“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.”
Group coaching is a beautiful and powerful way to help coachees learn from others with similar needs and experiences. Jennifer Britton suggests, “This peer learning is often as important as the interaction with the coach. Many clients find coaching in a group puts them “less on the spot,” giving them more time to reflect and integrate their insights.” In this model, coachees receive support from the coach and one another.
What Does the Bible Teach about Group Coaching?
While the Bible never directly speaks to group coaching, it offers significant structure about encouraging and supporting one another. For example, fifty-nine “one another” statements exist in the New Testament. We may do these behaviors out of an overflow of our relationship with Jesus, but other people must be involved to fulfill them. Group coaching provides a perfect setting for obedience to these commands. For instance, Jesus teaches his followers to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, New International Version). This commandment plays out perfectly as group members seek and work toward loving and encouraging one another toward resolutions of problems, healthy relationships, and helpful problem-solving.
Another helpful example of applying the “one-another” statements to group coaching comes to us from Colossians 3:16. As Paul reminds the church that they are, indeed, one body, he calls them to “let the message of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16, New International Version). Pastors, as church leaders, are still part of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, they are not often the recipients of teaching and admonishment. Group coaching allows these leaders to let down their guard and receive support, education, and counsel from colleagues experiencing similar roadblocks in ministry. The group coaches and cheers one another to God’s best.
What Is Group Coaching?
Group coaching occurs when a coach takes a group of individuals through a coaching journey together to achieve a desired outcome. There is a specific energy and group wisdom in group coaching compared to one-on-one sessions. This energy and wisdom can rapidly help group members achieve their goals. The group becomes a shared learning space where the members can learn from one another. To be clear, coaching groups is not just about getting a bunch of people together and then coaching them for 5 minutes each until everyone has had a turn. Instead, it is the delicate balance of allowing each member to achieve their resolution and providing an overarching direction for the group.
What Are the Benefits of Group Coaching?
The Evercoach organization reminds us that “coaching groups are about more than the act of coaching and being coached. It’s about the connection, communication, and community that comes from not just you interacting with your clients, but group members interacting with each other.” This is the sweet spot. Evercoach suggests that some of the benefits of the group coaching model include the following.
1. Problem-Solving. When group members get together to work on an issue that concerns all of them, the solution will be better because of the multiple viewpoints and perspectives in the room.
2. Higher Engagement. More people interacting with each other will lead to more positive engagement for the group members and more positive results for them from the coaching sessions.
3. Constant Improvement. Group coaching leads to overall improvement for all the group members over time, as the members will be helping each other achieve their goals and collectively work together.
Becoming a Powerful and Transformative Group Coach
A powerful and transformative group coach must employ a model focused on steering every session in the right direction. One of the first skills a group coach needs is setting group goals. A good group coach sits down with the clients and helps them identify and develop their plans, individually and as a group. This promotes a collaborative effort within the group to work together towards their goals with a clear picture in their minds. Secondly, a powerful and transformative group coach facilitates communication. In every group, there are multiple people with very different personalities. A good group coach finds a way to make everyone comfortable enough to open up and communicate. Finally, the group coaching sessions’ main goal is for the group members to grow and work together. So, it is essential that the group coach improves relationships within the group and promotes the best environment possible.
How To Lead Powerful and Transformative Group Coaching Sessions
Group Coaching has five key characteristics that bring the group together and move them forward. First, the group comes together around a shared problem. In my personal experience facilitating group coaching with pastors, their shared problem was a lack of leadership development. The group came together to explore and receive coaching around resolving their need. Each coaching session revolved around a specific ministry problem whose resolution increased the leadership capacity of each group member. Secondly, to solve a problem, group coaching encourages members to ask powerful questions. Powerful coaches help promote a culture of introspection and clear reasoning by asking questions. Thirdly, the coach must teach the group to think of solutions themselves and take action. As each member in the group grows and learns, this benefits the entire group as they collaborate in their effort. They can then apply these learnings outside the group coaching sessions, and continue their growth. Through all of this, the coach assumes a secondary position in the group. While they have a crucial role in ensuring everything goes smoothly, the coach eventually transfers the responsibility to the group so the members can learn to trust themselves.
In an efficient way, here’s how I have used this process in my group coaching experience. The group comes together around a specific teaching topic at the designated time. For example, one of the best topics for coaching pastors revolves around self-care. This area is often a large gap for clergy. At the beginning of the session, this theme was announced, and teaching occurred, offering suggestions for prioritizing the coachee’s needs in ministry. Following the learning, the coachees were asked to clearly define what they wrestle with regarding self-care. After clearly defining the problem, the group was asked to reflect upon their current reality. How is this problem affecting their ministry, family, or self? What obstacles keep them from fully realizing the life and experience they want? Finally, the group worked to develop a roadmap toward achieving their preferred future. Amid all this reflection and conversation, group members listened to, commiserated with, and offered solutions to help one another grow beyond the obstacles to fulfilling their best life. While all this was happening, the coach kept the group on track through all the essential steps.
Group coaching is an excellent resource for the leadership development of pastors. The process provides collegiality, shared wisdom, helpful accountability, and the fulfillment of the biblical admonishment to care for one another. Key to the whole process, however, is the willingness of the coach to take a secondary role. They do not make transformation happen. Coaches guide the group, trust the process, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to and among the participants masterfully.
 Jennifer Britton, “What is Group Coaching,” The Coaching Tools Company, July 18, 2022, https://www.thecoachingtoolscompany.com/group-coaching-the-what-and-why-guest-author-jennifer-britton/#:~:text=1%29%20Lead%20from%20your%20core%20coaching%20skills%20Group,focusing%20on%20action%20and%20awareness%20along%20with%20accountability.
 “A Beginners Guide to Group Coaching,” Evercoach, last modified 2023, https://www.evercoach.com/coaching-guides/group-coaching/#Chapter1.