Leadership Skills: The Benefits of Having a Coach

Date Posted: 6/26/2014

Pastors, laity and conference leaders have personally benefitted from having a life coach. Read about the perks of being coached -- from both a personal and ministry perspective. 
B.T. Williamson, Assistant to the Bishop, has had breakfast twice a month at a certain Denny’s for the last five years. He will be quick to say that it has been a life changing experience, thanks to his breakfast buddy, Rev. George Brookover. “I met George in the neighborhood ministerial alliance years ago, and soon realized I could greatly benefit from his leadership development coaching,” says B.T. “Coaching has real merit for long-term vocational development, determining spiritual gifts, sharing within confidential conversations, and accessing objective input with regard to decision making.” One of the greatest benefits of this coaching relationship, he says, has been the focus on remaining a lifetime learner. “George and I read and reflect on four or five books a year, related to spiritual matters, leading at a higher level, and even cultural information such as the changing Texas demographics,” adds B.T.
Upon B.T.’s recommendation, District Superintendent Bill Taylor followed suit. “George has been working with me as a coach for the last three years.  He also has worked extensively in the North District with both clergy and congregations,” notes Bill. “Having a coach gives me a safe, objective person who can help me process situations that arise in my professional and personal life.  We have shared resources (books, scholarly articles, etc.) as well as face-to-face discussions and phone conversations. With the permission of the clergy and the congregations, with which he works in the North District, he can share with me his perspective on whatever issue we are dealing with. I’m able to discuss conflict resolution strategies as well as ways that I can function proactively to minimize struggles in our district.  Another benefit that comes from meeting with Reverend Brookover, when he is meeting with one of the pastors in this district, is that the pastor can hear both from George and I, and we often find solutions that none of us would discover alone.”
Individuals find coaches through personal networking, referrals from others, or, in some cases, internet research.  Dr. Steve Stutz has transitioned from pastoral ministry to coaching and currently serves as a Directive Coach within the Texas Annual Conference’s Vibrant Church Initiative process. One of his business clients shared this result, “Having a coach has helped me with accountability. When we started working together I told you that I needed someone to help me to follow through with what I would like to do and that I basically needed an ‘accountability buddy” to keep me on track. I love the way you up-leveled the term ‘accountability buddy’ into ‘success partner’! That gave me a whole new outlook. I may have accomplished some stuff on my own, but I seriously doubt it.”
Northwest District Superintendent Sandra Smith describes her experience with coaching, “Ministry is rapidly becoming increasingly complex.  To be effective, pastors must be able to move quickly and smoothly between many different kinds of tasks – preaching, teaching and visiting from house to house, of course, but that is not all.  Pastors must be able to cast a vision, enable lay leaders to lead, energize the flock, manage the church’s business, engage the church in mission, offer creative worship opportunities, and more, all while maintaining a healthy spiritual connection to the Lord and spending quality time with family and friends. And churches can get so caught up in the details of their life together that they forget basic things, such as preparing for conflict that will inevitably arise, or forgetting their true purpose. It can be a blessing to work with a coach who can be objective and practical at the same time.  It’s like having a second pair of eyes on your ministry, showing you things you have simply, in the press of many tasks, overlooked.”
The Types of Results that Individual Coaching Can Deliver
Steve facilitates these types of results for his clients:

  • Discovering (or re-discovering) purpose, passion, and gifts for life and ministry
  • Improved physical health and fitness (significant weight loss, establishment of exercise routines, taking time for fun & recreation) 
  • De-cluttering of physical environment (home, office, garage, yard, etc.)
  • Debt reduction plans
  • Dealing with parish leadership challenges
Life coaches generally provide time, resources, and accountability to help their clients stay moving toward their desires. The coach can:
  • Clarify and encourage a client to figure out what they really want and set goals to get there
  • Help them conduct the research they need to do so they can determine if what they want is doable or not
  • Get questions answered to facilitate a decision about what to do next
  • Help individuals create and implement a workable and realistic plan, including a specific roadmap and timeline for its completion
  • Ask clients to do things differently and do more than they have done on their own
  • Provide them with the tools, accountability, support, and structure to accomplish more and keep growing
“Coaching can help individuals create the life they want, to discover who they are, what really motivates them, and set and achieve goals rather than just reacting to what life throws at them,” explains Steve, who uses various tools to assess strengths and develop skillsets.  Results are both personal and professional, according to one of Steve’s clients who shares, “When a friend suggested a life coach, I almost laughed at the idea but also knew I needed help with my future. After one year, I am now on an exciting path to a new career and I am confident in the future and in myself. Steve taught me to set specific goals and deadlines, to realize my own self-doubts that were holding me back, and to turn my wishes into achievements. I am no longer tearful and fearful but confident and empowered.
Coaching is similar to mentoring, but occurs within a more defined relationship focused on improving an individual’s self-awareness and leadership skills. “Having a coach is one of the acceptable ways to be in a peer group,” adds B.T. “While mentoring also involves intentional conversations, coaching is more structured and often involves a financial commitment and a covenant type of document that defines the relationship and goals.”
Coaching Benefits for a Congregation
The three components of the TAC’s VCI process are: 1) Leadership Development of Laity and Pastors,?2) Church Consultation weekend resulting in five recommendations to help the church go from good to great, and 3) Ongoing coaching assistance focused on revitalization and the journey of renewal. According to Dr. Phyllis Riney, who has provided coaching expertise to many churches, pastors and leaders within the TAC, churches that vote to participate in the Vibrant Church Initiative following the Consultation Weekend are matched with a Directive Coach who works with the pastor for at least 18 months.
Coaches come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, thus offering multiple options and viewpoints. Upon entering the VCI leadership development phase, Rev. Richard (Dick) White of First UMC, Quitman, initially questioned the need for a coach. “My first thought was about all my experience, training, and continuing education, but I must say that my coach immediately helped me clarify and be able to better verbalize what I wanted to do, and that was immensely helpful. And because this particular coach was neither clergy nor United Methodist, she taught me leadership lessons from a whole different perspective.”