to learn the foreign language of another person, and really these are rooted in what we would call influence skills, but, you know, some people think the word influence may be a dirty term but it's like whenever we're trying to get somebody to do something that they may not want to do but it's in their best interest. It's like we have to use those skills. I always go back to Joseph in Genesis and how good he must have been at the influence process to be able to gain the support of not only the jailers but the prisoners at the same time and it's like, Who could ever do that? All we're trying to do is to help people to know how to speak to other people, how to solve problems, that they may not have fully thought through, through a discovery process.
Fr. Barnabas Powell 9:18
Just recently I had a very very special friend of mine priest friend of mine called me up and just say Father hey can you help me walk through something? I'm having a conflict with some folks in the parish. As we were kind of talking about this, and sharing about this, I was able to use some of the stuff that Dean had taught me early on about how to have him process his own reactions to what he perceived as attacks or disagreements or this is a threat. Listen, when you're a parish priest, and you've got conflict going on in a church, that's not just about conflict going on in a church, that's your livelihood. And you can get very scared for yourself and for your family if you have wife and children. You may allow unhealthy things to continue festering in a community, simply because you know that if you touch that third rail, you may not be able to pay your bills, and anybody that tells you that that's not something that crosses their mind, I'm telling you, it's less than forthcoming, that's got to be something that's got to be dealt with upfront in your own soul. And you have to know yourself well enough to know how do I navigate around these fears so that fear doesn't paralyze me or cause me to lash out.
Hollie Benton 10:31
Right, yeah. So Dean as we work to develop this orthodox coaching network within our program committee which included of course you and other board members like Protodeacon Peter Danilchick of the OCA, father Theodore Dorrance of the Greek archdiocese. We really felt it was necessary to clarify the differences between the practice of coaching, counseling, mentoring and consulting. Could you say a little bit about each of those, and how those different professional services are distinguished?
Dean Harbry 11:02
Sure of course. I'll go ahead and start with coaching because that's really the one that's distinctly different from the other three. In coaching, you know the person you're working with is the client, okay. And really the client is the one who drives the agenda. So let's assume that father Barnabas brings something to the table. I'm not going to change that agenda or try and talk about something different. I'm going to move as close as I can to whatever his concerns are. The other part about the coaching is that the coach is not directive in any way. In other words, not only are we agenda agnostic, but we refrain from just giving our opinion all day long. It's interesting when father Barnabas talks about, "know yourself by yourself". One of the hallmark qualities of a coach is again that questioning, that deep questioning, out of discovery process so it's really just a process to help people get in touch with what's inside of them already. Right? So Father Barnabas mentioned, a lot of us are strangers to ourselves and it's just a way to really help that.
In these other disciplines like in counseling for example, that counselors, which is an appropriate methodology, dealing with a different kind of person. I mean, they call them patients, typically they're trying to help them solve problems and so they're going to be directive, they're going to give direction on what they should do, maybe ask them to do things that they're not comfortable doing here and there, I don't know. But it's just more so just very directive in nature. When you're talking about a consultant, it's a very thing you bring a person in to analyze your circumstances, come up with a solution and in a sense, tell you what you need to do. Okay. And even with mentoring, even though there's a joint agenda if you will to take somebody through life, the mentee is basically imitating the mentor, and that mentor is leading the way so coaching is the less directive of all of those, but the process, to me mirrors many of the principles that we find both in the Bible and in the church.
Fr. Barnabas Powell 12:59
What is the Holy Spirit called? He's called the paráklētos, the one called alongside to help. In a coaching relationship, that's what I have found that was so valuable to me, can become a mentorship but it's reality is just somebody called alongside to help, to have a second set of eyes to look at a situation and to ask some questions and go from there. The Socratic method is absolutely perfect frankly that's a great way also to defuse a bad situation. Start asking questions, it's fantastic. It works every time. And so with a counseling situation I have people that are referred to therapy all the time. I've had a counselor myself and past experiences in my life. What I love about the coaching situation is that it really is this companion pulling up next to you, to walk along with you for a bit and say well hey, have you thought about this? Or what about what about how you reacted to that? What is that... How do these feelings that you're experiencing how do they inform you about yourself? What are you learning about yourself? That's what's the real valuable gift of coaching in this situation.
