In my years of coaching pastors, I’ve found that the conversation will inevitably drift into one of three tracks that will determine what the person being coached really wants.
Even when you begin a session with, “What would you like to leave with as a result of our time today?”, it typically will still take a turn into one of these three categories no matter what the coachee says! The three primary tracks I’ve observed are:
These all provide worthy outcomes…and sometimes they can blend and mix in a way that's healthy. But if it doesn’t scratch the deepest itch for someone who is looking for a specific type of coaching, it’s not really helpful. Let me define these briefly... Life coaching is typically focused on personal improvement and advancement. It may have more to do with career decisions, personal goals, and sometimes situational and relationship management skills. When it’s placed under the moniker of “executive coaching”, it centers in on becoming a more effective leader. Of course this often taps into other areas of the coachee’s world, such as their personal relationships and the effects of dysfunctional behaviors and blind spots. Spiritual direction is more focused on tuning up your inner life with God, learning discernment skills, and becoming more sensitive to the whispers of the Spirit. The coach in these sessions will typically be actively listening (both horizontally and vertically) and often gently probing the coachee with questions designed to help them personally discern the heart of God for them. It’s less prescriptive and more process-oriented; it’s “walking” alongside the coachee. Organizational mentoring is centered on building more effective churches, which can include staff and leadership development, systems and infrastructure, understanding the unique barriers and challenges during various growth stages, and may even touch on increasing teaching/communication skills. The coach will either have personal experience and be “further down the road” than the coachee, or have extensive experience working with pastors along these lines and understands the unique challenges of pastoring. Of course these are generalized and the lines may get blurred, but having a clear picture of what a coachee is really looking for is critical. And while the coach may have a general understanding of all three categories, I think it’s wise to prayerfully look for a coach that specializes in a specific area. A good coach may use aspects from each category, but I guarantee they are more skilled and helpful in a specific track. And by the way, can you imagine an athlete or a team that doesn’t have a coach? I don’t know why we resist it as pastors and leaders, but it doesn’t make sense if we stop to think about it. Dave Workman | Elemental Churches