Leading a church can feel lonely.
Your church looks to you to cast a vision and make decisions.
You don’t have peers who can relate to what you’re experiencing.
When you feel stuck or run into a problem, you don’t have anyone outside of your church to turn to for advice. As you know, you can’t bare your soul to just anyone in your church about a church problem.
Before you throw your hands up in surrender, there’s a real solution you can pursue:
Get a ministry coach.
I’m not talking about a motivational speaker hyped up on Mountain Dew who tries to pump you up with pithy statements.
(You know that’s what you were thinking.)
Instead, I’m talking about a coach who can support, guide, and provide you with practical advice.
Now, here’s one caveat about ministry coaches:
A ministry coach isn't a mentor.
There are similarities, but there are some big differences.
Previously, we’ve shared why pastors need a mentor, and what it means to be a mentor and mentee. So, I don’t want to get into the weeds here.
In short, here’s what you need to know:
A mentor is unpaid and his or her focus is on providing advice, whereas a coach is someone who’s paid and whose focus is on helping you to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle in your ministry.
As I said, there's overlap between a mentor and coach in how he or she helps a mentee or student grow. But there’s a big difference between their arrangements and focus.
In a moment, we’ll dig into the details of coaching.
But first, there’s one last point I’d like to address.
The different types of coaches
Coaches are different.
I’m not talking about their personality, experience, or ability to help you and your church.
What I’m talking about is the different ways you can receive coaching.
In general, there are two different types of coaching you can receive:
- Personal coaching
- Group coaching
Personal coaching can take place in person or online. Unlike someone who’s a mentor, a coach is someone who partners with you to provide support, guidance, and practical advice over the phone, on a video chat, or in person. The “medium” used to share their support doesn’t matter in this scenario.
When it comes to personal coaches, they should have experience in the area in which they’re providing support—in particular, they should know ministry inside and out. Since they’ve “been there, and done that,” they’ll be able to give you the advice you need to go from where you’re at to where you need to go.
Group coaching takes place with a group of people. During group coaching sessions, a coach normally discusses a general topic, such as church management, budgeting, or creating a work-life rhythm, and opens up the discussion for questions afterward.
In this scenario, you may not receive the undivided attention of a personal coach, but the advice he or she shares in a group setting can still be applicable and helpful for your situation.
At this point, you’re probably thinking:
What’s the best option for me?
At Church Fuel, we’ve found that providing a combination of personal and group coaching works best in empowering our members to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
In seasons of your life, you’ll need a personal coach who can walk alongside of you, pointing out potential landmines and helping you navigate the way through the fog of unclarity.
In general, group coaching sessions are helpful for an ongoing basis. These sessions will force you to learn new lessons, and focus on growing yourself as a leader and your church in Christ.
The benefits of coaching aren’t theoretical—they’re extremely practical.
Let me show you what I’m talking about.
5 benefits of having a ministry coach
A ministry coach provides five powerful benefits. A good coach will:
- Push you beyond your comfort zone
- Guide you in creating a plan
- Help you overcome obstacles
- Help you create a life-giving, work-life balance
- Help you navigate the five-core ministry relationships
Time to take a look at these in detail.
#1 – Push you beyond your comfort zone
As a church leader, it’s easy to get stuck.
You’re on call 24/7/365.
You move from one fire of urgency to the next—all the while trying to prepare for your weekday activities or Sunday worship service.
Exhausting, I know.
When this happens, you’ll end up focusing only on what’s in front of you.
Over time, you’ll slowly neglect the mission of your church.
Not because of any fault of your own.
Rather, you get stuck in survival mode.
This is where having a coach can make a world of difference.
Like a coach in sports, a ministry coach can help you to step outside of your comfort zone. They’ll challenge you in your comfort, and help you break free from the shackles of your own limitations.
Unlike a mentor, a ministry coach will be more inclined to shoot you straight. Their job isn’t to be your friend per se. Their job is to support your growth as a church leader. In this arrangement, there will be times when they’ll have to say painful things. But this is all a part of the growing process.
Talking about the growing process, this leads us to the next benefits of having a coach.
#2 – Guide you in creating a plan
As a church leader, you need a plan to get better.
If you’re not learning and growing in your position, then you and your church are slowly dying.
The world and your community is constantly changing.
Think about it.
New technology is regularly created.
How people interact with one another has been changed by social media.
Beliefs and values are in flux.
Basically, if you don’t plan on growing as a leader, then your ability to make disciples will be throttled. In time, what works today in your ministry will not work tomorrow. If you’ve been serving in the ministry for longer than a minute, you know what I’m talking about.
Thankfully, this isn’t something you have to figure out on your own.
A coach is someone who can help you clarify your vision, talk through your church’s mission, and create a plan to accomplish the work God has called you to fulfill. What is more, a good coach will also hold you accountable to accomplishing your goals.
If we’re honest, anyone can set a goal.
To accomplish a goal, you should reach for something realistic and attainable, and when you hit a roadblock, you’ll need someone like a coach to encourage you to push through.
As a church leader, your work doesn’t end with accomplishing personal goals.
Your calling isn’t only to be the best you you can be.
Your calling also involves serving Jesus and his church.
So, when it comes to accomplishing goals, a ministry coach can also help you to lead your church from where it’s at (point A) to where God is calling you to go (point B).
With this being said, there’s one BIG point I want to make:
Not every church leader or coach is right for you.
Let me explain what I mean.
Today, it’s easy to get enamored by church leaders.
