How many hats do you wear?  I am not thinking of actual hats that you put on your head depending on weather conditions, but rather about the different roles you play in your life and your work.  The church is not unique in asking its ‘workers’ to wear several different hats, but that is certainly a big feature of what we do.

In a very short space of time, we can be asked to be a leader, an administrator, a children’s worker, a pastoral carer, a teacher, a preacher, a worship leader, a community worker – to name but a few.  Each activity in which we are involved means wearing a different hat as the circumstances dictate.  There can be other more specialised roles as well that we might be called on to adopt. I count myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to do courses that have added some skills to my ‘toolbox’.  I remember doing a Counselling Skills course, another in Appreciative Inquiry, and in more recent years I had the opportunity to learn something about mediation and coaching skills.  In a personal way I have found these learning experiences enriching and I certainly hope they have informed and influenced my work over the years.

One of the things I have discovered is that these skills are not relevant only in the context for which they are designed.  Mediation skills are important if you are to be a Place for Hope practitioner or a family mediator.  Counselling skills are important if you are involved in the pastoral care of a congregation.  Coaching skills are required if you are to work with people through an MDC (Ministry Development Conversation).  But they are also relevant in so many of our normal, ongoing relationships with people.  Part of the difficulty about giving these skills a label is that it might feel as if we are putting each of them in a separate a box, when, in fact, skills like these can be called on in the routine of daily life.

It wasn’t long after I had done some mediation training that I realised these skills were of value in our family life when two people disagreed with each other.   Then I found myself speaking to someone about a question I was tussling with.  She immediately and very naturally went into a coaching mode, asking me questions that helped me to explore what I was thinking and feeling.  There was no formality about it, it was simply part of our conversation – and a very helpful part as well.

We all wear different hats and one skill we learn in ministry is an ability to move smoothly from one role to another as required.  I reckon that the key skill here is the ability to listen and discern what hat we need to wear at any given time.  Yet listening is a skill that needs to be constantly worked on.  Without good and active listening, we do not truly hear what the other person is saying.

Sometimes when we change hats we need to ask permission to do so rather than just assume it is OK.  We may say, ‘Can I ask a Question?’ or ‘Can I share a thought or an experience with you?’  or maybe even, ‘Can I change hats for a moment?’ We need to know the boundaries of our relationship with others, what is acceptable and what is not.  The boundaries, for example, in supervision are different from those in coaching, so we need to be clear what we are doing.

The bottom line is that it can help us and others, if we listen carefully and are sensitive about the right time to change the hat we are wearing.

By Rev Iain Goring