Sending well: coaching

Barnabas is a hero to us coach-types. His nickname meant “son of encouragement” and was inspired by his character and behavior (Acts 4:36). He was generous, loyal, and encouraging. And the people around him noticed.

Church planters need help to live out their unique Kingdom assignment, regardless of their experience or skill level. One way they get help is through having a “Barnabas voice” that is often provided by a church planter coach. The church planter coach plays an important role in sending well.

A church planter coach listens well and asks great questions. He is trained to “draw out” from the deep water of the heart (Proverbs 20:5). But a loyal, generous, and encouraging coach reserves coaching time to answer questions as well. Feedback, or direct communication, is a coach’s gift to the church planter he coaches. 

Below are 5 questions for coaches to answer to provide feedback for the planters they coach:

1)     What is the planter doing well? (Planter’s Need: Affirmation)

Decision making is one of the most important functions of a leader. A coach holds up a mirror to the planter, cheering him along for his good decisions and healthy leadership. Although planters may be slow to admit this, they need to hear an answer to the question, “How am I doing?” 

2)     What examples of gifts, strengths, and character do you see? (Planter’s Need: Encouragement)

A coach shouldn’t assume that a planter knows or embraces how God has uniquely wired him. A great place to start is discussing the planter’s assessment report and corresponding developmental plan. But more important, a coach must watch for specific examples of gifts, strengths, and character and be quick to affirm them.

3)     Where does he struggle most? (Planter’s Need: Self-Awareness)

Self-awareness describes our view of ourselves (skills, maturity, strengths, etc.). The best way to address a planter’s need to grow is to first ask questions like, “What is your biggest struggle?” and “Where do you need to grow?” Over time a coach may see things a planter does not, blind spots that can affect life and ministry. Periodically a coach needs to say what he sees and coach the planter through a developmental plan.

4)     What apparent contradictions do you see? (Planter’s Need: Awareness)

Awareness describes our view of other people, and how our actions positively or negatively affect them. Our best intentions may not translate well. The way we communicate, lead, and use our influence can be dangerous and self-defeating. A coach can provide an early warning system to alert a church planter to the danger of assuming too much about his own leadership.

5)     What are examples of God at work? (Planter’s Need: Faith)

Leaders are pathologically disappointed. Disciples will never be made fast enough, the church will never grow large enough, and the impact on the community will never be deep enough. A coach watches for the work of the Holy Spirit and helps fuel a planter’s faith by providing clear examples the planter may have missed.

Proverbs describes the beauty of Spirit-inspired words: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 ESV). When a coach speaks directly into a church planter’s life, the words should be authentic, substantive, and led by the Holy Spirit. A coach should resist the temptation to talk too much or attempt to “fix” the planter being coached.

Church planter coaches, the planter you coach needs encouragement and your honest feedback. Know and embrace your role in sending well. Here are 3 steps:

  1. Spend time reviewing these 5 questions on behalf of the planters you currently coach.
  2. Use your initial insights to help shape your prayers for them.
  3. Look for opportunities to give them feedback.


For more information about church planter coaching, contact your local NAMB Church Planter Catalyst, Send City Missionary, or other church planting leaders.

Visit Sending Well: Principles and Practices of Church Planter Coaching to receive a free e-book.

Published June 29, 2016