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The Present Future Continued

Mar 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Coaching and the Church

The Present Future Continued…

By Russ Rainey, Ph.D.

Stop, and Think About It

Stop! Take Time to Think About It

 I want to continue thinking about the contribution that Reggie McNeal has made to the discussion of coaching and the local church in his book The Present Future.  Reggie has given permission for me to quote at length from his book, so I’m taking him up on that.  The question is: does coaching have a legitimate role to play in discipleship within the local church?

 McNeal says, “…we have assumed that if people come to church often enough they will grow.  We’ve got to be much more intentional than this.”  Fortunately, the assumption he is referring to has been challenged in a major way by the Reveal  study done by the Willow Creek Association.  We now have good research that says that church programming alone does not consistently produce mature disciples.  What McNeal is clearly saying is that life coaching offers us a better alternative for discipleship.

 Think about the average “seeker” or disconnected believer who is considering becoming part of a local church.  McNeal is referring to the typical “new member’s packet” a church might give such a person when he says, “Instead of dumping a packet of church club member stuff on them, why not interview them about what they would like to see happen in their lives in terms of their spiritual development and personal growth?…Once a life coach or spiritual development coach completed this interview, they could then fashion a customized personal growth strategy for the person or family…What if the coach then said, ‘Let’s get back together in a month…to check on your progress?'”  What a common sense approach!!

 So, here are the seven things Reggie says a church would accomplish if it pursued life coaching for its people starting with the interview process described above:

  1. “You would be communicating to the person that personal growth and spiritual development are anticipated and even expected.
  2. You would convince them of your enormous care for them and that the church is there for them rather than expecting them to be there for the church.
  3. You would be doing research to determine what needs and hopes the church should be addressing.
  4. You would strengthen the intentionality of what you are doing in terms of congregational activity and programming.  If…a particular activity was not effective in helping people grow, you could quit investing…in it and reallocate the resources into something that brought more return on investment.
  5. You could use this as an opportunity to introduce people to and educate them about the spiritual disciplines and dynamics of spiritual growth…We assume people will pick these up along the way if they just hang out in the church long enough.  That’s like thinking that if I’ll just go down to the Y once a week, hang out with other club members, attend meetings…and watch others work out, I will look like I’ve been exercising.
  6. You could prescribe growth regimens for people that intentionally infuse spiritual development in activities they are already pursuing.  The process of life coaching could further the development of a missionary force by helping people see that God has already placed them in a job, neighborhood, relationship, or life assignment where their gifts and influence can be developed as they partner with God’s redemptive mission in the world.
  7. You could leverage growth into other arenas of life in addition to the spiritual domain.  People often need help in life issues that, though they do not exclusively represent a spiritual need, carry spiritual implications…The church should address a wide range of life concerns, including life skills…relationships…and health concerns.”

Toward the end of his book, Reggie talks about the need to have discussions in the church regarding paradigm issues such as discipleship.  You and I “get that” where coaching and the church are concerned.  What’s needed is for us to learn from each other how to broach this subject with pastoral staff and come up with ways to connect coaching to the main things the church has always been about.  So, what are your thoughts on the subject?

Russ Rainey, Ph.D.,, 817-479-3231

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2 Responses to “The Present Future Continued”

  1. T. Wright says:

    Does God give more than one person the same vision? I have received a similar vision/call on my life to work with people in the church in this way. Not only that, when I received the vision I had a very quiet revelation that it was a small part of God’s complete overhaul on the way Christian’s work together in the Body of Christ. I never told anyone else that part of the vision. This was over a year ago and had not heard anyone else or seen any other information until now. Which is interesting because I just recently received the “Go ahead” to come out of the place of rest the Lord has had me in for quite some time. About three weeks ago I took on a partner and we are working diligently. You have been able to communicate what has been on my heart so articulately. I appreciate it very much.

  2. Russ Rainey says:

    Thanks, T. Wright, for your authenticity. I am thrilled that there are others out there who share the vision of the church relating more through listening and asking than through telling. As you said, it would be a complete overhaul on the way the Body of Christ operates. My dream starts with seeing just one church (my church) take this approach to discipleship and leadership development. We have to have churches that can attest to the success of the paradigm shift. Once we get a little momentum going, I believe that the Christian coaches of the world will be able to make a significant difference in the Church of Jesus worldwide.

    I am sure that there are other trained coaches who hold this vision as well, so let’s keep the conversation going and invite them into the pursuit of this dream. I’d love to hear more about how you want to impact the church through coaching methodology. And, if you have like-minded friends, invite them into the conversation – let’s learn from one another.
    Many Blessings,
    Russ Rainey, Ph.D.

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