CSQ: We have just come off of Walking with Leaders, a consultation on spiritual formation, mentoring, and coaching. Tell us how you see these three things relating to one another.
Brother Mark: From my perspective, spiritual formation is the big picture of our relationship with God; it's an ongoing process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Mentoring and coaching are tools that are used within that big picture. At different times in life these tools are effective in moving a person closer to the Lord.
CSQ: What have you observed in your interaction with leaders in China that indicated a need for mentoring?
Brother Mark: In many ways China is no different from any other place. One of the characteristics of effective leadership is that leaders are mentored and are mentoring others. In this way China is no different; the need for mentoring is universal.
However, the context is different. Mentoring is a very relational tool. In China leaders are accustomed to academic training in the classroom environment. Learning that way comes easily. The need for mentoring in China is highlighted in its relational aspect. Mentoring provides safe environments that are needed to enable people to begin to open up and share their hearts, and learn from those who are prepared to pour themselves into their lives.
Several times in my ministry with church leaders, I observed that they would start to see the value of ongoing relational connections. As they began to let their guard down and talked about things that really mattered to them, our relationship had grown to the point that it was a safe place to discuss mistakes, failures, and brokenness in our lives. Those safe environments were critical to the growth of those leaders.
In conjunction with that, I also saw a need for new ways to hear from the Lord new ways to communicate and experience the Lord's presence in their lives. In particular, the discipline of contemplative prayer seemed to connect deeply with many of the people we were working with.
CSQ: Why is mentoring so crucial?
Brother Mark: We're not meant to walk this journey alone. The Lord has blessed us with the gift of the Body of Christ and mentoring is one way we can work together. Mentoring enhances our strengths as well as develops growth in the area of our weaknesses.
CSQ: You've mentioned that the organization you serve with has identified coaching as the one skill that every one of its people needs to have. Why this emphasis on coaching?
Brother Mark: Coaching is an ongoing relational conversation that helps a person discover and move forward in the area they're working in. It builds on the value that people learn best when they discover things for themselves.
It's also a great tool that enables someone to come into any given context, even with minimal expertise, but still have a significant impact. For example, someone coming to China might not have expertise in Chinese history, language or culture, but through asking questions and listening they can significantly help a leader they're working with to be empowered, to make new discoveries, and to be more effective in his or her role. Practically speaking, in countries where age is revered we've seen young people make an impact by "working up" as they use the skills of coaching. This is usually not a formal coaching relationship but it happens through informal coaching conversations. Those impacted may not say they were "coached" but would acknowledge they were helped.
The highest value of coaching is to have a learning posture; this is one reason why our organization highlights it. By training our people in the skill of coaching we are developing staff that have a learning posture. For those who serve cross-culturally, this is really important. Often in Asian cultures you have to "put in your time" before you're respected and can actually contribute. Coaching is one way that people can be effective at an earlier stage while "putting in their time."
CSQ: Any discussion points or topics that were of particular interest to attendees at Walking with Leaders?
Brother Mark: Yes, I think the participants want to grow in the areas of spiritual formation and coaching. The role of humility and the need for openness and authenticity were highlighted. People came away with a new willingness to look for ways to build and foster these values in their different environments.
I believe the contemporary church in China has done well in the early stages of her journey, but the new terrains of dryness, wilderness experiences, new expressions of prayer, brokenness, rest aspects of the journey that come into play the longer we walk with the Lord may not be as developed. That's the arena where we need to not only raise the bar but also to facilitate. An aspect of spiritual development that was highlighted in the consultation is that all these things take time. It is a long process, not a quick process. It is a struggle to communicate this within a church culture and society that is looking for instant results.
CSQ: Didn't the church in China in past decades also experience some of these elements of "latter stage" spiritual growth?
Brother Mark: Yes. We need to learn more about their relationship with the Lord during those times. There was certainly growth through suffering and an experience of the peace of the Lord that one experiences in suffering. I wonder if there's a place for the experiences of the past thirty years to be brought to light today. The topics are still the same, but they look different than they did years ago. Is there a place for the men and women who experienced the joy of the Lord in suffering to speak into the church today?
CSQ: Any negative feedback or pushback to what was presented at Walking with Leaders?
Brother Mark: One of the pushbacks was that discovery, awareness, and self-reflection are not methods that are highlighted in the Chinese education system. The question is then whether we are meeting Chinese where they are in terms of how they've been taught and raised. Are we being practical? Some would say we have to give them something before we can start asking questions in a business context, for example, coming in with some expertise that they want and need before we can coach them.
CSQ: What are the next steps coming out of the consultation?
Brother Mark: More conversations around coaching and spiritual formation will help move things forward. We plan to facilitate these through a series of webinars later this year.
We're also looking at opportunities to make training available to those who desire to develop coaching skills.
Another real need is to develop intentional spiritual community on an ongoing long-term basis. To move this forward will require a core group of people who covenant to share their lives with one another along a certain set of parameters (e.g. how often, what they do when they're together). We see some examples of this happening in China; there could be a lot more.
The ChinaSource Team
- Thank God for the encouraging and rewarding meeting of Christian leaders both Chinese and overseas who are involved in mentoring and coaching in China.
- Pray for those who attended that they will take what they learned and build on it in their respective ministries.
- Pray that the webinars and training opportunities that are planned to follow up on the consultation will be effective for the equipping of more mentors and coaches in China.
- Pray that significant ongoing coaching and mentoring relationships will increase throughout China.
- Pray that core groups of committed people will come together to help develop a long-term, intentional, spiritual community committed to walking with leaders throughout the different seasons of life.
Photo Credit: Gaylan Yeung
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.