“What is coaching and how is it different from mentoring?”
“How do you define coaching?”
These are common questions I am typically asked when I tell people that I lead a ministry for coaching leaders. Coaching may be a modern word and unused in the church, but the practice of coaching is not new. Coaching is regularly used in business, education, fitness, medicine, finances, and in what some call “Life Coaching.” There are as many definitions of coaching as there are books and seminars on coaching.
Gary Collins explains the background of the word coach: "In the 1500s, the word coach described a horse-drawn vehicle that would get people from where they were to where they wanted to be. Many years later, in the 1880s, coach was given an athletic meaning, identifying the person who tutored university students in their rowing on the Cam River in Cambridge. That use of the word stuck and coaches become known as people who help athletes move from one place to another. Over time the word also became associated with musicians, public speakers, and actors who rely on coaches to improve their skills, overcome obstacles, remain focused, and get to where they want to be."
Collins defines coaching as “the art and practice of guiding a person or group from where they are toward the greater competence and fulfillment that they desire.”
In their book, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life, Robert Clinton and Paul Stanley suggest there are six types of relationships that are keys to having life success: discipler, spiritual guide, coach, counselor, teacher, and sponsor. Regarding coaching, they write, “Coaching is a process of imparting encouragement and skills to succeed in a task through a relationship” (1992:76). They helpfully explain that a “key to good coaching is observation, feedback, and evaluation. An experienced coach does not try to control the player (or mentoree), but rather he seeks to inspire and equip him with the necessary motivation, perspective and skills to enable him to excellent performance and effectiveness.”
From these varied definitions, we see that a coach is someone who has a relationship with another person whom he or she encourages and assists in developing the skills necessary to advance in a particular area.
Coaching a church leader includes encouraging, equipping, and empowering him/her with the necessary skills and competencies for leading others in a local church or ministry.
Gospel-centered coaching, however, adds another dimension noted by Thompson as “…continual gospel renewal and character deepening.”
Coaching by the gospel is an approach that moves beyond the outward, methodologically-driven process, to the motivational level of the planter. A gospel-saturated coach is in relationship, using varied appropriate means as the situation demands with the leader. The gospel-oriented approach to coaching a leader is biblically sound and theologically rich.
What is Gospel-centered coaching?
C.R.O.S.S. Coaching is an intentional gospel conversation with focused discussions about a leader's Relational, Personal, Missional, and Spiritual like (RPMS). For a leader in a local church or ministry role, it is a process of imparting encouragement and skills in order to succeed in the task of leading, renewing and strengthening others in the church, in the context of a gospel friendship.
We can clearly see from Scripture that coaching leaders and emerging leaders was a fundamental activity in the lives of various leaders. It was one of the pathways in how they did ministry. These godly men understood that one of the keys to the formation of missional communities and churches was the ongoing coaching of new leadership.
Remember, the gospel not only has power, it is the power to bring about renewal, change and growth, individually, and corporately. Let the gospel do its work through a coaching relationship.
At CMM, we believe every pastor, church planter, ministry leader, and missionary is created to thrive in ministry and they deserve to have a gospel coach alongside them as they ministry. No matter what leadership role you have, we suggest getting a CMM C.R.O.S.S. Gospel Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. You don’t have to pastor, plant or lead alone. A CMM C.R.O.S.S. Coach will help encourage and equip you every step along the way.
We just finished a 3 day training with men and women from California, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Plus, we had international trainees join us from Holland, Australia, and China. Why are people coming to Gospel Coach Training in the first place?
Coaches who think strategically and who can help pastors, church planters, and ministry leaders stay focused on Jesus gaining a great reputation in the community will potentially have a longer range of influence than coaches who do not. Gospel-centered coaching is designed to assist the church in making plans to help connect lost people to Christ through various means of missional engagement, to build up leaders in spiritual formation and community, and to become transforming agents of God’s graciousness in the city, region, and nations of the world.
Although there may be innumerable benefits from a gospel coaching friendship, here are at least four major benefits:
1. The healthy pastor or church planter and his family
As the pastor or church planter learns to appropriate the gospel to his own heart, to his family relationships, and the church, he will be spiritually renewed day by day.
C.H. MacIntosh, a British pastor in the 1800s, suggested the ongoing need of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit for the pastor:
"The true secret to all ministry is spiritual power. It is not man’s genius, or man’s intellect, or man’s energy; but simply the power of the Spirit of the God of the Gospel. . . . It is well for all ministers to bear this ever in mind. It will sustain the heart and give constant freshness to their ministry. A ministry which flows from abiding dependence upon the Holy Ghost can never become barren. If a man is drawing on his own resources, he will soon run dry. It matters not what his powers may be, or how extensive his reading, or how vast his stores of information; if the Holy Ghost be not the spring and power of his ministry, it must, sooner or later, lose its freshness and its effectiveness. How important, therefore, that all who minister in the gospel. . . should lean continually and exclusively on the power of the Holy Ghost! He knows what souls need, and He can supply it. But he must be trusted and used. It will not do to lean partly on self and partly on the Spirit" (1869:214).
2. The healthy relationships among the leaders
As a pastor, church planter, or ministry leader disciples others with gospel-renewal truth, and emerging leaders are trained in dealing with their lives with the gospel, the leadership will be unified, dealing maturely with one another in love. Lovelace writes that without the gospel, many church members and leaders will fail either to engage themselves in the church or to move into deeper relationships with one another:
"Sometimes with great effort [most church members] can be maneuvered into some active role in the church's program, like a trained seal in a circus act, but their hearts are not fully in it. They may repeat the catchwords of the theology of grace, but many have little deep awareness that they and other Christians are “accepted in the beloved.” Since their understanding of justification is marginal or unreal—anchored not to Christ, but to some conversion experience in the past or to an imagined state of goodness in their lives—they know little of the dynamic of justification. Their understanding of sin focuses upon behavioral externals which they can eliminate from their lives by a little will power and ignores the great submerged continents of pride, covetousness and hostility beneath the surface. Thus their phariseeism defends them both against full involvement in the church's mission and against full subjection of their inner lives to the authority of Christ" (1979:204-205).
3. The healthy relationships in the church body
As the pastor, church planter, or ministry leader relates to others with the gospel (living as the “chief repenter” before the church), preaches and teaches the gospel, and leads by the power of the gospel, the people will grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The benefit to the community
A pastor, church planter, or ministry leader who lives by grace, along with members who are learning to grow in grace, will have a positive influence on their relationships with their neighbors and the culture around them.
Is it time for your church or ministry to seek the wisdom from a Gospel Coach?
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!