Dean Harbry 14:01
If I could just add one thing as coaches we're taught to be charge neutral, and to never create a "make wrong" with our clients. What that means translated into orthodox language is that were never there to judge a person. We're only there to help them think through what the options are, and by asking the right questions, helping them to arrive at a conclusion that they feel good about.
Hollie Benton 14:24
Right, right. And you know the Sacrament of Confession is really in a class of its own. It's not a professional service it really can't be compared apples to apples with coaching or counseling or other professional services we've discussed. So Father Barnabas, could you say a word about the unique difference of confession, against these other types of practices like coaching?
Fr. Barnabas Powell 14:46
That's a fair question. It's always a temptation especially for those of us who are kind of top A personalities, when somebody asked... solving problems, being the Messiah, is something, in fact Dean will tell you that my personality shows, I'm basically if you asked me a question, I assume that's a command that I have to go fix this. I mean, it's just bizarre, my wife finally had to tell me she said, "You know, sometimes I'm just asking you a question just to kind of share my heart. You don't have to actually fix it." I said "Really? Are you serious?"
Hollie Benton 15:19
Put the hammer and nails away.
Fr. Barnabas Powell 15:22
"You know what I really love to go to the beach for a vacation." And so what do I do? I get on the internet and I start looking at beach vacations. "I don't even know if that's even possible, hon. We're just talking." "Oh, okay. All right." So, the difference between coaching and confession that let's use the Orthodox mindset, which I'm convinced. If a person wants to become fully human, Orthodoxy is the path, period, full stop end of discussion. We become by grace when Christ is by nature, it is the unique gift of Orthodox Christianity, above all other philosophies of the world in the religions of the world, that the incarnate Christ gives us the grace to become truly human. Now that's a big statement, but I believe that with all my heart. It's the reason why my heart is driven my actions are driven to minister this Orthodox faith to as many human beings as possible, bar no one. Everybody gets to come to this banquet, everybody.
But in the Orthodox understanding of things we don't think of things from a corporate structure sense as much as a family sense. I want you to think of confession as father's child or father-son or father-daughter, right, and think of coaching as brother-brother. You see the difference? And that makes all the difference in the world, it makes all the difference in the world. In the confessional, father is there as a witness to help his spiritual child and I even pray "My spiritual child I who am lowely and a sinner have no earthly power to forgive. Only God forgives but because of the Divine word spoken of the apostles after the resurrection...." go into the entire prayer when I'm praying the prayer of absolution for someone, that unique relationship and there's a power dynamic as well which is different in a coaching situation and that's something you have to be cognizant about and you have to pay attention to, but really it is father-child as opposed to brother-brother.
Dean Harbry 17:13
Well said. From a coaching perspective in the profession of coaching, we are taught to be invisible, transparent in the sense of invisible in that relationship. And I think that's distinctly different than some of these other disciplines. We're not trying to hold a position of authority over anybody else from a coaching perspective, but the more translucent or visible that we are, the better the coaching scenario. If I can just tell one brief story remember one woman that came to me for coaching. This was an office situation and she had an issue with her daughter and she just wanted to run it by a coach. And so I said sure, in my head is like hey I'm just gonna ask questions, you know. And so when we went through her scenario I just started to ask her a few questions and she was coming to her own conclusions like father Barnabas talked about knowing yourself, and it was so strange because by the time she left my office which was 20 minutes later, her response was, "Well I didn't need you at all."
Hollie Benton 18:10
I love it. That is a great, great story.
Fr. Barnabas Powell 18:12
By the way, that's a source of frustration as well. For those of us who are on the other end of the coaching situation who don't have that expectation. We're looking hey coach, tell me what to do tell me which play to run and that's not the model that's working.
Dean Harbry 18:25
Fr. Barnabas Powell 18:26
And you have to learn that.
Dean Harbry 18:27
Yes and coaches have to work really hard not to take the bait on that. That's why coaching is a profession like anything else, professional coaches have been trained not to take the bait on that to answer questions but like Jesus in the gospels to respond to questions with questions, that's in a sense, somewhat of a charter of a coach.
