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Pastors and Coaching – the Pastoral Missing Link

Oct 26th, 2009 | By | Category: Coaching and the Church Guest Posts

The Pastoral Missing Link

Adding a New Relationship Can Transform Your Ministry

By: Gary E. Rhodes, Jr.


In the scientific community, researchers are always on the edge of their seat when a new archeological discovery is made. Every time ancient fossils are unearthed, it has the potential to be the elusive missing link connecting man with his so-called ancestor the ape. As scientists continue their improbable quest to prove man is related to King or Donkey Kong; pastors can engage in more useful activities to discover missing elements in their approach to effectively lead the church. Pastors, many of them, wear more hats in the carrying out of their responsibilities than there are levels on the human evolution chart. They give of themselves; instilling, training, counseling, mentoring and investing toward the vision of the church and the people necessary to see the vision come to pass. So why is it pastors are frustrated to see success in ministry? What is the missing factor of the pastor’s efforts with the full realization of the vision God has given? The answer…well, wait a minute. There is one other important concept that needs to be addressed before the missing link is unveiled. In most pastor/follower relationships, the investment is one way in direction. The pastor pours himself into people and the mission of the church, but when and where do pastors receive the necessary equipping needed to be an effective leader? Some of those followers pour into others and quite possibly back into the pastor, but a recent Barna study suggests 61% of pastors have difficulty in developing meaningful relationships. In other words, pastors many times, do not seek relationships for their own leadership development. Dr. Louis McBurney, a leading pastoral counselor suggests it is taught as a “best practice” in seminary; avoid intimate relationships. Therefore, pastors spend almost all of their time telling others how to achieve personal and spiritual success. Sure, some of you read leadership books; but really, how would you feel if I told everyone in your church to stay home and read great books on why church is so important?  Pastors need to extend the relational leadership flow beyond themselves. They need a coach. In the church, pastors build relationships, listen to people and help others reach their goals; all in the hopes that an environment facilitating transformation is created. A personal coach can be the missing link for pastors to truly transform their ministry.

It’s All About Relationships

Visionary leaders, like pastors, are always looking for new ways to motivate their people to catch the vision. Theodore Roosevelt said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” The success Roosevelt speaks of is directly linked to the pastor’s ability to develop meaningful relationships. Many of those strategic approaches to inspire others revolve around facilitating genuine leader/follower interaction. It is a difficult challenge indeed, but if it were easy, our hairy distant cousins in the GEICO commercials would be doing it; wouldn’t they? Pastors spend an exorbitant amount of time relationally connecting down the leadership line with little to no effort to connect in deep relationship resulting in their own transformation. Pastoral Coach Jerry Graham writes, “Without a way of communicating strengths, weaknesses, and areas to improve, there can be no personal or organizational growth. The difficulty comes when there is no feedback loop or when the feedback is distorted.” ( Books, seminars and formal training are great tools to learn from, but they do not offer feedback and they cannot substitute for the personal, spiritual and professional maturity that comes from a trusting relationship. Adding a personal coach can close the loop and make your ministry much more effective.

Listening To You

How often have you quizzed those in your congregation on the previous week’s message to receive awkward silence? Sometimes all of your efforts seem to fall on deaf ears because it appears no one is listening. One of the primary roles of a coach is to listen. According to the International Coach Federation, “Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs.” Rivaled only by a group of preschool kids listening to a story of the slightly evolved Curious George, a coach is a captive audience. Coaches listen so they can help. They don’t just listen, but are purposeful in staying focused on you. The relationship is not dominated by a coach telling you what to do, but laying aside advice and listening for clues that you possess the insight of where you want to go. Listening is a must for a coach because what you say is crucial to helping you focus your thoughts and explore ideas toward personal growth. God has given you the gift to teach others within your church the necessary steps for personal development. A coach will listen to you and expand your understanding in a way that will facilitate your own growth.  

Next Steps

If those in your congregation do listen, then the result of their hearing is purposeful action toward implementing those next steps. Hopefully, as a pastor you are encouraging your flock to move forward on their spiritual journey and personal development, as well as instituting accountability measures to see visible results – especially with your leaders! If this is not common practice, then it is a good bet some fossilized bones have settled in and must be removed from the church to make room for those willing to join your for the journey. Coaches assume you wish to be more than petrified cartilage, so they are committed to a supporting relationship. A relationship to hold you responsible to act upon the necessary efforts to develop into the person you envision. You can’t take those next steps for the people you lead; likewise the coach can’t take steps for you. The coach will be there to challenge you through the process and hold you true to the plan.


As scientists look at the past for hints toward man’s ancestry, coaches concentrate on ways to encourage others beyond frustrating sedimentary practices that hinder goal achievement. Through a genuine relationship, a coach can help pastors by listening, challenging, supporting and establishing a game plan to transform ministry and personal growth. Are you up for the challenge? What’s your next step? Take action on doing what you tell others to do each and every week. Work on your personal development. Committing to a coaching relationship could be the missing link you need to completely realize the purpose of life God has for you.

Gary Rhodes

Connections Pastor – Believers Church

Office: 757-488-7541, Cell 757-377-2993

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One Response to “Pastors and Coaching – the Pastoral Missing Link”

  1. Melissa Ncube says:

    I am a Master

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