There are many (good) church leadership books you can read, podcasts you can listen to, and events you can attend. Oftentimes, what happens after reading these books, listening to these podcasts, or attending a conference, you come away feeling like only “that” person understands you and can help you.
In reality, this is typically not the case at all.
God can—and will—work through people who are equipped to support you in your season of ministry. For example, a pastor who leads a church of 10,000 may not be the best person to help you break through the 200 barrier.
The challenges you’re facing personally and as a church are probably miles apart from the person you think can help you.
When looking for a coach, you don’t need a celebrity. What you need is someone who’s a step or two ahead of you and can speak into the situation you’re facing.
#3 – Help you overcome obstacles
At some point, you’re going to run into a challenge you can’t resolve.
This isn’t a dig against you.
This is just the reality of being a human dependent upon God and other people.
Besides, church leaders have been running into problems since the inception of the church (Acts 6:1–7).
Whether it's managing internal conflict or breaking through growth barriers in your church, you’ll run into the limits of your experience. But that’s okay. When you run into these situations, you have an opportunity to seek God in prayer and to seek the help of others.
This is where having a ministry coach is super helpful.
Think about it.
When you’re facing a problem you don’t know how to resolve, wouldn’t it be beneficial to talk to someone who’s come up against the same thing you’re up against? Someone who can ask the right questions and clear the air?
Know what else?
There will be times when you’re stuck, and you don’t even know it—not in the sense that you’re dealing with an unresolved issue. But rather, there may come a time when you're not growing as a leader or your church isn’t progressing in making new disciples for Christ.
Again, when you have a ministry coach, he or she can wave smelling salts beneath your nose to wake you up to the plight of your situation.
#4 – Create a life-giving, work-life balance
Burning out will be one of the biggest challenges you face.
Like most pastors, you work well over 50 hours per week, and “balancing” your life isn’t going to work. Sure, you have family, friends, and church leaders to help hold you accountable. But it’s ideal to have someone from outside of your circle of influence to hold you accountable.
Enter a ministry coach.
Since a ministry coach is on the outside of your life looking in, he or she will have a clearer view of you and your workload. What is more, since he or she has ministry experience, a ministry coach understands what you’re going through, and he or she will be able to read the signs of your life to really know how well you’re doing.
For this to work well, you have to be willing to talk truthfully about your weekly schedule and how you’re feeling. Armed with this information, a ministry coach can help you to set healthy boundaries or encourage you to take a break to get refreshed.
#5 – Help you navigate the five core ministry relationships
If church leadership is anything, it’s relationally-based.
Everything you do revolves around working with or serving people.
What’s my point?
You’re going to run into a relational problem at some point.
When you work with a ministry coach, he or she will be able to help you navigate the five core ministry relationships of every church leader:
- Church leadership
- Church members
Let’s take a look at these in turn.
For starters, as a church leader, the most important relationship you have is with God.
As we’ve shared before, you don’t get a pass on devoting your life to God.
Every day, you need to carve out time to talk to (pray) and hear from God (read the Bible).
Neglecting the Lord would be like not spending any time with your spouse. It won’t be too long until you feel cold, distant, and indifferent.
#2 – Church leadership
Working with your church’s leadership can be … tricky.
Depending upon your ecclesiastical structure (Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Non-Denominational, etc.), navigating the nuances can be challenging.
As a church leader, learning how to work with and through your church leadership is vital to the forward movement of the church you serve.
On the one hand, if your church’s leadership is divided, you won’t be going anywhere since everyone is going in different directions. On the other hand, if your church’s leadership works well together, then plan on experiencing forward momentum.
Regardless of the makeup of your church’s leadership, a ministry coach will be able to guide you in having critical conversations.
#3 – Church members
Not every church member is alike.
From saints to sinners, you’ll have to learn to work with a variety of church members.
Let’s be honest:
Figuring out how to relate to your church members as a pastor isn’t easy.
Depending upon your personality, you'll wrestle with either being too close or too distant.
There’s no right or wrong way you can build relationships with your church members. But having help in figuring it all out can reduce your learning curve and save you a tremendous amount of heartache along the way.
#4 – Family
Are you married?
Do you have children?
In either case, you have to get these relationships right. Why gain the whole world if you lose your family in the process? Not a good move.
If you’ve been in church leadership for more than a minute, you know this is easier said than done. The consistent requests can easily pull you away from family obligations. Next thing you know, you’re five years down the road and your family relationships are strained at best.
Before this is your story, a ministry coach can hold you accountable and make sure you’re prioritizing your family in the business of ministry.
#5 – Friends
Friendships are probably not what you’re thinking about.
If anything, you push friendships to the back burner for the sake of everything else.
Here’s the deal:
Friendships are crucial to your well-being.
Like everyone else, you were created by God for community (Gen 1:28). What is more, the Book of Proverbs has really strong words against isolating yourself (Prov 18:1).
Don’t believe you can be a Lone Ranger.
Remember, according to an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
If you’ve sold yourself short in the area of friendships, let your ministry coach help you make them a priority once again.
Need a ministry coach?
At Church Fuel, we want to help you lead your church like never before.
To provide you with the training and support you need, we relaunched Church Fuel. That's right. Our site. Our membership offerings. Our products and resources.
For less than the cost of attending a conference, as a member, you’ll get access to five powerful tools:
- Monthly video coaching
- One-on-one sessions with a ministry coach
- Full access to our resource library
- Team training
- Member forum
With Church Fuel, you get more than content—you get a community.
You’ll learn from a group of peers and a personal coach who are facing the same challenges as you.
When you join Church Fuel, you become part of a community to grow together, challenge each other, and celebrate your wins as a team.