An Unrequited Calling
I received a heart wrenching email a few months ago. A woman, who I will call Lisa, received some coach training and felt like the scales had fallen from her eyes. She could see her true calling.
I had the same Pauline experience (Acts 9:17-19) during my coach training. Coaching fit me like a well fitted suit. These were my people. Finally, I had found them! There was only one problem as this was not the suit one wears to pastor a church, which was what I was doing at the time.
For Lisa, it is the reverse of Jonah’s story. Lisa was ready to travel to her Nineveh (a spiritual destination of God’s choice), but God offered no specific destination. She did not have a market for her calling.
Alanis Morissette captures this sour feeling well in her iconic song “Ironic”:
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
It is like experiencing a longing for the Kingdom, and then finding out that the Kingdom has still not yet come in its fullness. This is the painful truth for so many called out people. It physically hurts to not be able to serve in the way we know we’re called.
I want us to sit with this pain for a moment. It is the pain of our brothers and sisters (and maybe ourselves) who long for the Kingdom and find that it isn’t fully developed yet. It reminds me of a Scripture more famous at funerals than in reflections upon one’s calling:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. – John 14:3
This is great theology: Jesus will prepare a place for you, and He will return to take you to that place. An old version of the Bible inappropriately translates “place” as “mansion,” but the called are not looking for a mansion. They’re looking for the freedom to use their gifts in the way they were created to be used.
I think this will be a major role for coaches in the next decade, to help Christians find a suitable place to live out their calling. The traditional roles of pastor and missionary just do not suffice any more for the wonderful complexity of God’s recent callings. Maybe they never did. God wants the church to go to the world, even while the church wants the world to come to them.
Calling and Market
Lisa finished her email with two practical questions:
- Is there a market for life coaching?
- Is there a way to reach prospective clients respectfully and effectively?
Marketing is about being available. Father Gregory Boyle, a Catholic priest, founded Homeboy Industries, which facilitates the redemption of gang members by giving them meaningful work and helping them live respectable lives. He was once asked how he reaches hardened gang members. His answer was a surprise, “You don’t. You make yourself reachable.” Marketing yourself as a coach is about making yourself reachable.
If Father Boyle asked anybody if there was a market for gang members to gain meaningful employment, working side by side with rival gang members, the answer would have been a resounding, “No! There is no market. Do not waste your time.”
Father Boyle had a calling that intersected with the market. He made himself reachable.
A serious problem for many coaches, counselors, and pastors is that they are not reachable. They might argue, “I have a website. I have a business card. I have an office I cannot afford. I write a blog. How could you possibly say I’m not reachable?” It’s because reachability comes from presence. Clients hire people they know, like, and trust. You need to find a way to let people know, like, and trust you. You need an orbit, not a social media platform.
There are lots of people making a living as a life coach. Do you know anyone who could not use a life coach? These markets take time and persistence to open. They take someone with enough imagination to paint a picture of how a thriving life coach might exist in the community.
There is a fear that if the economy tightens up, people will not have money for luxuries like life coaching. Why is it easier for us to always envision economic apocalypse? But the current economic journey has people using Door Dash, eating organic foods, and commissioning an artist to paint their pets. Did you know there was a market for that?
Yes, there is a market for life coaching, and clients can be reached in a respectful and effective manner. You will need to adopt a lifestyle of being reachable, which is a primary characteristic of a citizen of the Kingdom. This is the lifestyle of those whose calling intersects with the market.