Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Going for the Gold

Written by: on January 15, 2024

No pressure here folks.  Our second blog post, not fully confident in our reading and writing abilities and we are assigned Tom Camacho’s Mining for Gold [1]. I picked up the book and read the comments on the back, I read a blog post I found online and then I read the reviews inside the front cover and there is one written by Dr. Jason Clark stating that leaders need to read this book.  Then I read the Acknowledgement page and there is an acknowledgement directed to Dr. Clark “I thank my dear friend Jason Clark for activating this book project in me and opening the door to it being written” [2] How thoroughly do I read this book is a question? I asked myself.  I did not read every word or every page, but what I did read caused me to think and process many things. I’m looking forward to hearing from Camacho on the twenty-second.

I really had no concept as to what a life coach is.  When I hear the word coach, I think about sports, my kids’ track and cross-country coach or The Ohio State University football coach.  Along with that, I think of kids that are unhappy with the decision the coaches make or the parents and fans that constantly question the coach’s decisions because they, parents and fans, know better.  Camacho’s book provided for me a clearer and brighter picture of what coaching can look like.

I appreciate Camacho’s metaphor of Mining for Gold used throughout the book.  I like how we need to be looking for the gold that already exists inside the church walls, or whatever a person’s ministry context is.  How many people attending our churches already possess the gifts, talents, and skills we are looking for to help our church flourish?  I also appreciate how we, as leaders, need to help those within our circle of influence find the untapped gold that exists within them.  We are tasked with helping people find and develop their unused gifts, talents, and skills.

As a social worker and professor, I see many similarities between the Mining for Gold process and what I teach my students to do when working with clients.  Deep listening is a skill many of us struggle to do well, we are often quick to give suggestions or think about what we want to say next.  As we look to mold and shape leaders, I really like what Camacho says “most leaders rarely get a chance just to talk and process life with a caring, trusted friend.  Deep listening is where this begins”.[3] As a Christian who is in the helping profession, I too attempt to practice both deep listening and “dual listening”, listening to my client and to the Holy Spirit. [4] This is where I find silence to be very helpful.  After a client has spoken, silence can be used as a time for the client to self-reflect on what they just said, and I have time to process what they said and pray for the words God would have me say next.

The final step of the Mining for Gold Process, “Determining the right next step” again is similar to what I do and teach my students but differs greatly from the idea of coaching that I had.[5] I see a coach as being the decision maker, the one who makes the calls.  However, Camacho says that we help the person determine and take ownership in what they do next, we are there to support them and hold them accountable.[6] No blaming the coach.

Camacho uses Psalm 92 to discuss what a thriving leader looks like [7].  Being able to bear fruit, naturally, and with little effort, what Camacho refers to as our “sweet spot” caused me to stop and reflect. [8] Have I found my sweet spot?  I felt a call into the ministry in high school and there have been several occasions over the years that people have made me question whether I have been running away from that call.  I have responded through prayer and asking God for clarity.   I do know that one of my sweet spots is being in front of people.  I love teaching and I have preached a few sermons in my church.  However, the idea of pastoral leadership frightens me.   I served as an elder in my church from 2017—2022.  Camacho talked about warning lights that we may see that “point to a need for us to embrace the cross.”[9]  During 2022 I experienced some of those warning lights in various degrees and could not wait to be done serving as an elder.  I entered 2023 saying that I will probably never serve as a leader in my church again and entered this program to learn what good healthy leadership is supposed to look like.  One of our assignments for this semester is to have a meeting with a coach.  It is an assignment I was not looking forward to.  I don’t need a coach.   After reading Camacho’s book and processing what he had to say maybe a session or two with a coach would not be a bad idea.  Maybe I can get some clarity and seek to find my true sweet spot.

One final closing thought, reading the Foreword to the book, I really appreciate the words of John Wright “Most of us are probably doing some of the good works which God has designed someone else to do.  As long as we hold on to them, not only are we in danger of striving rather than thriving, but actually we could be denying someone else the opportunity to fulfil his or her calling.”[10]  If I haven’t found my sweet spot, am I standing in someone else’s?

[1] Tom Camacho, Mining For Gold (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2019).

[2] Camacho, xi.

[3] Camacho, 61.

[4] Camacho, 67.

[5] Camacho, 69.

[6] Camacho, 69.

[7] Camacho, 92.

[8] Camacho, 133.

[9] Camacho, 150.

[10] Camacho, X.

About the Author

Jeff Styer

Jeff Styer lives in Northeast Ohio's Amish Country. He has degrees in Social Work and Psychology and currently works as a professor of social work at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Jeff is married to his wife, Veronica, 25+ years. Together they have 4 beautiful children (to be honest, Jeff has 4 kids, Veronica says she is raising 5). Jeff loves the outdoors, including biking, hiking, camping, birding, and recently picked up disc golf.

