Church planter coaches: The value of a great coach

By Dino Senesi

Coaching is like noise-canceling headphones; it takes all those voices, internal and external, in Matthew’s life and helps him discern which one is the Holy Spirit’s.

– Heather Bond, Church Planting Wife

Healthy church plants are usually resourced by a crowd of helpers and encouragers. The Send Network is here to serve and equip church planters and their families.

Send Network church planter coaches provide the one-on-one support and encouragement church planters need. Great coaches challenge and encourage; they cheer and warn. But what they never do is lose interest or go away. Great coaches abide with church planters.

Below are three stories that show the value of a great coach:

Coaches help planters handle transitions and create action.
Buff and Cissy McNickle moved from Florida to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to plant Great Falls Church in 2013. Buff described an immediate return on his time being coached:

“I quickly realized this wasn’t another task or burden, but truly a blessing if done well and consistently for a season. My coach helped me truly know what it means to walk in step with the Spirit. Our coaching sessions helped me think about, track and take the necessary steps to live out the mission of God in my church plant and everyday life. The ability to draw out my thoughts and move them forward to action has helped me tremendously.”

Planters are understandably reluctant to add to their daunting to-do list. But once they experience the value of great coaching, they want more.

Coaches help planters make discoveries and face challenges.
JD and Natalie Mangrum recently moved to Boston to plant their second church. During his first church plant, JD was coached by Ed Cerny, a professional coach, former marketing professor and leader in two church plants. Here is JD’s perspective on how Ed helped him:

“Ed Cerny was a great coach because he spoke wisdom and pointed me to books or habits. But even more, he showed me what a life of faith looks like. He cared for me over and over again. At the birth of my children, the death of my father, every birthday and anniversary, long after the formal coaching process concluded, Ed would write, call, or email to encourage. In a season of wanting answers, Ed provided questions. Rather than challenging me to get answers from someone else’s victories, he asked the right questions so I would chart my own course. He helped me learn that what God called me to do He would equip me to do.”

JD received more than a planting coach. He received a prayer warrior and cheerleader for life.

Coaches help planters hear God and gain focus.
Matthew and Heather Bond moved from Fort Worth, Texas, to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, four years ago to plant Ekklesia Community Church .

Heather was trained as a coach through the Send Network at the same time as Matthew. She learned how God could use coaching and soon experienced it as well. Heather wrote, “Coaching is a lifeline for my husband as a church planter—and it’s a lifeline for our marriage, too.”

Matthew trains and assigns coaches to planters as part of the Send Network and Send Vancouver. Heather remains excited about how God helps Matthew through his coach:

“Coaching draws my husband back to God’s plan, power, and ability to accomplish His will. It helps him fight the spiritual battle of low self-esteem and low productivity by focusing his attention on what God wants him to do next.”

Everything we do in the Send Network is built on the belief that no planter should plant alone. Bound by a biblical ethic to love, support and equip families God sends, we abide with them through wins and losses. Affirmation and celebration are offered when they lead well. Grace and comfort are extended when they don’t.

Coaching is a vehicle to help planters pursue their unique Kingdom assignment. All of this is part of our overarching purpose to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Published March 16, 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.