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Getting started in Missionary Coaching, by Tina Stoltzfus Horst

Apr 6th, 2009 | By | Category: Missions Coaching - Guest Posts

On the bulletin board in my office are the photos of missionaries I coach. Each of their faces tells a story of sacrifice, passion, determination and service. Years of hard-won experience have polished these leaders’ lives, and I am frequently humbled by their insights and their commitment to serve Jesus with “no holds barred.” 


Helping missionary clients achieve goal attainment, satisfaction and, many times, transformation, is rewarding; but coaching missionary leaders is also a tangible and practical way for those of us at home to contribute to the completion of the Great Commission. Coaching can support missionaries in living out their calling and can multiply their effectiveness and longevity on the field. Thus, as coaches, we become part of the expansion of God’s kingdom around the world. Now that is satisfying!

Coaching is a tool nearly perfectly suited for the face of missions today. Flexible and adaptable cross-culturally, able to be done at a distance utilizing technology which is increasingly accessible at lower and lower cost, coaching can provide both leadership development opportunities as well as personal support and affirmation for isolated missionaries. Many of the issues missionaries struggle with are traditional arenas for coaching: relationships, team dynamics, transition and adaptation to change, calling and destiny issues, focus and planning, and life balance. 

Getting started in missions coaching begins with a passion for missions and for the leaders that God sends to the field. But coaching missionaries takes more than passion. Despite rich rewards, it’s tough work with lots of obstacles and not for the faint-hearted! However, if you’re feeling the prompting of God and are ready for a new adventure, here are five vital aspects to coaching missionaries: 

1.   Learn to expect the unexpected

One of my regular missionary clients “no-showed” for a scheduled coaching session a few years ago. After a week, I got an email from her husband, letting me know that my client had traveled to another province to see her parents. While there, massive flooding had shut down all transportation systems, and her train ticket home became useless. Missionaries working in underdeveloped countries do not live in the ordered and predictable world that we take for granted as Westerners. Power goes out. Riots erupt. Simple tasks unexpectedly take hours to complete. Besides, non-western cultures value relationships more than schedules, so an unexpected guest or event may take priority over a scheduled coaching time. Takeaway: Stay flexible.

2.   Prepare for spiritual opposition

The missionaries you coach are on the front lines in the battle for souls. Coaching them puts you spiritually on the front lines with them.  Before my second trip to India, I became ill and was ill for the entire trip – every single day!  I continued to have one illness after another for four months after my return, experiencing a parade of bizarre symptoms. Finally, one of the missionaries I was coaching said, “Tina, this sounds like a spiritual attack. We’re under it all the time and we know what it’s like. You need to get some prayer support!” Takeaway: Pray for your clients and have others pray for you.

3.   Develop cross-cultural skills

As we coach missionary clients, we must become adept at identifying and dealing with cultural issues. Cross-cultural differences effect the way people perceive their world (perspective issues), how they make decisions (set goals), and how change is implemented (action steps).  Identifying and adapting to these differences are common coaching issues, especially for newer missionaries. When coaching long-term missionaries, remember that though your client has an American passport, she may now think more like an African. The longer the missionary is in the host culture, the more adapted they become to that culture. Takeaway: Expect to encounter cultural differences and take every opportunity to learn and grow through the encounters.

4.   Set a fee your missionary client can afford

For the North Americans among us, expect that your lowest coaching rate will still be out of reach of your missionary clients, especially if you are working with nationals. Many of my missionary clients work in India, where a heart surgeon earns $15 per hour. Five dollars per session is too high a fee for some of my clients, who struggle at times to provide for their families. However, I find that missionaries, just like the other clients I work with, invest more in their coaching if they pay for it. Takeaway: Work with your missionary clients to find a fee that is meaningful and that they can afford.

5.   Find creative ways to fund your coaching

When coaches make their services financially accessible to missionary clients, a new challenge develops: how to pay their own bills! Funding is often the biggest obstacle coaches encounter when they begin the journey to missions coaching. However, there are a number of strategies to employ to fund your coaching. Some coaches work with missionaries part-time and their other, higher-fee clients, are, in effect, subsidizing their work with missionaries. Other coaches choose to see the one or two missionaries they coach for a low fee as a service they provide to the kingdom of God. Coaches with a significant number of missionary clients, however, generally need to find more substantive ways of underwriting their coaching, either by living on support themselves or finding donors to underwrite a portion of their time. 

I believe that, as coaches, we have treasure to give to the missions movement. We can offer our expertise to support and develop missionaries on the front lines who are working diligently to expand God’s kingdom. I believe coaching’s contribution to the Great Commission could be transformational, and I believe the time has come to give our gifts and skills for that purpose!

Wright, Christopher J.H. “An Upside Down World.” 18 Jan. 2007

Christianity Today Library. 12 June 208

Action Steps:

Pray.  As with any ministry opportunity, ask God if this is a “fit” for you.  If so, ask Him to prepare your heart and open the doors.

Find supporters and intercessors.  This is no time to “go it alone”!  Find others in your church, community or network who share your passion for missions and who understand the power of coaching.  Ask them to pray for you and to consider supporting you financially.

Network with other coaches.  Missions coaching is a new and growing movement.  Get connected with other missions coaches, learn together and allow God to multiply your impact as you work together with others.


Tina Stoltzfus Horst is the Founder and Executive Director of Coaching Mission International. The above article first appeared in Christian Coaching Magazine, and is used with permission. To learn more about Tina, or about getting started in missions coaching, go to: – or contact her directly at:

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