Hollie Benton 18:47
So the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative is now launching this orthodox coaching network to serve the church on many levels. First, similar to other professional groups like the Orthodox Christian Counseling Institute, or the Orthodox Christian Attorney Network, the Orthodox Coaching Network will connect professional coaches with a network of like minded coaches. Second, we hope to connect to potential clients seeking professional coaching services from an Orthodox Coaching Network. And then finally we really want to provide professional coaches, opportunities to offer their coaching services that can be so valuable to other Orthodox Christians both clergy and parishioners, as a mutually enriching exchange of blessing within the body of Christ, recognizing that many of our clergy and lay parish leaders really would benefit significantly through coaching services, and by extension the parishes they serve and bleed. So if you're a professional coach listening to this podcast and you want to get involved with this network, or if you're a priest or one who feels coaching services might be beneficial to you, please visit us at OrthodoxServantLeaders.com. We have a few professional coaches already listed who are taking new clients, there is a startup client fee and a minimum three month commitment and we've worked to make this a very affordable service compared to industry standards. So Dean and father Barnabas, what is your hope for an Orthodox Coaching Network? What are the possibilities you imagine, if our clergy were supported through their leadership development by professional coaching?
Dean Harbry 20:22
Pick the priests, for example. It gives the priest open space to process when it may not be so easy to do that with just anybody in the parish. You know sometimes just to be able to say it and put it out there and think it through, and to clear your own thinking is really clarifying for somebody like a priests. I think it just gives him free space to roam in terms of what they do with scenarios, inside the parish. I think another place where this could really help, because again, the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative is about servant leadership and how to really transform our parish councils, you know other ministries inside the church. I think there could be numerous applications to the coaching process inside the Orthodox Church.
Fr. Barnabas Powell 21:06
I agree 100% And Holly one of the things that you know I keep thinking about, as I'm entering in the last third of my ministry years one of my prayers and one of my, one of my personal goals is to help the young men who are coming into the priesthood now have the tools necessary to be not just functioning, how do I put this in a kind way, I don't want them to be the tribal medicine men, that's not what they're calling this. I really want to see them be helped to be the fathers of communities that expand and grow the greatest witness for our normal Orthodox Christianity are healthy parishes. Healthy parishes that are growing and reproducing and producing new followers of Jesus Christ. That's normal. A normal healthy community reproduces a normal healthy community, grows its own leadership, a normal healthy community has space within it for all kinds of folks who are in different stages of their own spiritual development their own spiritual maturity. That's a normal healthy community, not just a community that's holding the place to be a museum of a day that no longer exists. That's not the future. Normal healthy community that is outward focused rather than inward focused, that kind of community has to be led by a spiritual father who is himself equipped to do this hard work.
Most of my brothers get that heavy responsibility. They understand it. The challenges is do they have the tools necessary available to them? How do they deal with their relationship with their hierarchies? How do they deal with their relationship with their brother priests? Which can become an entire situation all in its own and how do they deal with your parish council? But I'd love to see parish council presidents get involved in this. I'd love to see parish councils be trained how to access the services. Give you a perfect example. Right now, we're blessed with having a an Orthodox Christian professional coach in our parish and he's on our parish council he's helped us a great deal kind of see some things for us. We're in the midst of building a new church building, actually we're building three new buildings in different phases. I don't know if you've ever gone through a building program but that's an invitation for all kinds of personality conflicts to happen, and challenges to happen in a community.And with these resources available to us, we can navigate this because conflict is inevitable. If you don't have conflict, you're not doing something right. Conflict is the natural result of being community together. The issue isn't will there be conflict, the issue is: Will we know how to handle it? Handle conflict well, you have deeper community. Handle conflict badly, and you have schism and division. That's the results. So, having these tools available to us to help us walk us through these periods of time to deal even with our own unreasonable expectations of ourselves or others. Man, that's a gift that keeps on giving all the time.
Hollie Benton 24:10
Productive conflict, that's beautiful. Well thank you both of you father and Dean for joining us today on this great conversation. I really hope that people will think a little bit more about being more self-aware, being the better selves that they're called to be through Christ and through our brothers and sisters who are professionally trained to ask the right kinds of questions to help us see who we are and see the possibilities when we really recognize our strengths and our weaknesses. So thank you both for your time and your energy in this interview today.
Dean Harbry 24:45
Thank you, Hollie.
Christ is risen!
Fr. Barnabas Powell 24:48
Truly He is Risen.
Dean Harbry 24:48
Indeed He is risen.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai