My ministry in Russia is multifaceted, and though it all fits together, today I want to tell you more about the way God has allowed us to begin what we trust will become a large movement of Christian life coaching. But first I need to explain a little more about what life coaching is and why I consider it critical towards what I understand God to be calling me to accomplish in St. Petersburg and beyond.
Life coaching has both Christian and non-Christian schools, but of course I follow one of the former. In that context, the aim of coaching is to help a person discern God’s work in his life, where and how to move forward, and set realistic goals and action steps to fulfill that call. It can be applied in personal growth, in relationships, and in a professional context, as the coach is an expert in the change process, rather than an expert in a given field. The process and the results can be powerful because:
transformation is primarily experiential, not informational;
- God initiates transformation through real, everyday life experiences;
- effective coaching flows out of mental, emotional and spiritual maturity;
- each person is a uniquely designed individual whom God has entrusted with a stewardship over his or her own life;
- authentic relationships are foundational to leadership growth and abundant living.
I had a private practice in Christian counseling in Virginia from 1997 until we moved to Russia in 2007. In 2006 I got certified in life coaching through Lifeforming Leadership Coaching. The impact on me was tremendous personally, and when I added it to my practice, the impact on my clients was also powerful. I realized that not only was coaching to be an integral part of my ministry in Russia, but that it was a key to re-building a culture of mentoring, discipling, and – my favorite term – spiritual fathering.
Russian soil was very fertile for just this concept. On the one hand, the concept of coaching generically speaking had just begun to penetrate the business world, and to a lesser extent the Christian world, so that the demand is there. On the other hand, there is almost no one who does coaching, and that primarily in Moscow. No one does Christian coaching.
We attend the church we do essentially because of the relationship I formed with Igor Sokolov, the pastor, while we were both getting certified at Lifeforming. I saw Igor as a forward-thinking, missions-minded man with a vision to use coaching as well as other creative approaches to reaching the city. He had already built a reputation as a leader in developing a small group movement nationwide. He had a track record, and he had already begun to translate the materials into Russian and to train his staff.
Working together as the only two Christian life coaches in Russia both inspired us and helped us move forward, since the task was so large. We began by continuing the translation process and the training of his staff, and we added in students (staff) from the Harbor. That original cohort is now about 2/3 of the way through the 40 week program, and we are just ahead of them in the translation process, which includes a host of audio files in addition to over 300 pages of written material. Igor and I have also begun a second group, this time consisting of students from my other trainings, many of whom are in orphan ministry.
As you can imagine, even with all the volunteer help we have had, to do this job professionally has required professional help, and we have gotten a generous grant from the Des Plains Foundation to help us get this far. It looks like we need about another $3000 to carry it through the final printing stage. We are also nearing agreement with the St. Petersburg Christian University to offer this training under their umbrella, which gives us both more credibility.
Eventually we see this movement growing out of the Christian community and into the business world as a great tool for evangelism. We also intend for the teaching to go nationwide. The potential is huge, but we are starting slowly and intentionally so that we lay a good foundation.
How do we know that God has His hand on this project? Take Nastya, for example. I have written about Nastya before, a key member of our Orphans Reaching Orphans project. Our main purpose in this ministry is to help orphans find their calling in Christ and to fulfill that with excellence, then to help others do the same. Coaching provides just the relational skills needed to do this. Nastya is one of my newer students, and I see her grow in her understanding and application of coaching every month. She recently told me about a young person named Lena whom she has been discipling for quite some time. Whereas in the past Nastya would have just given advise and told Lena what she needed, now she is using questions more and more to cause Lena to reflect on her own about why she does what she does, to consider taking ownership of her own growth (rather than put it off onto others), and to take seriously her allegiance to Christ. No one else is speaking into Lena’s life this way, and Lena is responding. So much so that Lena has recently confessed to having suicidal thoughts. Nastya has helped her understand the need for counseling, and Lena will now be coming to me for deeper work. Just one way we team off of each other. Pray for Lena.
Inna, also a member of our Orphans Reaching Orphans team, also uses coaching regularly with the young adult orphans she mentors. As she puts it, “coaching is such a perfect fit alongside counseling as a way to come alongside these young people. The one helps them overcome the lies of the past. The other helps them forge a future with hope.”
In fact, in Trinitarian fashion, I see coaching training as part of a larger framework for discipling leaders that God has given me:
- Soul Care: counseling, about which I have written more here
- Spirit Care: spiritual formation training for lifelong growth in intimacy with Christ
- Body Care: life coaching, which is about effective application of God’s word and call in real life.
I have other materials that I use in each area which I can share with those interested. The point is that I consider personal transformation to be dependent on how well we master each area. One is not sufficient. So my ministry in Russia at this stage is about empowering leaders in all three, because I am of the conviction that an exponential effect will result in them personally as well as in their circles of influence.
The heart of my work in all of this is a desire to see Russia overcome its “orphan spirit” and come to know God as Father. Therefore, I and my family have a significant ministry to orphans, particularly older ones graduated from the state system, and to ministries and leaders that serve orphans.
I hope this gives you more depth of understanding into our ministry here. If you are interested in giving towards this project or towards our ministry generally, then the best way is to click here. In any event, you will have a better idea how to pray, whom to forward this link to, and how to share with others about us. All of those are great ideas!