Celebrating the Present and Looking Ahead by Gary CollinsMar 28th, 2009 | By Tony Stoltzfus | Category: Featured Content
Several years ago I invited a number of leading Christian coaches to join together for a summit to discuss the current status and direction of our field. The participants were all trained professional coaches that I respect greatly. To aid the discussion we brought in a professional facilitator who later reported that he had never been with a group that was so resistant to working together. It was a cordial meeting with good interaction and camaraderie. But we each appeared to be clinging to our own agendas, practices, training programs and future plans without sharing.
Perhaps in the early stages of any movement there is turf building and reluctance to work together. There still is competition for prospective students to take our training programs, for clients, for ways to generate coaching income, and sometimes for prominence in the field. But there also have been encouraging signs of greater cooperation within the Christian and secular coaching communities. Leaders like Tony Stoltzfus and the people who are involved in this new Christian Coaching Center have worked to pull coaches together and to help us build virtual communities that can improve the quality of our work, stimulate genuine collaboration, generously share ideas, and unite in setting innovative new directions for our field.
Of course others have helped lead the way. Their names may not appear here but they are the pioneers, many of whom continue to move us toward a stronger future. Probably most coaches and potential coaches have moved forward as well, growing in their competence and enthusiasm. There are many reasons for optimism.
But there are challenges as well, emerging issues that will need to be addressed. Coaching needs a solid research base, high quality academic courses affiliated with accredited teaching institutions, clear and respected voices to advocate what coaching is, fresh publications and non-print resources that communicate with a technologically-connected generation. There is a continued need for greater unity in place of the scattered voices that still shout for their spots in the coaching marketplace. We need unified efforts to gain respect in organizations, businesses, churches and communities where Christian coaching is unknown, misunderstood, or mistrusted. We also need leadership and innovative efforts to pull us together. The good news is that we have highly motivated and competent people working on these and related issues, committed to re-evaluating our foundation assumptions and building a coaching profession that is beyond anything that we can imagine now.
This launch of the Christian Coaching Center is an occasion to pause and rejoice. This is the arrival of something new, collaborative and filled with potential. Increasingly we are learning to work together, partnering with others, and anticipating the trends that will shape our future.
Trends and Innovations in Christian Coaching
In times of radical change it gets progressively harder to anticipate the future. About all we know for sure is that God is still in control and that we will have more and faster change. What I write in these paragraphs may prove to be inaccurate, but even broad speculations might help us shape the future direction of Christian coaching. What follows are my observations. Undoubtedly you will have others to add.
Christian coaching is becoming better known and will be better accepted.
A few years ago, coaching was identified only with athletics. This is not true any more. Almost everybody knows about voice coaches and fitness coaches at health clubs. The media, education and the arts know about coaching and so do many people in business where executive coaching has done so much to launch the whole movement. Christian coaching is growing as well but church leaders sometimes are reluctant to jump on to what may seem like another fad, this one imported from the corporate world without much apparent relevance to ministry. In all of these areas, coaching principles are likely to be accepted more broadly as their relevance becomes more apparent and coaching settles in as a proven way to walk with people who want guidance but who see no need for counseling.
Better training and more resources are evolving.
We have seen that the number of coach training programs has exploded during the past few years. A few universities and colleges have begin to see the value of degree programs and practicum experiences in coaching, although acceptance of coaching in academia is likely to be slow as long as coaching has a limited research basis, instructors without academic credentials, and little credibility as an academic discipline. More common are coaching courses in business schools and training programs for counselors. We all know that coaching most often is taught in independent training programs that vary significantly in their rigor and quality. Hopefully the better programs will thrive, the others will improve or fade in their influence, and the quality of coaching will get better as a result.
Developing technology will be to the coach’s advantage.
Technology has emerged as a prime facilitator of coaching, especially life coaching. Consider the following and then add your own techniques to the list:
- The widespread use of webcam communication through the Internet enables coaching and coach training to be done face-to-face and free of cost around the world. This includes one-to-one interaction but also permits coaching and training with more than two people involved.
- Distance learning, using technology, enables trainees to take courses in coaching, interact with other students, hold small group discussions within the same class, experience supervision of practice coaching experiences, and view power point slides, video clips and demonstrations.
- Through various wireless devices it is possible to exchange documents, provide ongoing accountability, and facilitate easy communication across the street or across the globe. With the proliferation of social networks and ever evolving interactive devices the message and practices of coaching can continue to penetrate the world.
Increasingly, coaching will be the foundation for leadership.
The very essence of leadership is changing. Effective organizations, companies, ministries, and even some governments are moving away from authoritative, controlling, top-down leadership, replacing this with leadership build around teams of people trained, empowered and turned lose to change their organizations and environments creatively. Individuals and church congregations do not want outsiders, including denominations, telling them what to do. Instead we are seeing congregations move from tradition bound institutions into teams of believers worshipping, caring and working together. In some places pastors are changing from dry didactic teachers into mentor-coaches who motivate, encourage, point people to biblical truth and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to stimulate others to grow. Leadership today is different than it was a few years ago. And coaching is at the core, increasingly emerging as the new model for leadership.
Coaching is expanding from a relationship between two people to team, group and peer approaches.
One trend in coaching is working with teams of people simultaneously, including small groups, boards, and even whole companies or congregations. Peer coaching also involves more than two people but it focuses on equipping team members, class participants, or church members to coach one another. This is like the lay counseling that has been effective for years in so many congregations. In a similar way, leadership training programs teach managers and others to use coaching in their day-to-day leadership and interactions with others.
In all of this, we see a growing desire among coaches, including Christian coaches, to connect in a forum that allows free and equal interaction. In the present age of galloping technology the coaching community is likely to be more of an active and interactive virtual community. The start of this new Christian Coaching Center could be another significant step forward in that direction.
One recent addition to my library begins with a book chapter titled Coaching on the Edge of Chaos. I think this is an overstatement but like any growing field, coaching still has a lot of diversity and not much clear direction. At some time soon we will need to consider the philosophical and theological and foundations on which we want Christian coaching to be built. We need to look at Christian values and at the ways in which some of these conflict with the assumptions and core values that underlie mainstream coaching. As Christians, we need to consider what sets us apart from the prevailing worldview of the International Coach Federation. If nothing sets us apart, then what is our reason to call what we do Christian coaching? We can’t pretend that we have a distinctive profession until we come together to delineate what makes us unique. Then we can look more freely at the multiple professional issues and the future potential that this new site has already begun to consider.
In the decade ahead we are likely to see the emergence of more focus, the improvement of training, the development of more standardized credentials, better credibility and hopefully a greater sense of community. This is a great time to be a coach, to be training others to coach, to be telling people about coaching and to be finding ways that we can serve Jesus in the coaching field. This is a time for rejoicing, for challenge, and for enthusiasm. The Christian Coaching Center is not the only light on the journey, but this new enterprise can help us all move forward to develop a more clearly defined profession and a greater impact through coaching. This is a time to celebrate a new initiative in the present and to move forward together as we shape the future.
To read Gary Colins’ bio, click here. Portions of this chapter are adapted from the revised and greatly expanded new version of Gary Collins’ textbook, Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality. This new edition is scheduled for release in September, 2009.