“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot
Leadership can be a lonely experience. Churches count on pastors to cast vision, preach, lead effectively, and care for membership. Often these same pastors, by circumstances or choice, don’t have others with whom they can relate. When they feel stuck or have a problem, they don’t have anyone outside their church to turn to for advice. For many, a great option is coaching.
When it comes to providing consistent leadership development, coaching has significant benefits. Effective coaching will…
Push you out of your comfort zone
Assist you in creating a ministry plan
Help you overcome obstacles
Help you achieve life/ministry balance
Your vision of creating a coaching ministry for pastors that accomplishes these outcomes will require a plan. But a clear picture will always precede the plan. I began with this specific plan when I developed a coaching ministry for pastors in my region. It may help you.
The vision for this ministry is to develop confident, equipped, and supported supply pastors who can effectively serve in leadership ministry in the local church.
This vision was inspired. The need for coaching to develop confident, equipped, and supported supply pastors originated from several sources. First, the personal pleas from Franklin District supply pastors. Secondly, the dissatisfaction of the District Superintendent in the appointment-making process. And third, the inadequacy of the already established training and development process. Pastors want help. They want to change; they want to see results. Supply pastors want to be successful in ministry, not placeholders. Coaching can accomplish this, but it must be developed efficiently. Starting a coaching ministry that achieves such a vision can be exciting, rewarding, and daunting. Here are four steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Establish Your Goals
Before you begin, defining the goals you’d like to achieve with your coaching ministry is essential. Once you clearly understand what you’d like to accomplish, you can start designing the program accordingly. I would suggest that your goals include helping pastors navigate four core aspects of ministry.
- Coach pastors to continually develop their relationship with God. This will include not only devotional time but self-care and Sabbath.
- Administrative responsibilities. Depending upon your ecclesiastical structure, there are different expectations about paperwork, meetings, and denominational responsibilities.
- Pastoral Care. Not every church member is alike. Coaching pastoral care helps develop confidence and skill in working with various church members.
- Preaching/Worship Ministry. While preparing for coaching supply pastors, I discovered they lacked the knowledge and ability to plan worship over extended periods. Before becoming supply pastors, these coachees only preached occasionally throughout the year. They were never required to prepare weekly or special services like Christmas and Easter. The goal of this coaching ministry quickly became resourcing the supply pastors with practical tools.
Step 2: Develop Your Program
The program you design should be tailored to the needs of your group. Consider the group’s makeup, its strengths and weaknesses, and the goals you’ve established. This is also the time to determine the program’s length and the sessions’ frequency.
Upon creating a ministry development plan, I, along with the advice of the district superintendent, chose to develop a coaching ministry that was informal, relational, and short-term. Since this ministry was new, we wanted to test a less rigid format tailored to the supply pastors’ needs over six months. We met in a group setting once each month for one and one-half hours. The session was divided into two parts: a thirty-minute teaching time covering an aspect of the core mentioned above ministries, and sixty minutes of guided, group coaching highlighting a challenge they were currently facing in the core ministry.
During each session, John Whitmore’s GROW model was implemented. This model is one of four popular models employed by coaches. Any chosen model is how the coach engages the coachees. The Coach Foundation website suggests that “when you select a coaching model, you will be able to visualize ‘how’ you can help your client to achieve their goals. Every unique coaching model carries the advantage of having a precise, well-defined method that you can use to create change for your clients.” The GROW Coaching Model is the most popular and well-known model of coaching. This model’s approach is in its name.
G – Goals
R – Reality
O – Options
W – Will
Here is how this model works during a coaching session. The first movement is to establish the coachee’s goal. What do they want to achieve? At this stage, it is crucial to work with the coachee until they are crystal clear on their outcomes. When they are clear, they will know what they will need to work on and the results they may be able to expect. Secondly, the coachee must take stock of the current reality of their problem. By assessing the truth of the situation, they can see where they have been in the journey and what potential next steps might entail. Thirdly, once they have identified their current reality, they can now understand all the options they have for moving toward their desired future. Sometimes, another variation of this step is to identify ‘obstacles’ blocking their path forward. Finally, the coachee will consider viable next steps. This step is the most obvious! ‘What WILL you do now?’. The main idea at this step is to help the coachee understand how to move forward from their current Reality and toward their Goals while keeping their Options or Obstacles in mind.
Step 3: Choose the Right Coaches
Once you have your program in place, it’s time to select the right coaches. Look for people who have experience in the areas you are trying to focus on, as well as an understanding of the group’s needs. The right coaches will be able to help your team reach its goals. If you are developing a coaching ministry to develop the leadership capacity of pastors, you will recruit experienced pastors who have received appropriate coach training. The best scenario is that the pastor/coach is certified by an accredited International Coaching Federation training organization. If that is not possible, resources such as Keith Webb’s The Coach Model and Robert Logan’s Coaching 101 are influential texts for training.
Step 4: Prepare Your Participants
Before the sessions begin, prepare your participants. For many, coaching remains a new discipline and needs to be more understood. Webb, for example, reminds us that “there’s a lot of confusion about what exactly coaching is and how to effectively coach. Coaching is an unregulated field. Anyone can, and many do, call themselves a coach.” Provide them with an overview of the program, expectations, and the goals they should strive to achieve. Be sure also to discuss the coach’s role and the importance of their input. It will also be helpful to model a coaching session with your group so they can see what to expect.
Starting a coaching ministry can be a great way to help pastors develop as leaders and reach their goals. Furthermore, leaders need the best resources and development with the changing landscape of church life and ministry in the twenty-first century. Coaching is an investment in pastors that can produce a win-win scenario through its positive ripple effect that leads to healthier leaders and churches. With the proper preparation, you can ensure everyone receives the most benefit possible.
 Sai Blackbyrn, “4 Proven Coaching Models You Should Know,” Coach Foundation, 2023, https://coachfoundation.com/blog/4-different-coaching-model/#type-of-coaching-model-grow.
 Michael Webb, The Coach Model, 12.