Do you really have a coach?

By Dino Senesi

The Coach Test
The church planter coaching “frequently asked question” list is always growing. We love this list! As we research and address the questions people are asking, our work becomes more relevant. God then increases our capacity to send and send well.

One significant FAQ is, “What makes planters resist coaching?” A more positive angle on that question is “What makes a church planter coachable?”

Observation #1: Planters have perfectly good reasons to resist coaching.
When people don’t cooperate with my plans for their lives, my default is to blame them. Maybe you can relate. But shifting blame to the people we want to help is irresponsible leadership.

Church planters bear some responsibility for not being coachable, but that is God’s job to fix, not mine. However, there are plenty of reasons a planter resists coaching that we can influence.

Observation #2: The number one reason a church planter resists coaching is that he already has someone he calls “coach.”
The roles of coach, advisor and mentor are commonly combined. Providing clear definitions of each is the best place to start. As we define these roles, we place higher value on all three. What makes them valuable is that they address the needs of church planters in unique ways.

Most church planters have multiple relationships that provide a voice and listening ear. The highest value is normally placed on the mentor or advisor-type “coach.” My friend, Neal McGlohon, describes this as a desire to hear from someone “three rungs up the ladder ahead of them.”

Voices that give advice and speak from experience are critical to the planter’s success. The desire to hear these voices is both healthy and important. Consistent accessibility to these voices can often be challenging, however, and a planter normally has limited time to get what he needs.

The coach who abides or shepherds is a consistent voice. In fact, the presence of a coaching voice increases the value of the advising or mentoring voices. Why? Because the abiding coach helps a planter hear God, implement plans and act on the advice already received.

Our job as church planting leaders is to do everything we can to support church planters by sending well. Part of that responsibility is to test the assumptions of church planters to ensure their needs are being met. So, Observation #2 could be true. The purpose of “The Coach Test” is to help planters make that determination.

The test below helps a church planter determine if he has a shepherding coach. But before you see the test, let’s define our roles and voices:

Function Primary contribution
Mentor     Pour in Experience, lessons learned
Advisor Advise Experience, learning, observations
Coach Draw out      Common mission, time, purpose

5 questions to tell if you have a coach

Do we schedule multiple meetings in advance? ____ ____

(Meetings are focused, intentional, consistent.)

Do we meet biweekly or monthly? ____ ____

(Meetings consistently happen.)

Do I create plans and action steps each meeting? ____ ____

(Meetings include evaluation, solutions, action.)

Do we review previous plans and action steps? ____ ____

(I am accountable to take action.)

Do I talk 80% of the time during our meetings? ____ ____

(Meetings provide space for me to process.)

  • If you answered “yes” to all five, you have a coach. Keep being coached!
  • If you answered “yes” to four, make simple adjustments to upgrade the value of your current coaching relationship. You may want to show your coach this test, so he can help make the necessary adjustments as well.
  • If you answered “yes” to only 3 or less, keep this important relationship with your advisor or mentor. Buy them a Starbucks card to say “thanks” for the value they bring to you. But find a coach as well. He will help you in different ways. You may be too dependent on the advisor or mentor. And your advisor or mentor may appreciate the extra help.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, ESV). God provides multiple voices so church planters can experience encouragement and community. Let’s all work together to send and send well. Contact your Send City Missionary or Church Planter Catalyst today for more information on where you can find a church planter coach.

Published January 20, 2017

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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.