As we consider the work of professional coaches during International Coaching Week, we have the opportunity to consider how coaching principles can also be applied by non-professionals in the life of the church.
Reggie McNeal has pointed out in Missional Renaissance that “Genuine spirituality lives and flourishes only in cultures and relationships of accountability.” Most faith communities, however, do not provide these accountability structures. Perhaps we fear someone dictating behavior and standards that may be uncomfortable to us, but when we find ourselves in times of stress, the church is often the first place we go for help. We need to provide accountability structures for individuals that will help them prepare for and overcome the stresses of life as well as opportunities for spiritual development and service.
One way that a church can do this is by training their members in Disciple Development Coaching©. Developed by Pinnacle Leadership Associates, this process develops lay coaches who can encourage each other and help build disciples in the church. DDC helps church leaders learn how to use the “coach approach” for individual spiritual growth, leadership development, new member assimilation, and group dynamics.
Another way that some denominations are encouraging the effectiveness of pastors and other clergy is by training clergy to be coaches. This provides opportunities for peers to hold each other accountable and for clergy trained in coaching principles to work with other church leaders as they address their own development as well as congregational health concerns. Pinnacle has been working with the United Church of Christ in Wisconsin to train clergy leaders who will be able to coach their peers on a regular basis.
Coaching is becoming a desired skill for many clergy leaders. For the past several years, I have had the opportunity to introduce students in both the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry programs at CentralBaptist Theological Seminary to ways to use coaching in their varied ministries. More seminaries are become aware of this important leadership skill.
Although life coaches provide essential services to their clients, coaching principles can become a part of the tool box of every clergy and lay leader in the congregation.