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Successful Churches and the Need for Coaching

Successful Churches and the Need for Coaching

 Why am I so interested in how coaching can be utilized by the local church?  Because I came to Christ early and grew up with church as an important part of my life.  Because I’m called by Christ to make an impact within the church.  Because I’ve pretty much seen the best and the worst of the American church, and I want to see it move forward.  Because, as a Christian counselor for over twenty-five years, I have rarely had anyone tell me that their church was meeting their needs for personal discipleship.  And, because I have seen amazing transformation in the lives of those who have invested in a coaching relationship.

 Over the course of my professional / ministry career, I have been privileged to serve three large and very successful churches, a Christian university, a Christian for-profit business, and a Christian non-profit business.  Beyond that, I have trained people for care-giving ministries in many different churches and denominations and counseled and coached individual clients from every religious circle.  I have had thousands of conversations with believers about their faith and its practical expression.  And, if the church of the last thirty years was having success in the arena of individual discipleship, I believe I would have seen it.  Following is some of what I have seen and learned from serving on the staff of  three successful churches that are not yet utilizing discipleship coaching.

 From my first experience being on the staff of a traditional church, I learned that there were many mature saints who were the “real thing” when it came to following Christ in their personal lives, their career, their families, and their unique ministries.  These people were amazing!  I also learned, though, that these people were the exception in that church – not the rule.  I learned that the faith expressed by many of the members was a borrowed “family faith” and that it was untested and mostly reignited by crisis.  Although the majority of people at this very old and conservative church were serious about adhering to the unspoken rules of church life and very supportive of their church, I never heard any of them talk about discovering and living out the personal potential God put in them.  For most of them, it was enough to be a nice person with a nice family, have a nice job, and go to a nice church.

 From my second experience being on a church staff, I learned that there are many contemporary and strategic ways of growing a church.  This was a “seeker” church.  I saw brilliant plans formed for attracting the lost and for building state-of-the-art structures to house them while they involved themselves in everything from Bible study to karate classes.  And, it’s no exaggeration to say that people were saved by the thousands.  Praise God!  However, the Sunday messages were life issue oriented and biblically dumbed down for the seekers, and the small groups were designed to appeal to that same audience.  So, believers who wanted to become a “fully developing follower of Christ” were often left to figure things out on their own.  Many of them learned to serve and, through that experience, they matured.  Others (I believe most) learned to sit back and enjoy the “cutting edge” atmosphere and technology, the excellently produced and choreographed events, and the great social connections – but they never made it through spiritual adolescence.

 From my third experience being on a church staff, I learned that believers really can become engaged in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, sharing the faith, and serving others.  I had never seen such committed members and rarely had I heard such hard-hitting sermons on discipleshipThis was a hard-core “walk the talk” type of church.  However, it soon became apparent from behind-the-scene staff meetings and interactions that much of this was driven by top-down hierarchical leadership that majored on “shoulds” and favorite, traditional church programs.  Even staff members were afraid to try something really new and, therefore, feigned allegiance to the major programs of the church.  The trickle-down effect for members was loyalty to the pastor, the church and its programs but a lack of personal, spiritual entrepreneurship that comes from feeling free to be unique and personally led by God to do ministry outside as well as inside the church.

So, am I just being critical of these churches?  No, I love all three churches and see how they are glorifying God in their communities.  Do I think I know how to “do church” better than the leaders of these churches?  No, all three churches have brilliant, godly leadership.  But, do I believe there is one thing could have made all of them healthier and produced more passionate disciples for the greater good of the kingdom?  Yes.  And that one thing is one-on-one discipleship accomplished through a coaching-approach methodology. 

 Imagine what could have been if the long-time saints of the traditional church would have been encouraged to take advantage of a coaching relationship where someone believed in them and asked them about their God-given purpose and calling and helped them to live that out.  Imagine what could have been if the members of the seeker church had been offered a life coach early on in their new spiritual lives and had ongoing support, encouragement, and accountability through the years.  Imagine what could have been if the members of the “walk the talk” programatic church could have learned to better utilize their own unigue strengths, gifts, passions, and life experiences for Christ rather than only participating in the standard programs of the church.

 As the words of a popular Christian song state, “I can only imagine…”.  But, no matter what a church’s appeal and approach is, it’s people can benefit from a coaching approach to discipleship.  My prayer is that we will see a paradigm shift in our lifetime.  Please join me in that prayer.  If you would like to disuss this or other related topics concerning coaching and the church, please post your thoughts on this site and/or you can reach me at russr@courageousgrowth.com or call 817-479-3231.


One Response to “Successful Churches and the Need for Coaching”

  1. TH says:

    Amen! If we could personally disciple/coach believers while encouraging and supporting them on their life-journey to be all they were created to be, what a difference and impact the Church could make in the world. Also, people would be experiencing more wonderful, fulfilling, abundant lives. When I shared this heart vision with one of my pastors when I was on staff at a church, they said that they had nothing like that available in the church. I was crushed. I came home, investigated and the Holy Spirit led me to life coach training. I am currently learning so much and excited about what God is going to do through personal coaching. My heart is to see the body of Christ unified and strengthened to be all God has called us to be and make a huge difference and impact the world with the truth of Jesus Christ.

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