6 reasons missionary coaching doesn’t always work

By Dino Senesi

I discovered coaching in 2003 when Bob Logan became my executive coach. My motivation for the relationship was more, “Hello 911, I’m in big trouble” than, “I’d really love to grow as a leader.” But God is always doing more than we see. He changed the trajectory of my life through my relationship with Bob. Coaching is one of the current sources of “buzz” in ministry. I’m a part of all that. But coaching doesn’t work more than any method I might use for Kingdom purposes. Coaching isn’t magic, nor is at “anointed.” God doesn’t anoint things or methods, only people. God can, however, use coaches for His purpose if they focus on coaching well. All of us who are called to coach should coach well for God’s mission and His glory. Below are 6 reasons that our coaching doesn’t work.

1. When the coach isn’t clear about his purpose.

Leaders have multiple voices “speaking into” their lives and ministries. The coach has a specific role of “drawing out.” Mentoring, advice-giving, counseling and teaching are critical needs for church planters. As coaching is clearly defined, all these methods become more effective.

2. When the coach isn’t prepared to coach.

Coaching conversations need to be scheduled in advance. A high level of commitment to keep appointments for the coach and the person being coached is critical. Coaches: Give yourself at least 15 minutes before the conversation to pray and prepare. Don’t answer your phone in that 15 minute window unless it’s family. Give yourself 15 minutes after to write a quick e-mail debrief. Be prepared.

3. When coaching conversations are random.

The opposite of random is incremental. Although church planters receive valuable encouragement and advice in random ways at various times, they need more. The coaching metric is one conversation, every other week, for 3-4 months. The results are more accountability for follow through, greater focus and efficient time management.

 Coaching isn’t magic—it’s merely a method to get biblical results.

4. When the conversations don’t end with action.

Many coaches would argue that if action isn’t the result of a coaching conversation then it’s not coaching at all. Coaches should measure the number of measurable steps after each conversation. Get to action by asking questions like “What are you going to do?”  “When are you going to do it?” Also, end each conversation by asking “What specific steps are you going to take between now and when we talk again?”

5. If there’s not a clear covenant.

The coach and the person being coached must be “singing off the same sheet of music.” Your coaching champion will give you an example of a covenant. You should use something similar (or this one exactly) to help the person being coached understand the relationship. The conversation before the coaching starts should include a clear explanation of how to make the coaching relationship work. A copy of the covenant should be e-mailed to the person coached.

6. If God isn’t invited into the relationship.

Like any method, God’s presence and power can never be assumed in coaching. Coaching isn’t magic—it’s merely a method to get biblical results. Prayer, reviewing scripture and asking questions from a spiritual angle are crucial parts of real coaching. God can use coaches to help Christ-followers live out His mission. Peter reminds us: Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:13 HCSB) Great coaches can be gifts from God to help leaders lead. Keep coaching for His mission!

Published June 27, 2014

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Dino Senesi

Dino Senesi serves as the Director of Coaching for the Send Network of the North Mission Board, providing leadership for creating indigenous coaching systems to help serve and develop church planters.