Welcome back! In part one of this resource, Anthony Prince and I (Brandi Kirkland) shared thoughtful ways to ask for continuing ed and professional development funds. While the way you ask might depend on the what you’re asking for, there are definitely some similarities in approach, regardless of the what.

But where there are nuances to be mindful of, we didn’t want to leave you without help. Listed here are some great ways to spend the continuing ed (CE) budget you either have, or wish you had, and how to ask your leadership to invest.

1. Buy a Book

This is the easiest of the asks, so it’s a great place to begin. In fact, if you’re someone who has paid out of pocket for books you need to improve your ministries – just so you didn’t have to bother your bosses – you’re not alone. (Guilty!) And it’s why we wanted to start here as you begin learning how to ask for support. 

So, what are some approaches you can use to ask for a book?

  • If you have an existing continuing ed budget or a rule that allows you to spend up to a certain amount without approval, try this:
    *Knock, Knock*
    Hey [Boss], I was just wondering if this [budget/rule] included leadership development books for clergy and staff?”
    • Nuances:
      1. A special meeting probably isn’t needed for purchasing a book if there is already an existing budget.
      2. If your supervisor has further questions, let them know where you heard about the book (podcast, facebook group, review, Google search, friend, etc.) and tie it back to your goals and, especially, your leader’s goals.
      3. If they say “No,” this is a good time to ask for clarification on what that continuing ed money can be used for or what continuing ed or professional development items might be inline with the budget this year.
  • If you have no continuing ed budget and are bringing it up in your regular 1-on-1 meeting, try this:
    I’ve been thinking about [your boss’s goal] and [your own personal goal for the ministry], and I heard about/found this book on [specific podcast, Google search, Facebook group]. I’d love to read it and see if we can pick up some new approaches. Would that be something the church could pay for? It’s $12.95 on Kindle.”
    • Nuances:
      1. If they have more questions, give them any more details you have about the book that tie into the church’s goals or issues you may be facing currently and how you hope this book might help. 

ANTHONY: Most leaders love the idea of learning, but don’t have time to read all of the things we should be reading. One of my favorite things a staff person has done is read a book in their field and then give me a bookmarked copy with the 3-5 things they wanted me to check out from what they read. Because what they did helped me grow, it made it that much easier to give them permission to pursue future resources. I knew they’d bring something back to me that would help me better understand their ministry area and help me grow in my own leadership skills. Just be mindful that a book titled, “I’m thinking about quitting my job” or “How to lead when your boss is a bad leader” might create some relational tension between you and your supervisor – so tread lightly.

2. Go to a Conference

Conferences are great! They’re exciting, they’re educational, and they pump you up for another ministry year. Coming out of 2022 (And 2021. And 2020.), they could be just what the doctor ordered for a discouraged spirit. But you probably can’t tell your boss that you need them to pay for the conference ticket (Ouch!), transportation, and accommodations because “it’ll be fun!”

So, what do you say?

  • [Disclaimer: This one needs a meeting!]
    “I’d love to talk about conferences. I know we’d like to [insert ministry goal here], and I’d really like to hear some new tips on how we might achieve some new milestones. I found this conference in [location hopefully nearish to you] that could be great.”
    • Nuances:
      1. Answer questions here, enthuse about speakers who will be in attendance, and offer to send your supervisor the link when you get back to your office. 
      2. Share any anecdotes you’ve learned at previous conferences that have helped your ministries in the past (if you have them.) 
      3. Talk pricing when asked. (Recall from part one: always put the dollar amount at the end.) Include anything that will make it easier on the church’s budget. Are you carpooling with someone at another local church? Are you able to stay with a friend who lives near the venue? These things aren’t mandatory by any means, but if you’ve got a trick up your sleeve, now’s the time to play it. 
      4. Consider having a smaller ask in your back pocket. If the answer is “no” or “not this year”, is there a smaller, local branch of that conference coming nearer to home for less that you can start with? Do they have an online webinar? It can’t hurt to be ready for a “no” with a smaller request.

ANTHONY: Some leaders love conferences while others wonder about how the investment in attending one can actually translate into practice. Before you make this ask, know which camp your boss lands in. Brandi didn’t name this, but she is the kind of person who takes things she has learned and tries to pass them on to others – which makes a conference a great investment for a church. Imagine what it would look like if you followed up attending a conference by hosting a training event for your volunteers where you shared the best things you learned with them to equip them for the year ahead. As a supervisor, I’m always looking for the biggest bang for my buck. If my staff team used conferences as a training ground to then bring those things home to our church, I’m much more likely to say “yes” to that investment. 

3. Join a Cohort

Cohorts are life-giving, like conferences, but they last longer and generally offer a little more accountability. They’re a great way to grow your skills, pursue your ministry goals, and find a community of people who do what you do all across the country. They also vary widely in price and can include resources like books and even coaching.

They are a great investment, but how do you start that conversation?

