Note: This post aims to give an outline of the first two or three meetings and other important steps. You can also expedite this process by having the leader fill out a leadership development plan after you have met once and heard their story. That document walks through their calling, perspectives, vision for community, and ways they want to grow.

This is an exciting part of a leaders’ journey and a coaching ministry: starting. You are stepping into a relationship that you hope reminds the leader of the gospel, nurtures their role within a community, and helps that leader move forward in obedience to their calling.

The first meetings are important for momentum in the relationship. You have to work together to help develop the leaders’ calling, vision, hopes, and dreams for their community. It is only with this initial discovery that you can coach and build. A leaders’ vision sets the agenda for forward movement. Throughout the coaching relationship you will hold their vision and mission for them, fight for it, remind them of it, and celebrate it being realized.

Explain Coaching Before You Meet

Help the leader understand what they are getting themselves into, allow them to ask questions, and cast vision for how you want to help them. It is crucial because, as a coach, you setting the table for a deep relationship.

A coach begins the relationship in discovery mode and reinforcing what this relationship will be like. Often, community leaders will thing their “coach” is their supervisor to check in on how they are doing: quality control. You are, in fact, there to come alongside them as they lead. You are coming to help them remember the gospel and calling. You are there to help them fight for faith and obedience.

The leader also needs to know coaching requires something of them, too. They aren’t there to give a report and receive their marching orders. A leader must come to coaching meetings ready to work, share, and explore what God is calling them to do. Coaching is a relationship designed to help them hear God’s voice and obey him.

Outline of first 4 meetings

  1. Get to know each other and share stories
  2. Help discover and clarify their vision for their community of saints
  3. Help discover and  clarify their community’s role in God’s mission.
  4. Begin to grow in awareness of their role as a leader of that community on mission.

Know Each Other & Your Stories

Begin your first meeting by sharing your life stories. This is the best way to start this relationship as  brothers or sisters in Christ. Avoid jumping straight into troubleshooting, strategies, or dreaming. We are all components of experiences, lessons learned, and God’s work in our lives. Skipping this step robs you of celebrating God’s work in the past and as you move forward together. It also puts Christ’s work at the center of your coaching dynamic. Lastly, it helps you coach and the leader be coached because you have an awareness for where each of you are as deep individuals in God’s story. Our friends at Soma created a guide that helps folks share their story well and concisely that we use quite often. However, the main points you’re hoping to each hit on as take turns sharing are:

  • Where did you come from? (Family of origin, home environment, etc.)
  • How did Christ interest your story?
  • How have you experienced community?
  • Where are you today?
  • Where do you imagine your future going?

Unique to this particular coaching relationship you may want to ask about their hopes for community in general, friends who don’t know Jesus, and the poor. Likewise, ask questions about their past leadership experiences, things they want to avoid, lessons learned, etc.

You will likely discover that many leaders are not aware of their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders. They also are not aware of their personal perspective on the world and how that impacts their decisions and leadership. They probably don’t even consciously think about their gifts, values, or personality unless they come from a corporate or organizational environment that fosters that self-discovery. You may want to use self-awareness tools and in a later post I will share my go to list.

Know Their Community & Vision

Gain understanding of the leaders’ vision, missional focus, and history with this community. Your goal in this conversation is to create space for the leader to dream and come to clarity about what he is pursuing. Ask them to imagine their community thriving in the gospel and their identity in Christ.

Ask them questions like these:

  • Who is in your community? What is easy to love about them? What’s hard to love about them?
  • What do you hope to see God do in them?
  • What would a picture of health look like for your community?
  • What would it look like for your community to be a family?
  • What doors would have to be opened?
  • What reconciliation is required?
  • What faith in the gospel would be required?
  • Where is is easiest for you to pray for the gospel to break in? In other words, what do you find yourself hoping to happen in this group of people?

Lastly, you will want to end this conversation by brining it to a focus on the future and on a few ideas and prayers for this community: what are some goals that would lend itself to seeing your community become a family of servants for this year? What one thing could your community work towards together? What could this coaching relationship focus on over the next several months?

Know Their Mission & Role in the Mission

Next, you want to hear about where God has called this particular community to show the gospel and proclaim the gospel. The goal of this conversation is to help the leader articulate their mission or grow in knowing how they will decide their mission. Where has God placed them in the city? What are the barriers to the gospel in their neighborhood? Who has God placed in their lives? How has God called them to care for the poor and marginalized?

Many new communities have no idea where to start and many leaders have a long list of ideas and potential. It is helpful to simply put those on the table in this conversation and to pray together for wisdom and clarity on this community’s calling. You don’t have to force it. If they do not know what their shared mission is, it is better to ask questions along these lines:

  • How could your community discover their shared mission? What are the steps, timeline, and principles that will help your community know what their shared mission is? For example, if the leader decides group prayer is the next step, what is the step after that? Also, how will the community pray together and what will help that season of prayer?
  • What are some barriers to discovering it? (knowing what a shard mission is, lack of desire to be on mission together, knowing who the vulnerable are, experience, knowing what you have to offer, etc.)
  • How will you know your community has unity and clarity?

Work Together to Discover Their Leadership Calling

Perhaps the most important early coaching relationship conversation is about leadership. The only way for coaching to work is for the leader to know and understand their leadership calling. A leader must understand what it means for them to be a leader. Leaders need to know how God designed them to lead, how God gifted them to lead, and, by default, how God hasn’t called them to lead. However, this conversation is about more than simply how or why a leader leads. It is fundamental for the coaching relationship to begin with base level understanding of what is and isn’t the responsibility of a leader in other words:

What is your particular job in the process of your community becoming what you hope it will become?

What isn’t your job in the process?

Go over any questions they might have about the leaders’ role description and ask questions about how they plan and envision cultivating a community of gospel growth and practice.

Tip: Figure Out the Logistics Before You Start

There is a short list of logistics to walk through with coaching, it doesn’t take much. However, if you don’t nail it down in the beginning it can be a time and energy drain that prevents coaching.

  • What is the best forms of communication? (e-mail, text, phone call, etc.)
  • What is going to be our regular time, place, and frequency for coaching?

If you are wearing multiple hats (elder, staff-member, friend, etc) you want to be clear when you are having a coaching meeting and when you are doing other things like shepherding, counseling, training, hanging-out. These clear distinctions will prove helpful in your relationships.

Tip: Use their own language

As you begin to hear their vision for gospel community and mission and engage in discussions with them, us their own words and language. You are helping them clarify and own their calling as a leader of a community of disciples. One of the best ways to hijack that progress is to ignore the words they have for it. For example, if a leader is describing his hope that the kingdom of God will break into their lives and neighborhood, don’t refer to their hope as God pouring his Spirit out or the gospel advancing. They are using this language because it makes sense to them. You can challenge their language and help them clarify their own hope by asking:

  • What do you mean by the kingdom breaking in?
  • What would that look like?
  • How would someone who doesn’t believe experience that?

CONTINUE LEARNING

This is post 6 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. Continue reading or subscribe to the blog to be updated with each new installment.

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.