10 responses to “Going for the Gold”

  1. Diane Tuttle says:

    Jeff, Thank you for your candor in your post. I am excited for you in this journey. My guess is that we all have to search for the what next as we are traveling this road. What a gift it will be for the listener to have someone listen to you, not as a football coach but to hear your voice and ask those important questions. Peace for the journey.

  2. mm Ryan Thorson says:

    Hey Jeff! Thanks for your post and honest sharing, as well as how this book has helped reshape your understanding of a coach.

    I really appreciate you sharing about ‘dual listening’ and the way that silence can aid in this practice as a coach and leader.

    I am praying for you as you rest and recover from your role as an elder in your church and praying that you rediscover the ‘sweet spot’ that the Holy Spirit has for you.

    As you prepare to meet with a coach, what resources will be activating to find one? Are there coaches in your area?

    • Jeff Styer says:

      Great question Ryan, I haven’t even begun to look yet. To begin, I will probably reach out to several of my friends in ministry to see if they know of anyone. Who knows, I may know someone and not even realize it.

  3. Adam Cheney says:

    I really like your question at the end. Are you standing in someone else’s sweet spot if it is not yours? I would probably say no. You are where God has you right now, even if it is not your sweet spot. Maybe you have been there to learn something different and new, develop a skill you were not super skilled in. Maybe you are a placeholder for the next person. Or maybe you are in a place for others to learn from you.

    • Jeff Styer says:

      Thanks for the words of encouragement. Our university is starting to teach a class on vocation and last year faculty broke up into small groups to discuss vocation and we were each assigned to write our vocational story. This was an assignment I really enjoyed, looking back over my life and seeing how God has called me several different places, but each one has helped develop me into who I am today.

  4. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Thank you for your blog. Your blog reminded me of me a few years ago.

    The phrase ‘the idea of pastoral leadership frightens me.’ a sentiment I find familiar. You may be aware, given our shared peer group, that I am a traveling pastor. The prospect of assuming the role of a pastor initially instilled fear in me due to the associated demands it entails.

    The song “Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?’ during Sunday worship, freaked me out because I knew God was calling me. I brought my fears to God, and I said I am not ready to be a full-time pastor. God honored my request. That is why I am a Traveling-Pastor. My sweet spot is the time preparing my sermon, preaching and inspiring people through the word of God, and I like speaking in front of people too.

    Glad to read that through Camacho’s book, you see the benefit of coaching and decided to give coaching session a chance. Let the Holy Spirit connect you with the right coach to help you find your true sweet spot.

    I felt liberated when I addressed one of the questions from Camacho’s book. ‘If money were no obstacle, what type of work would you love to do full time for the rest of your life?’ Here is something to think about, if you could do any type of work or ministry that cooperated with your design, what would it be?

    • Jeff Styer says:

      Great question, I love teaching, there is a part of me that would love to preach more. Doing pulpit supply does interest me, but at the same time I feel I would lose connections at my own church. I am really going to have to ponder that question more.

  5. Nancy Blackman says:

    I imagine you can see the connection between social work and life coaching, as both require deep listening skills. I think that’s the beautiful part of life coaching (that I have experienced). When you listen well to both the person speaking and the Holy Spirit, the questions you ask of that person help to point the person the gold. In other words, I think it’s the questions that provide the mining process. I always say that people know who they are and what they’re capable of, but they haven’t always been encouraged to “mine” for those things.

    And, I love that you mentioned the silence, which I refer to as a holy pause. 🙂

    Jeff, I think if you know that you love teaching and enjoy being in front of people — along with your social work training — you would be a helluva pastor. Those combinations are gold (pun intended).

    So, you asked a question at the end: have you answered it for yourself as well?

    • Jeff Styer says:

      Thanks for the comments. No, I have not answered my question yet. Shela asked what I would like to do if money were no object and I just replied to her that I am going to really have to give that more thought. Maybe after this program is complete, I will have more direction.

  6. Elysse Burns says:

    Jeff, thank you for sharing a bit about your experience as an elder. It sounds like that was a very difficult season for you. I commend you for starting this program to discover for yourself what a healthy leader looks like. I agree with Camacho in that thriving leaders are very valuable, but they are rare.

    I too was skeptical about finding a coach. I have never liked the word coach. Perhaps, it brings back bad memories of high school sports? Despite this, I have discovered that there is a lot of power in someone who guides you through open-ended and very thought-provoking questions. I will pray that this coaching experience will be enjoyable for you.

    It sounds like you’ve already implemented some coaching leadership into your daily life in how you interact with people.

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