Coaching is essential for a sustained missional community movement. If you are committed to decentralized discipleship, you must make ongoing investments in leaders. We call this coaching.

This is the second post in our series on missional coaching. Read the first post on the why and what of missional coaching.

Coaching isn’t shepherding

Shepherding is focused on helping the heart believe the gospel. Usually, shepherding helps disciples understand their own motivations, attitudes, and sin. Shepherding is then the process of helping people repent, believe, and find healing in Christ alone. Shepherding and gifted shepherds are need in a decentralized movement, too. However, missional coaching is focused on helping the disciple take steps of obedience in what they believe. Good coaching cannot exist without good shepherding. Without shepherding, coaching is an aid for growing legalism.

Coaching isn’t teaching

Teaching is focused on helping the head know and me renewed by the truth of the gospel. Teaching helps leaders know the truth and apply it in their lives. Teaching is usually involves telling, explaining, expounding, and clarifying the Bible and the message of the Bible, the gospel. Again, good coaching cannot exist without good teaching. Without teaching, coaching helps people become busy without grounded. We become doers without understand why or what.

Most church staffs are built around well trained shepherds and teachers. In fact, the title “pastor” is often applied to someone who is good at counseling and preaching. However, Jesus equipped his disciples to not only help people understand the gospel and believe it, but to connect that knowledge and belief to daily obedience. Pastors teach, shepherd, and help disciples obey the teachings of Jesus.

Coaching isn’t Consulting

Consultants are those who come in, asses the problem from the outside and give leaders a report on what is wrong and how to fix it. Consultants tell you how to solve problems and what your next steps are. The consultants are the expert brought in to clean up the mess. I’ve observed many within the missional movement default to this approach  and call it coaching. This approach doesn’t develop leaders, it isn’t reproducible, and it isn’t relational. Instead it create dependence on the consultant and leaders attempt to force a strategy that worked for someone else onto their missional community. The leader doesn’t learn how to lead by following the Spirit. Instead, the leader learns how to follow the instructions of the consultant.

Consulting missional communities doesn’t work because the “consultant” isn’t the expert on the missional community, its leader is. The leaders are those called, leading, and caring for their community every day. However, there are situations for telling leaders what has worked in the past, what hasn’t worked, and ideas on next steps. Especially when leaders are starting out. Coaches are not experts on each missional community, but they are experts on the foundations and essentials of missional community.

Coaching isn’t a 1 stop shop

Coaches are dependent on discipleship work in the domain of the head and heart. We can’t coach leaders if they aren’t growing in their understanding of the gospel. And we can’t coach leaders if they aren’t being shepherded towards repentance and faith. We don’t assume leaders are in a constant place of health and learning, or that they have reached a level of nirvana or total sanctification. Shepherding must be ongoing and part of how a church cares for leaders. Likewise, teaching and learning must be ongoing, too.

Coaching is not discipleship. Discipleship requires a community with a variety of gifts and perspectives. Coaching is simply one element in a leaders’ ongoing discipleship. You may be tasked with wearing multiple hats in your church and among missional communities. If that is true, regularly ask: “is this a coaching, shepherding, or teaching situation? God, what are you calling me to do in this moment?”

Coaching is also dependent on the leader…

  • Hearing the gospel taught and explained in worship gatherings
  • Learning from the Bible on their own and committed to learning
  • Praying for their community and listening to the Holy Spirit
  • Participating in a DNA group with other men or women where they are being shepherded
  • Engaging in leadership trainings where they learn new ideas, strategies, and practices

If a leader isn’t doing these things, it becomes incredibly difficult to coach them in leading their community. You will likely have to shift to teaching, shepherding, or coaching them in faithfulness in these things before you can move toward leadership.

Continue Reading

This is post 2 in a series on coaching and leading leaders. The goal is that leaders from a diversity of contexts will be able to start coaching with confidence and awareness. This is where we’re headed and where we’ve been.

Brad A. Watson serves as a pastor of Bread&Wine Communities in Portland, Oregon where he develops, coaches, and trains leaders to form communities that love God and serve the city. Brad is passionate about helping people live lives that reflect their belief and hope in Jesus. He lives in southeast Portland with his wife and their three kids.