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Christian Life Coaching & the Local Church by Russ Rainey

Mar 15th, 2010 | By | Category: Coaching and the Church

According to the Great Commission, the mandate of the local church is to win people to Christ, enable their growth as disciples, and then equip those same disciples to launch out on their own kingdom assignments in partnership with God.  This has always been a daunting task, but in our post-modern age, it has become even more difficult.  It is now obvious that we have to be innovative in our efforts to accomplish these God-given tasks.

“Innovative” often means a change in paradigms, and certainly the use of life and leadership coaching relationships to accomplish God’s purposes is a paradigm shift.  Yet, when we learn how coaching works, we find that it strikes a chord that resonates with the very heart of God.  Coaching is a way of relating to people that mirrors God’s interactions with us, and it is a thoroughly tested methodology that can effectively help church leaders and members with evangelism, discipleship, the discovery of spiritual calling and the use of spiritual gifts.

The International Coach Federation defines coaching as “An extraordinary and unique relationship designed to create a significant impact and sustainable results in all areas of a person’s life.”  Coaches help others set goals, brainstorm options, overcome obstacles, take action, and utilize support and accountability.  They do this not by giving advice but by listening, asking great questions, and by playing the role of a thought partner.  Sounds like something the church should be interested in, right?

And, we are becoming interested.  In fact, here’s what some forward-thinking church leaders and new research have to say about coaching:

“Coaching offers hope, focus, accountability, and a pathway of leadership development and discipleship for a postmodern culture – and guidance for churches struggling to be relevant in a rapidly changing and challenging world.”                 Eddie Hammett, Spiritual Leadership in a Secular Age

“I am recommending that churches provide life coaching for people.  We need to view this as spiritual formation…If your church pursued life coaching for people…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.”                                  Reggie McNeal, The Present Future

“You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be.”                                                   Andy Stanley, The Next Generation Leader 

The study (REVEAL) “suggests that the church provides minimal support for those who are most devoted to Christ.  Since these people are the best equipped and most motivated advocates for Christ, providing them with increased coaching (emphasis mine) and encouragement could reap great gains for the kingdom.”  It also determined that those who are most advanced on the spiritual growth continuum state that they have an increasing need for “someone to hold me accountable” and “speak the truth to me”.  The study concludes that, “… they also seem to want a personal growth coach (emphasis mine) or spiritual mentor.  That may be what would truly ‘keep them on track’ and from walking out the back door.”                                                                              Willow Creek , REVEAL Study

So, what is it that makes coaching unique?  Why is it effective?  And, how can it help your church accomplish what God has called you to do?  Coaching helps a church move:

  • from a program-based “assembly line” model of discipleship to a customized, individual-based model of discipleship
  • from a telling approach to evangelism and discipleship to a listening and asking approach (a kinder, gentler, and more effective approach)
  • from an informing / understanding focus to a transforming / action focus
  • from growth events that happen at church once a week to growth relationships that are available “just in time” for as long as it takes for real and sustainable change to happen
  • from a focus on the “shoulds” of spiritual growth to a focus on the strengths, gifts, passions and experience of personal spiritual calling
  • from viewing leaders as experts to viewing leaders as facilitators of growth
  • from waiting for the church to provide growth opportunities to members owning the responsibility for personal growth and going after it

If that sounds intriguing to you, here are some options you might investigate:

  1. Read about coaching and its use in the church.  Good resources include:
    1. Christ-Centered Coaching by Jane Creswell
    2. Coaching for Christian Leaders by Linda Miller and Chad Hall
    3. Faith Coaching by Hall, Copper and McElveen
    4. Leadership Coaching by Tony Stoltzfus
  2. Visit by phone with Russ Rainey, Ph.D. (Professional coach and counselor who has served on the staff of three congregations) for more information on the benefits coaching can provide for your church.  Russ has provided coach training for numerous innovative churches over the last few years.  He also provides personal coaching to pastors, staff, and missionaries.
  3. Pursue coach training for leaders in your church.  Affordable training is provided through an intensive weekend experience with live demonstration and exercises, practice outside of class, and ongoing supervision / continuing education by webinar.  As a result of training, your church leaders will be motivated and equipped to provide life-changing personal growth relationships that unleash “God’s workmanship…good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” in partnership with Him as He redeems the world. (Eph. 2:10)                       

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

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