Three-and-a-half years ago, Emily Calhoun was at her wits end. Constantly stressed, caught up in a flurry of activity and feeling like her life had no focus, she didn’t know where to turn.
One morning she woke up and realized that she needed to take control of her schedule, time and priorities. Rev. Karen Prevatt’s name popped into her head, and Calhoun decided she needed to make a phone call.
“I believe the idea to call her was straight from God,” said Calhoun, a wife, mother, teacher and member of Wilmington Island United Methodist Church. “She helped me turn my life around, plain and simple.”
Calhoun, like many others have recently done, discovered the benefits of working with a life coach. Endorsed by the United Methodist Endorsing Agency (UMEA) – the same agency that endorses chaplains and counselors – Rev. Prevatt helps individuals, couples and churches set goals and make positive life changes.
“Most people will hire a coach when they want something to change,” Rev. Prevatt said. “Usually by that point they’re ready.”
A pastor at heart, Rev. Prevatt served in local South Georgia churches for 15 years before launching Living Tall Ministries, her coaching, speaking, and teaching ministry, in 2005.
Someone who has always been an encourager, Rev. Prevatt a few years ago attended a conference with a friend. The conference included a seminar on coaching – something she had never heard of – and as the two friends sat together and listened, Rev. Prevatt’s friend turned to her and said, “That’s you! You do that all the time!”
“I feel like the God-given gifts in me are released in what I do,” she said.
Rev. Prevatt says that her role as a life coach is that of an encourager, discoverer and accountability partner.
“Many people are motivated by having some type of accountability in place,” she said. “I just love coming alongside and hearing what’s important to people and getting behind them and helping them realize their dreams.”
Different than counselors and therapists who focus on healing the past, life coaches look at the present and toward the future, focusing on where their clients want to be.
“In coaching, the past has a role, but it plays the role more of a rear-view mirror,” Rev. Prevatt said. “In coaching you refer to your past as a reference point. And with coaching, it’s not so much that I know what’s best for you and tell you what to do, it’s really more coming alongside somebody. As a Christian, I see it as I’m listening to the Holy Spirit in you. I love those moments when people discover something about themselves.”
A relative newcomer in ministry, there are only 11 UM-endorsed life coaches in the United States. Endorsed in 2008, the same year that UMEA first began credentialing professional life coaches, Rev. Prevatt was among the first four life coaches endorsed and is the only one in the state of Georgia.
To be endorsed by the United Methodist Church, applicants must meet a certain set of criteria, be interviewed, write two papers, and be certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
This process ensures that endorsed life coaches are competent, adhere to a code of ethics and have the training and experience needed.
The United Methodist Church is the first and only denomination to endorse life coaches.
An extension minister who receives no funding, salary or benefits from the South Georgia Annual Conference, Rev. Prevatt is financially supported by clients.
Contracted by both individuals and churches, her ministry includes not just coaching, but teaching and preaching as well.
While serving at Statesboro First United Methodist Church, pastor Dr. Charles Houston, now retired, hired Rev. Prevatt to provide premarital, staff and individual coaching. While there, she also led and taught a few small groups.
“She has a real gift for understanding what’s going on in people’s lives,” said Dr. Houston, who now serves as chairperson for the Living Tall Advisory Board, “and helping them to find ways within themselves to overcome barriers to move forward in their life or in their relationships.
“I think this coaching ministry has tremendous potential for helping people in living life successfully, and the United Methodist Church has affirmed this by making this one of the endorsed ministries of the Church.”
Before marrying in July 2007, Rev. Barry Giddens, pastor of Lyons First United Methodist Church, and his wife Erin hired Rev. Prevatt as their premarital coach.
At the time, Rev. Giddens was serving as an associate pastor at Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon. Thinking it wise to be coached or counseled by someone outside of the church in which he served, they chose to work with Rev. Prevatt.
“Karen was a natural choice for us. She poured into us,” he said. “One of the wonderful things Karen does is teach people how to communicate as one in marriage. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t come back to some of those principles that Karen first taught us. I wouldn’t trade our time with her for the world.”
Rev. Meg Procopio, Isle of Hope United Methodist Church’s Minister of Christian Education, echoes the need for soon-to-be-married couples to receive marriage coaching.
Without specialized training, Rev. Procopio wonders how equipped ministers are to effectively counsel engaged couples.
“Anytime someone comes to me and wants me to officiate their wedding, part of the premarital counseling process is to do life coaching, or what we call transition coaching, with Karen,” she said. “I have had incredible, positive feedback from couples who have done that. The tools that she uses really help them understand where they are strong, where they need to improve and where there could be possible roadblocks in the future.”
Savannah’s Isle of Hope UMC has partnered with Rev. Prevatt to put together a program called P.L.A.C.E., which helps people identify and discover their spiritual gifts, their personality and their passions so that they can connect to a meaningful ministry within the church.
“Partnering with Karen gave me the chance to have a really great resource that I could connect people with that had the training, expertise and the tools to be able to help them with their goals and dreams for their life,” Rev. Procopio said. “She is a really great, valuable tool that we have right here in our Conference.”
Just as Jesus did, Rev. Prevatt comes alongside people, joins them in their journey, and asks the hard questions – questions that lead to changed lives.
“That’s a part of what I love about coaching – asking questions,” she said. “It’s a place of discovery; it’s a place of hearing the Holy Spirit and listening to what God has in mind for them. That’s what I really love. To release what God has in mind in the lives of people, in churches. That’s what I feel like is my role – to come alongside as God’s doing that work.”
God’s work through Rev. Prevatt was transformative for Emily Calhoun.
“Working with Karen was kind of like having Jesus come and sit down for a conversation,” she said. “He is so present with her in everything she does – you can't help but notice His love for you as she works with you. Just as the Holy Spirit teaches us without condemnation, so Karen helps you with encouragement and uplifting problem solving. She really listens to you, then honors your God-given talents and personality, and helps you learn to work with those to achieve your goals.
“I really can't say enough about how life-changing working with Karen was for me,” she said.
--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate editor
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