The Coach Approach & the Chief Motif by Jerome DaleyOct 5th, 2009 | By Jerome Daley | Category: Featured Content
What will it take for coaching to find its potential within the domain of the church?
I received an email from a friend who participated with me in a recent tele-class. “I appreciated hearing the speaker,” he wrote, “but I expected someone to ask a question about coaching in the church…and no one did. What do you make of that?” In my answer, I agreed that this was an extremely vital topic and that, although it didn’t fall inside that speaker’s expertise, it was part of the ongoing conversation we are trying to foster in the Christian Coaching Magazine.
I went on to comment that, in my opinion, the church is the new frontier for coaching–the place that has been perhaps least impacted to date, yet holds some of the greatest potential to be seen in our field. Which raises some interesting questions: Why has there not been more inroad made in the church? And what might it look like to see a true “coaching church”? Is that even a valid goal?
I have noticed that when coaching does get included within church ministry, it often arrives in the form of just another program to be tacked onto the list…with little impact upon the essential approach of the ministry. But this is precisely where the potential of coaching in the church will be won or lost-in the fundamental approach. Here’s why…
From the onset, a church has to answer a pivotal question: Who bears the responsibility for the spiritual development and mission of this community? And this question brings us to a fork in the road: Either this responsibility belongs to the professionals, the pastors and staff. Or it belongs to the community itself, both individually and corporately. Which leads us to define the fundamental role of leaders. Isn’t this what leaders do-carry the vision and welfare of those they lead? I respond, yes and no.
I’m observing an exciting shift in attitudes around Christian leadership where people are letting go of the “Chief Motif” in favor of a “Coach Approach.” Under what I call the Chief Motif, the leader-either alone or in a tightly-controlled group-sets the direction and parameters for the group. Within this leadership style, it remains the leaders’ job to define the mission, recruit for the mission, map the mission, and protect the mission. And within this context, the “job” of the people is to search for a church that roughly matches their intuitive sense of mission and join the group that will be defined, recruited, mapped, and protected.
Good leaders do, of course, carry a strong sense of ownership for the church’s mission, and they will play a significant role in its creation. Good leaders also follow the Biblical example to teach, to challenge, and even to rebuke. But a Chief Motif leadership style that controls, either by force of personality or position, undermines personal responsibility and stifles people’s potential. It’s a fundamental difference in values that elevates efficiency of organizational movement at the expense of individual participation. In churches led by the Chief Motif, the tools of coaching will never blossom and unlock the latent beauty and aroma of its people.
But an alternative style of leadership is growing and finding traction among God’s people-a genuine Coach Approach to doing church-which begins with a somewhat radical proposition: that the responsibility for spiritual growth and spiritual mission rests upon people themselves. The professional practice of coaching rests upon the belief that the client is both capable and responsible for their life development…and it’s no different within the church.
Let’s consider what we might find as churches shift this fundamental axis of ministry.
Pulpit. The big shift here is a move from description to dialogue. Rather than unpacking the message of the scriptures and proceeding to outline what God wants, what it looks like, and how the church will fulfill it, a coaching leader paints God’s heart from the scriptures and then invites the congregation into an exploration of possibilities. He or she asks more questions than offers solutions. Which means that the congregation has to do as much of the work, or more, as the leaders do in spiritual growth and mission. Which is the beauty of the method.
Programming. Because coaching is not directive, the programming of the church cannot be effectively activated top-down…which takes a lot of pressure off its leaders to create and sustain ministry. A coach approach solicits and draws out the unique gift mix and spiritual passion of its people and then empowers them to live out their corporate calling. In this way the church staff resources the Biblically-circumscribed vision unique to that spiritual community instead of applying well-intentioned pressure to fulfill the vision of its leader.
Pastoring. Growing churches have already learned that pastoral care does not happen in the large group but in the small. And of course, this is where coaching really shines! Nevertheless, the danger small groups face is the possibility of remaining as highly-programmed as many Sunday mornings-steering people through a regimen and managing their responses. But people don’t need “handlers”; they need shepherds! Coaches. Facilitators who draw out the true identity and divine purpose of each member of the community-and create an empowering, Holy-Spirit-friendly environment that ignites movement and sustains momentum.
I have a dream. Yes, me too. I envision a growing tide of churches whose primary impetus is to serve people by empowering their pursuit of God and God’s purposes in their lives and in their community. Not defining God’s purposes so much as coaching people to uncover God’s purposes for themselves. This is not a hamstrung, weakened set of leaders; it’s a servant-powered, people-oriented leadership that, I believe, reflects Biblical values.
Leadership is more than good coaching, but it’s not less. Such leadership will see coaching as an essential motivation rather than just an appendage…and will use coaching to empower the church in its eternal mission. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Want to qualify some of these ideas? Join the conversation and blog your comments below!
Jerome Daley is a Leadership Coach and consultant, author of five books, and publisher of Christian Coaching Magazine.