I struggled as a staff minister in my first position after seminary. My pastor was not a mentor . . . to anyone. My expectations became disappointments as I tried to figure out what I was supposed to be doing and how to do it. I knew I was called by God to be a minister, and I believe I had a solid faith system and understanding of the basics of the Bible. The problem was that I didn’t know how to be the minister and put into action what I was supposed to be doing for the Lord. I spent a lot of time picking the brains of colleagues who seemed to be confident in their ministry. I tried to do what it appeared successful youth ministers did. I heard a lot of complaints similar to mine from ministers whose pastors, like mine, were not mentors. My frustrations and disappointments were not lonely!
I recently read a blog by two men who focused on coaching in the church. Their thesis statement was that, “Coaching is not in the Bible. What we need to do is just follow what the Bible says. . . .” They went on to say that, “. . . now pastors need someone to tell them what to believe about what the Bible says . . . .” (My emphasis.)
I’m not sure I can agree with what they’re purporting happens in a coaching relationship. I haven’t encountered a coach for ministers who is trying to determine what the Bible says for others. It’s certainly not my intention to do that. It does seem to me that, although the word “coach” is not found in the Bible, coaching was happening. Paul coached young pastors and early church leaders in several of the churches he planted.
Since the time that Paul developed early churches in several places, those gifted by God and with greater experience have mentored/guided/encouraged others in ministry skills. It seems, in fact, that Jesus coached 12 followers to be the evangelizers who established His Church. In fact, aren’t all ministers coaches, encouraging their members to aspire to greater commitment and behaviors that mimic Jesus’ example?
The emphasis in coaching church leaders is not in telling them what to believe or preach and teach. The purpose is to be the person with insight because of related experience that allowed for them to expand the horizon of those they work with. The coach has a more objective perspective, being outside the situation and therefore having a view that is not entangled in the emotions of a situation.
Having a coach does not say that a minister is incapable or inadequate. It says that he admits he is human and would like to grow to greater abilities and achieve greater levels of service. Look at those who are joining health clubs and engaging a trainer to work out more effectively and achieve goals they couldn’t achieve alone. The trainer is a “coach” who encourages and knows how to guide his client to greater achievements.
Coaching for the minister can:
- Supply guidance in light of personal experience –
- Provide a degree of accountability –
- Encourage the minister to consider ways to attend to those areas of ministry that are not his strength –
- Enable the senior pastor to become the mentor for his less experienced staff –
- Broaden a minister’s vision for possibilities of service –
- Furnish support for investment that isn’t recognized by others –
- Allow the minister to speak freely about his concerns and struggles in ministry with the assurance of confidentiality –
Pastors, are you getting the best from your staff? Knowing how to prepare and deliver a sermon is a focal point of seminary training, but administrative skills are frequently overlooked. You may have devotional times with your staff, and still, without ministering to their needs, they find it difficult to enjoy their ministry under your leadership.
Ever have experiences like that? Maybe a coach/mentor/leadership trainer/accountability partner for ministry excellence (whatever you feel comfortable calling this person) is what might help you achieve more than you’ve experienced or get you out of a rut. Instead of being embarrassed that you have a coach, you can set aside pride and model the role for your staff and congregation. Seeking assistance to be a better person is an admission that we all need to be better.
If you are a lead pastor in a church, get my free report, Getting Your Staff On Board for Church Harmony, by signing up on the right side of the home page of this web site. If you want more information about coaching, Let Me Hear From You.