A Quick Look at Coaching

 In Blog

by Certified Church Consultant, Dan Abbatiello, SCC, PCC

“A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

Have you ever felt like you were running through five feet of water, making a tremendous effort but not really making progress? Maybe a coach could help. One of the best leadership development tools I’ve discovered is “coaching.” Coaching is a valuable biblical concept that when incorporated into your consulting work increases client cooperation and follow-through. Almost every arena of society has integrated coaching into their world. Business executives, industry leaders, medical professionals, athletes, actors, and musicians employ the services of coaches.

However, more often than not pastors and church leaders go it alone. I believe it would be a great benefit for pastors and church leaders to enlist a coach. It would also be beneficial for denominations and fellowships to create a coaching culture – an atmosphere where helping each other is second nature – where skilled and trained coaches are available to assist others in reaching their full potential in Christ. So, what is coaching and how is it different from other types of helping relationships?

Christian coaching differs from other one-on-one helping relationships since most one- on-one helping disciplines are based on telling and advice giving. Coaching, on the other hand is based on listening and asking questions. In a standard consulting relationship, the consultant is the perceived “expert.” The basic presupposition is that the client needs outside help. The consultant gathers information, makes an analysis, based on knowledge and previous experience, then delivers possible solutions and recommendations. The client can then take or leave what the consultant delivers. Similarly, the counselor is also viewed as the “expert.” He/she presumes an emotional need, gathers information usually about the client’s past then advises them toward emotional health. Once again, the client can take or leave what the counselor offers.

Contrastingly, a Christian coach sees the client as the “expert.” The coach presumes that the client knows his/her context best and already has the ability to be effective. It is presupposed that the client is creative, resourceful, and whole. It is also presumed that the Holy Spirit is actively guiding the client’s discernment, setting of priorities, decisions, and action steps.

Therefore, the coach’s objective is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and the client by asking questions that activate the client’s thought process toward Spirit-directed client-generated options. The coach asks open-ended, thought-provoking, status quo-challenging questions to draw out of the client what God has already implanted. Therefore, a coaching relationship is client-centered and client-directed.

Coaching is a relationship built on confidentiality, mutual trust, and respect. It is an alliance between coach and client designed for the purpose of helping the client realize his/her full potential. Coaching is helping another do what God is directing them to do. Through active listening, insightful questioning, creating client awareness and direct communication a coach draws out of the client what is needed for forward motion. The coach helps the client narrow their focus, identify, and clarify the issue(s) and design their own proactive plans toward progress.

The coaching relationship centers around structured conversations that will encourage the client to look at situations from different perspectives and to act in accordance with their new insights. Throughout the coaching relationship, the conversations will be direct, personal, honest, and straightforward.

The coach’s responsibility is to help the client discover, clarify, and align what he/she desires to achieve, encourage inner-discovery, and elicit client-developed solutions and strategies. The client’s role is to set the agenda and take responsibility for their own progress by committing to focusing on specific area(s) of life/ministry that he/she desires to deepen or change. The client must be willing to submit to the process by being candid and honest, and generate their own specific action steps to address the issue/objective and follow through on action steps.

Since having received coach training (International Coaching Federation, Professional Certified Coach) and incorporating coaching into my consulting work I have seen better client cooperation, follow-through and forward progress. Clients also experience greater growth and progress in their personal life and ministry.

If coaching sounds like something that would be a useful tool to add to your consulting toolbox, here are a few excellent resources that I have found valuable:

  • Transformissional Coaching by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl
  • The Coach Model by Keith Webb
  • Co-Active Coaching by Henry Kinsey-House, Karen Kinsey-House, Philip Sandahl, Laura Whitworth
  • Coaching Questions by Tony Stoltzfus
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