Theological Foundations for Coaching in Ministry Leadership

Coaching is quickly becoming an absolutely essential tool for improving teamwork and productivity in the business world. 

Churches, as you might imagine, are embracing the value of coaching a bit more cautiously. But, there is hope.

One reason I am excited about the potentially positive impact of coaching for spiritual leaders and churches is because I believe there is a biblical cause for it. Positive thinkers who pose as spiritual leaders find biblical texts to endorse their pop-psychology ideas, but genuine coaching in my opinion is not from that theological stream, if properly understood.  In fact, it is my conviction that coaching is simply another way in which authentic, biblical disciple-making ought to be developed in our present age.

In my study of scripture and the discovery of whom God reveals Himself to be, several insights help me understand the reason coaching matters to the follower of Christ, and especially to the leader within the local church.

1.        God's creative nature calls leaders to imagine what can be. 

God created what had never existed.  He is the Source of all creativity.  Everything we understand about creativity finds its origin in the mind of God.  Being made in the image of God and sharing His Spirit by His redemptive grace, those who walk with Jesus have the amazing opportunity to see a preferred future, a vision of what can be. 

So often our minds are weighed down by the gravity of failure and we choose to see the world through pragmatic eyes.  Been there, done that.  The Christian coach has the unique privilege of opening a person’s mind, re-conceiving what can be, becoming an instrument of God in restoring one’s true sight.  An example of this would be the encounter Saul of Tarsus has with the risen Jesus (Acts 9:1-19).

2.      God's redemptive nature calls leaders to see the potential in others.

God created a marvelous universe, and humanity made a mess of it by choosing to assert our collective will against His.  How many times has an artist scrapped his or her project to start over?  And the Creator could have done the same. 

In a brief conversation with a woman from the wrong part of town, Jesus looked beyond her problems to identify her need and value. He doesn't ignore her brokenness but instead reveals how her life could be different if she came to know and worship God as He is. In fact, Jesus promises that the kind of spiritual restoration He offers will become "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). The woman who came to that well as she had for perhaps years went away that day with renewed hope. 

The biblical reality is that God’s nature guided His decision to redeem us for a greater purpose in which His love would be showcased in the sacrifice of His Son.  As those who have embraced this redemption, we of all people should be keen to see the potential in others for God’s redemptive work. 

This extends far beyond the technical definition of salvation and includes the effect of salvation on our understanding of God’s kingdom at work in and among us.  Christian leaders have an opportunity to see coaching as a way to bring human behavior into the illuminating light cast by the candle of redemption.

3.       God's sovereign nature calls leaders to carefully cultivate purposeful thinking in others.

The scriptures also reveal that God has a great, sovereign purpose guiding all that He does.  To be like Him, made in His perfect image, demands that we learn to harness the power of purpose. The apostle Paul clearly distinguishes better from best in his "thank you note" to the believers in Philippi. " thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). This conviction compels the apostle to challenge his friends to pursue what matters most.

Purposefulness is not to be equated with fatalism, because even the Creator shows us the beauty and necessity of rest, choice and pleasure as a function of His purpose.  But as one who would offer perspective to those seeking assistance, a coach has an opportunity to help someone find a path to better alignment with God’s intended purposes.  Even God, who is ultimately sovereign, allows mankind to make choices, to experience the loss of traction with what is best. 

As coaches our role is not to determine or prescribe a course of action for another individual, but to utilize our role as a mediator of God’s wisdom on behalf of another pilgrim seeking his or her way to purpose and meaning.

Think With Me

What are other ways the scriptures might inform the ministry leader as coach?