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A Case for Leadership Coaching

Discipleship

by Bruce Zachary

A Case for Leadership Coaching

Every elite athlete has at least one thing in common – they have been coached to maximize God-given potential. In the context of sports, coaching is presumed and is an accepted and expected part of the culture. On the other hand, meaningful coaching and mentoring is less prevalent in the context of Christian ministry. Accordingly, the benefits of development are hindered and hamstrung.


If you want to influence God’s kingdom, there is likely no more rewarding use of your time than coaching existing and emerging leaders. The same is true for those who receive coaching. Kingdom leverage is created every time a leader is coached to be more effective. Church leaders continue to need support at every stage of development, because of the unique challenges that are experienced along the way. 

Some of you have been blessed to have coaches and mentors along your journey. They encouraged you that you had the right stuff to finish well and motivated you to discover your God-given potential. They warned you about potential dangers you might encounter and how to avoid or overcome the obstacles that are inherent in every leader’s journey. Unfortunately, too many of you did not receive that type of support. You embarked on the journey and God was gracious, faithful and blessed your ministry.

Yet, don’t you agree it would have been beneficial to have someone who was ahead of the curve, with whom you could relate, to coach you along the way?

Have you ever thought about coaching others or receiving coaching?

What do coaches do?

Coaches provide intentional, relational support to create accountability for existing and emerging church leaders.

They assist in assessing and aligning God’s people with His plan. Gary Collins, a leader and pioneer in coaching, defined Christian coaching as, “The practice of guiding and enabling individuals or groups to move from where they are to where God wants them to be.” Christian coaches encourage others to find God’s vision for their lives and from following their own agendas to pursue God’s purposes. Miller and Hall, in their primer on Christian coaching offer the following definition: “Christian coaching is a focused, Christ-centered relationship that cultivates a person’s sustained growth and action.”

Coaching is primarily related to support. A coach doesn’t have to have all the answers, nor are they supposed to constantly tell other leaders what to do. Coaches often are most effective when they help leaders learn to listen to God for themselves. A coach’s goal is to help others succeed. The art of effective coaching can be learned, and the basic process is relatively simple. By following a basic framework and implementing some general coaching skills, you can learn to coach.

How does coaching differ from mentoring?

The primary distinction between coaching and mentoring is the process of training. Coaches generally ask questions to help a leader discover God’s answers. On the other hand, mentors generally give answers, rather than ask questions, in an effort to guide a leader. The coaching or mentoring style may both be used at any time of training. The mentor-disciple relationship is generally characterized by a mentor instructing a disciple, “Do this.” Yet, in a coaching relationship, the coach is primarily helping the leader to discover the answers [e.g. What do you think you should do?] and occasionally instructs the leader to “Do this.” Bob Logan notes, “Good coaching isn’t the art of giving good answers. It’s the art of asking good questions.” When a person discovers a course of action for himself, it will be followed with greater passion and conviction than when a trainer simply tells a leader what to do. What keeps existing and emerging leaders from receiving effective coaching, or becoming effective coaches?

There are numerous reasons, including ignorance of the benefits, but the four most common that I’ve observed are as follows:

1. Time:

Both coaches and the coached are concerned that they don’t have the time to for a coaching relationship in addition to their numerous other responsibilities. Nevertheless, an effective coaching relationship can be established in one hour per month, for 6-12 months. If you are presently unable to figure out how to carve out one hour a month, you’re very likely in need of coaching.

2. Money:

It can be discouraging to say the least when you see a leader charging $200+ for an hour of their time to serve as a coach. Let’s put aside the issue of whether that is a wise or valuable investment of resources to become more effective. I’m aware of many capable and Christ-like mentors who are offering to coach for no money or relatively little money. Trying to make a living by coaching is extremely challenging. So, the more capable leaders who simply recognize that they can give some of their time for the kingdom purpose of training, the more that money will be eliminated as an obstacle.

3. Fear of accountability:

The same attribute of chutzpah that motivates many to seek to become leaders is an obstacle to admitting that we don’t have all the answers and need help. When you discover that you are encountering obstacles to Christian life and ministry, then coaches are an answer. Rather than let the fear of accountability or inadequacy paralyze you, create a healthy relationship with accountability to overcome.

4. Where to begin:

Here are some ideas to overcome the obstacle of wondering where to begin. First, become familiar with a basic approach and general coaching skills. I’ve written a book on the subject called “Coaching,” and it is available for free here. Second, the team at Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN] and Velo Church Leaders are prepared to coach 30 to 50 leaders for free in 2016. Third, we are interested in expanding the sphere of coaches willing to help aspiring leaders. So, if you want to receive coaching or be part of a team offering coaching, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bruce@velochurchleaders.org