One of my favorite adages reads as follows:
“When just a few people try to do a lot of things, little gets done, but when a lot of people each do a little, many things get done.”
This pastor is convinced the previous statement applies when it comes to coaching leaders. Reflecting on my thirty-five years of pastoral leadership, I have come to appreciate that I have had many coaches who have influenced my life. All of these experiences have been relational and organic and have not only dealt with my character development but also have equipped me with the skills necessary for me becoming effective in my God-Given assignments that flow out of calling. When it comes to coaching leaders, most denominations and churches divide methods and strategies into four categories. First, is the formal coaching and training that come from Institutes and Colleges that have academic’s as the primary goal and coaching is secondary. Second, are the pastors who attempt to be the primary coach to the emerging leader’s in their church and this pastor attempts in the midst of all their demands to spend the time with individuals on a one to one basis. Third, is the use of seminars and small groups as an approach to developing leaders and people serve in the local church but the pastor continues to be the primary coach who spends the time with the emerging leader. Finally, is the coaching that takes place as a team of leaders in a local church commit themselves to the common purpose of coaching and releasing leaders for the harvest.
While each of the first three categories of coaching leaders has its merits and place in the overall strategy of denominations and local churches and will continue to be strategies that are effective to a specifically defined purpose. This servant-leader would like to present the fourth modality as the one that has been the most effective for me as well as the most exciting due to the basic conviction that no one person can coach all that one needs for them to maximize their full potential in Christ! This approach has at its heart the assumption that vision is not just a top down function but rather it is bottom up. People want to do great things for God and God has created them as His Masterpiece with the full intention of one being created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). The purpose of coaching is like a CSI investigator come alongside of a person and help them discover what God has created them to be. The first three strategies focus on helping one define a specific role than cognitively develop skills for that role. The last strategy is helping one discover who they were created to be and then in the context of relationship allow them to live it with you as they come to their own conclusions. This is a skill for the pastor/coach because most leaders in the local church are passionate about what God is doing and desires to do in and through their church. The tendency is then to bypass the organic and get people serving in a role because often there are so many demands that must be filled. The assumption is then people will learn as they serve. This pastor does understand that the role of service is critical and very important but cannot be the only means of transformational development. Therefore, the fourth strategy embraces the conviction that a team of leaders are intentional in identifying and coaching leaders with primary focus of people discovering who they were created to be (Body, Soul, and Spirit),and then assisting them on that Journey of discovery as they continue to surrender more to the will of Christ in order that they would obey Him more fully. It is not my intention to redefine one’s whole ecclesiology of the church, but rather this leader would present for your consideration that this strategy works best in leadership teams who view the church more as a river then a lake. In a lake model, the operations focused on maintaining programs and working at how many people you can get into the lake. The River model is more concerned on how many ways are people given opportunity to develop and the focus is asking the question where are people in their journey towards wholeness and service? A person may come to a church being two and they now become a seven. Most models do not give opportunity for people to graduate because the institutional focus is whether the lake is growing or shrinking. Though this pastor does understand that growth is important as it relates to the local church my starting point in the river model is, as people grow bigger the impact will be growth.
As individual people, we usually aspire to explore and discover new things when we are in community and are in relational connection with other people. Three years ago I made the conscious decision that I wanted to think more theologically. This was important to me because I found myself falling into the trap of becoming more of a “Functional Pragmatist.” I was more committed to doing something because it worked rather than pausing to reflect if it was biblical. Since I have began to become more theologically reflective I have found that God who is the Head Coach is always making me aware of areas in my life that need to be transformed. It is most often in the sphere of my thinking. Two questions that I must constantly revisit that determine my ultimate effectiveness as a leader-coach is: First, How do I view God? Second, How do I view people? I will unpack this further in a future article but these two questions demand that I am being transformed because, “I will teach what I know but I will reproduce who I am!”
In light of my previous thoughts I am reminded of the great Tom Landry who was the former Head Coach for the Dallas Cowboys who once defined coaching as follows: “It is helping others who desire to reach a goal bigger than them and who are afraid to go there alone. Thus, the coach helps them to discover that the capacity to attain that goal is already in them and the coach is willing to go on the journey with them.” Sounds like a pastor and the assignment we have in Ephesians 4:11-17. It is my hope that from reading this article you will discover the excitement of coaching leaders with the understanding that one’s coaching does not flow out of what you do but rather by virtue of call and grace that flows out of who you are. This reminds me that my journey in coaching others has a eternal perspective in mind. I will finish this article with the words of Jarrod Wilkens who constantly declares, “Your born looking like your parents. But you die looking like your choices.”
Therefore, grace frees us to begin to make right choices which begin with oneself becoming a life-long student of change in one’s interior life that will impact their exterior world. This is the starting point in becoming a transformational coach.