A Coach Approach to Developing Church Leaders

Coaching continues to extend its reach with more and more churches exploring the ways in which coaching can serve the mission of the church, especially with regards to leadership development.

In a culture rife with change, a new breed of leader is rising to the top —one that is culturally aware and not afraid to challenge the status quo. A new generation of leaders is devising innovative methods to reach the lost, serve the poor, and disciple nations.

For example, National Community Church (NCC), which I attend, believes that “the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace.” And, “If you want to reach people no one is reaching, you have to do things no one is doing. A church that stays within its four walls isn’t a church at all.”

Which is why we have a coffee house in the middle of Washington DC, Ebenezer’s, which serves the community at Capital Hill. It’s also why we’ve recently launched a new coffeehouse in Berlin, Germany.

Or consider my friends who moved across the country to minister to the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). Or the classical dance company that shares the gospel at every performance.

Coaching for Leadership Development

God is placing dreams in the hearts of today’s leaders that we could never have imagined as little as five years ago. They are connecting with their communities in creative and imaginative ways.

Consequently, tools for leadership development that worked in years past are now receiving mixed results. The paradigms around which they were developed have shifted, and the church  must adapt its methods–not its message–to meet changing cultural needs.

Enter coaching. A leadership development tool, I believe, whose time has come.

Here’s why:

Coaching works from the inside out rather than from the outside in. God is birthing new dreams and visions in the hearts of today’s leaders. In some ways, coaches serve as spiritual midwives, supporting leaders as new ideas are birthed and vision cast.

Coaching, as practiced by coaches aligned with the International Coach Federation, draws purpose and direction from the client, rather than the coach imposing his or her perspective on the client. This is consistent with Proverbs 20:5, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”

In other words, coaches call out what the Holy Spirit has planted in the hearts of men and women of God.

Coaching facilitates missional living. Missional living is more than a new buzzword. It’s a movement that is exploding around the globe. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, missional living simply means adopting the mindset and lifestyle of a missionary, applying it to the whole of our lives and taking it into our spheres of influence.

Missional living looks different for everyone and depends on cultural context, life stage, and the maturity level of the believer. For example, missional living looks different for an intern on Capital Hill versus a factory worker in the Midwest. Taking into consideration the vast differences in personalities and context, a one-size-fits-all approach to missional living simply doesn’t work.

But coaching does. Coaching is a highly customized approach that focuses on the individual—just like Jesus did. We serve a personal God who calls each of us by name. Coaching supports that biblical precept.

Coaching is an effective tool for spiritual formation and discipleship. The majority of the tools we use for spiritual formation and discipleship—classes, lectures, studies, and more — focus on the transfer of information versus the process of transformation. Discipleship is personal, and so is coaching.

Coaching starts with where individuals are, helps them discern their growing edge, and identifies obstacles and how to overcome them. The spiritual formation needs for a businessman working for a Fortune 500 company versus a stay-at-home mom are clearly different. Coaching addresses those differences in ways that other tools for spiritual growth cannot.

The world is changing and so must the church, if we ever hope to reach it. Yesterday’s tools are insufficient to address today’s issues. I believe coaching is a tool that God has given the church “for such a time as this.” Let’s use it to develop and launch church leaders.

About the Author:

Mary Yerkes, CPLC, CSD helps church and marketplace leaders live and lead from the inside out. Mary is also a Certified Spiritual Director, working with leaders around the world in the areas of spiritual formation, soul care, and emotionally healthy spirituality. Mary’s writes regularly on these topics and more for such popular print and online publications as Gifted for Leadership, Conversations Journal: A Forum for Authentic Transformation, Christian Coaching Magazine, and Focus on the Family to name a few. Visit www.maryyerkescoaching.com, www.conversationsthattransform.org, or www.maryyerkes.com to learn more.