  • “I’ve been looking at the challenge we’ve been facing with [recruiting volunteers] (you can insert your own challenge here, but let’s be real, it’s probably recruiting volunteers), and I found a cohort that teaches some new strategies for [recruitment]. It has a lot of great reviews and I’d love to chat with you about it.”
    • Nuances:
      1. Again, you’re going to want to answer questions here. Share anything you know about the cohort and cohort leaders, especially as it pertains to the church’s goals. 
      2. This is also a good opportunity to share how you might be able to share what you learn with the rest of the team who won’t be in the cohort. Sharing new tips and tricks can make the investment feel more reasonable, and can even take some of the load off of your supervisor, who has to come up with something inspiring for your staff meeting every week. 
      3. Offer to send your supervisor a link to the website with all the information.
      4. Again, talk about the price when asked. Don’t avoid or rush into it. It’s also good to know if there are any alternatives. For example, some cohorts are offered with or without coaching options, and there may be different organizations at differing price points. Do your research, pitch the one you’re hoping for, but be prepared to pivot!

Interested in joining a cohort?
Check out these options from Ministry Architects!

ANTHONY: As a supervisor, I can sometimes get overprotective when it comes to who’s coaching the staff I provide support for because the last thing I want is to have staff getting mixed messages from different voices. Connecting your request to be in a cohort to the church’s goals would help me feel like we’d be moving in the same direction. Additionally, I appreciate when my direct reports let me know that they’ll run new ideas and initiatives by me before they decide to roll them out. Your leader might be more hands off and, if that’s the case, you probably need a cohort more than most people! Having a group of people in your life who are voices of encouragement can be a ministry-saver. Just make sure that you pitch this as a resource that will work in tandem with your boss and not something they’ll have to work against in the future.

4. Find a Ministry Coach

Ministry coaching is one of those things that feels more like a far off dream than it really is. I remember in my first ministry, my senior pastor told me to “go find a coach.” No leads. No “let me introduce you.” DEFINITELY no budget. Just go find one. It was like searching for the white stag. Or Big Foot. (To be clear, I never found any of them.) If you are feeling like you need the support of an experienced coach who can help you face the everyday challenges of ministry AND equip you to achieve those pesky goals we keep referring to, it’s not impossible.

Coaches are out there and they are worth the investment. So how do you ask?

  • “I’m excited about the goals we’ve been setting for the upcoming year, and I’m excited to get started. We’ve got a lot going for us, but I think we could go further, faster if I had a ministry coach. I’ve been looking into ministry coaching, and it seems like it could be a solid investment for the ministry.”
    • Nuances:
      1. For this one, I feel like it’s really important to know what organization you’re looking into and why. The good news is that many organizations and individuals offer multiple levels of coaching packages with more or less months, and varying levels of engagement throughout the coaching relationship. This means that the price can be very attainable, but it also means you need to narrow this down for your employer. What’s the ask specifically?
      2. You also want to have something you’d like to learn in mind. Some coaching can be more like counseling sessions where a pastor or staffer goes to complain once a month, but the sessions don’t accomplish much. If your boss has experienced this kind of ministry coaching, they may be less inclined to fund the expedition. However, if you can name some things you’d like to achieve through coaching – becoming more organized, creating new and sustainable systems for student retention, developing strategies for volunteer recruitment– they will probably be much more willing to hear you out.
      3. When it comes to pricing, you’re going to want to know ahead of time the cost of 6 months, 12 months, or whatever you’re looking at and why you think that amount of time will help you AND THE MINISTRY succeed. It also might be good to have a cohort with coaching options on hand to discuss, in case your supervisor leans toward a little more bulk for their buck. 

ANTHONY: Asking for a ministry coach can feel like a gutsy ask for some because it feels like a vulnerable ask. Not every boss creates a space that’s safe enough to ask for this sort of help. Saying you need the help of a coach might come across as you saying that you’re not up for the job you’ve been hired to do. However, there are ways for a supervisor to hear this request without coming to that conclusion! The best athletes in the world have multiple coaches, so the idea that only people who aren’t good at what they do are the ones who need coaches is a myth that’s easy to bust. As Brandi said, knowing if your boss has been given coaching in the past lets you know what sort of bias you’re working either with or against. Beyond that, having a clear start and end point lets a boss know that this tool you want to spend church resources on is a temporary investment with lasting results! Depending on your need and/or your church culture, you may be in need of a Spiritual Director instead of a Ministry Coach. Knowing your need will help clarify your ask and can set you up for getting a “yes” to the thing you need most.

Unsure of whether coaching or spiritual direction are right for you?
Here’s a great blog to help you decide.

Friends, that’s a lot of options, and you’ve got a lot to mull through. But we’re going to end this part the same way we closed part one: You are worth investing in. Whether or not you trust that your leadership team wants what’s best for you (and we hope they do!), you are worthy of growth and development. Just like the people in your congregation or parish, God has a plan for you. For your life and for your ministry. For the people you will reach. And if you believe that you could be helped by any of the above options, then we say GO FOR IT! 

I know that a “no” might hurt your feelings. (Trust me! I’m the queen of rejection sensitivity dysphoria!) But a “YES!” could change your life. You can do this. But you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out if you need a little more encouragement. We’re just an email away.