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.

coaching structure for ongoing leadership development and encouragement is one of the substantial  differences between a church that is made up of missional communities and a church that calls their community groups “missional communities.” If you are a leader within a missional community, you will likely need to be coached. Why? Because your community and leadership is unique. The training and resources available to you as a leader are fundamentally important to preparing you to lead forward; however, it doesn’t help you process through your unique community, calling, and leadership strengths. That is where coaching comes in, as a way to help leaders process where they are and move toward their calling to make disciples.

However, coaching is not something you can sit back and receive. It doesn’t work that way. You have to put effort into being coached. You have to come prepared, come willing, and work while you’re being coached.

Come Prepared

As a leader, preparation for coaching means thinking and praying through your community, the people, stories, mission, and current activity. As you reflect on your community you ought to ask: Where are we stuck? Where am I confused? What are the areas where I’m not sure I know what to do? What are the areas where we know what we want to do, but don’t do them? In other words, think about the things you are unsure of.

A simple way to prepare is to follow these three steps.

  • Spend time thinking about what God is currently leading you to do but remains fuzzy. Write those things down.
  • Make a list of 3-5 things you and your community are struggling with or has opportunities you don’t know what to do with.
  • Spend time thinking and praying about each item.

Don’t come to coaching with a list of three things you have decided next steps on looking for approval from your coach. That isn’t coaching. Also, don’t come to give a report on each person, how many people are in your group, and give an account of what you have done since you last met the coach. This isn’t coaching either. Instead, you want to come to a coaching appointment ready to talk about the things you or your community are struggling to obey, things your community wants to do but is unsure what it will look like. Come to coaching with issues, topics, opportunities, and burdens that remain incomplete.

Come Willing

Good coaching requires the leader to come open minded on what could be next. Come into a coaching conversation expecting the Holy Spirit to be present and speaking. Come willing to grow in clarity on what God is leading you towards. This is a posture of the heart that is prepared to be stretched, challenged, and encouraged to walk in the things God has prepared for you.

This means you have to come to the coaching conversation with honesty, vulnerability, and risk. The most dangerous thing you can do is come with half truths portraying optimism and saying, “everything is great” when things are not great. This isn’t dangerous for the coach; it is dangerous for the leader. If a leader cannot be honest with others about the struggles, opportunities, and realities of their community, they are choosing to lead blind. If you don’t feel safe to share the reality with your coach, make this part of your conversation.

Work With the Coach

Good coaching conversations are a collaborative effort. As the person being coached, you will have to brainstorm, think through your community on the spot, listen to the questions, and explore the state of things. You have to trust yourself to lead the conversation to what is most important to you and be willing to discover that as it moves forward.

Finally, working with the coach means thinking of yourself as the expert on your missional community and allowing the coach to be a coach. Don’t put the coach into the role of consultant. Often coaching conversations break down when the leader doesn’t want to go through the process of discovering for themselves their own next steps. The person being coached becomes lazy, in a sense, and simply wants answers given to them. You may want to just jump ahead and ask the coach for their opinion, but be patient. There is certainly a time and place for this. However, as you are coached allow yourself to dig deep and prayerfully look for next steps.

Growing Up in Christ

As you prepare, come willing, and work with a coach you are being discipled. Through coaching you will grow in your own ability to pause, listen, and process faithfulness in ordinary life. This is an exciting element of coaching within the church. Through coaching, you are actively working through issues and learning how to work with others to follow Jesus in the ways God gifted you. This is exciting.

Who knows, after a while you may want to coach other leaders.

Learn More About Coaching

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.