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Coaching for Church Planting



One of the things that sponsor churches can do to help  insure the success of their church planting efforts is to encourage or require  that their church planters be coached by someone who  understands church planters.  Good church planters usually have great church planting coaches. According  to research conducted by Exponential and Ed Stetzer, one factor that effective  church planters have in common is coaching. Stetzer strongly recommends that church planters meet at least monthly and  preferably weekly with a trained coach. He stresses the importance coaching as  a measurable factor in the success of church planting:


Church planters who met  consistently with a coach led churches that averaged twice the size of those  with no coach.



What is Coaching?


Coaching is the process of helping another person succeed at  what God has called them to do. Bob Logan defines success as finding out what God wants you to do and doing it. The International Coach Federation defines coaching as “Partnering with clients in  a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their  personal and professional potential.”


Coaching is not the same as teaching, where a more  knowledgeable person passes on information to a less knowledgeable person.  Coaching involves asking powerful questions that draw upon existing knowledge  and the discovery of resources.  Coaching  is not consulting. Consulting involves giving expert advice, whereas coaching leads  the other person to draw upon his or her own experience. Coaching is not the  same as mentoring. Mentoring is one person pouring into another person’s life  while coaching is focused on drawing out one’s potential.


A coach helps you to discover where you are, where you want  to go, and what you need to get there. Imagine yourself looking at a map and  finding your intended destination. However, the map is useless unless you also know  your starting point. You also need to determine your route, mode of  transpiration and resources needed to get to your destination.  Coaches help people to get where they  are going. A coach will sometimes ask:


·      What progress have you made toward your goal?

·      What do you need in order to get closer to your  goal?

·      What are your plans for getting what you need?”

·      What are your next steps?”


Why Church Planters Need Coaches


Church planting can be a lonely journey and church planters  need people who understand them to walk alongside them. Not everyone is  enthusiastic about the idea of a new church getting started in their community. Some people, including leaders of other  churches, may perceive a new church starting up down the street as a threat to  the status quo. Church planters themselves are often misunderstood by the  population at large and others in ministry and, therefore, may have a hard time  connecting and building deep relationships with peers.


Church Planters Need  Help Building Relationships


Church planters are usually good at starting new  relationships, often with perfect strangers. However, the personality and  character qualities that make a person a good church planter can also make it  difficult for him to develop open, meaningful relationships that lead into  close friendships.


When we assess potential church planters, we are looking for  entrepreneurial, catalytic leaders who tend to be mavericks- bucking the trends  and challenging the status quo. Effective church planters are often  macro-thinkers who are great at casting vision and communicating the need for new  churches. However, they may be weak on details and implementation. Others may  perceive them as disorganized and unable to stay focused on repetitive or  mundane tasks. Even though they are often borderline workaholics, their work  ethic is often unseen by others who label them as lazy.


Church planters often have a spiritual gift mix that  prepares them for their task but looks different than legacy pastors. Church  planters usually rank high in apostolic gifts and lower in ministry gifts. This  means that you are more likely to find a church planter networking at a  Starbucks than conducting counseling or making hospital visits.


Church planters typically spend less time in sermon  preparation than legacy pastors and more time in community service. In a  nutshell, a pastor of an established church may focus more on ministering to  the flock while a church planter focuses more on gathering a flock. Someone  once asked me about the difference between pastors and church planters. My response  was, “Pastors focus on preparing for the next Sunday because they know that  there will be a gathering of people expecting to hear a good sermon. Whereas  church planters start off with good sermons and spend most of their week  preparing people to gather on Sunday, because they don’t know for sure if anyone  is going to show up at all.


A church planter coach can help the planter to take an  honest assessment of his relationship building skills. In the coaching  relationship, the planter will look at areas where he may have relationship  blind spots. He will set his own goals and evaluation standards. The coach will  ask open-ended questions designed to hold the planter accountable to his own  criteria for quality relationships. Such as:


·      Who helped you to celebrate wins  (accomplishments) this past week?

·      What failures did you talk about and with whom?

·      Who did you go to for advice?

·      What other pastors or church planters did you  talk to this week?

·      What opportunities for evangelism did you have?

·      How did you bring someone along as a leader?


Church Planters Need  Help Clarifying Vision


While church planters are usually visionary leaders- scoring  high in the “I” quadrant of the DISC profile, they  are not always good at nailing down that vision. This can result in frustration  for planters as well as the people that they are trying to lead. In the  exploratory stages of church planting, the planter may see multiple  opportunities for starting churches. Because of his entrepreneurial bent, the  planter may give the impression that he is not focused as he bounces around  from one prospective venture to another. It is not unusual for a church planter  to openly discuss dreams of starting churches in various places, often  thousands of miles apart, reaching people representing cultures that appear to  have nothing in common.  


The planter’s dreams can seem mutually exclusive and  practically elusive to even his closest friends. Focus will come later on as  God reveals the people and the place for the planter. However, it is hard for a  church planter to build credibility, especially if this is his first time at  attempting to start a church. A clear and compelling vision helps the church  planter to gain credibility. The vision must answer the “why” and the “so what”  questions. Such as, “Why does our city need another church?” and, “What impact  will this church have on our community?” As the church planter wrestles with  the vision, it becomes more than a written statement that appears on the church  website or brochure. It becomes internalized so that the planter and those he  enlists can express it with conviction.


This kind of vision originates from God, is grounded in  scripture and is expressed in the mission of God’s Kingdom through the  church.  A godly vision is the key  to enlisting team members and volunteers. It is the main ingredient in  effective fundraising. It becomes a mental picture of what can and must be. It  is compelling enough to motivate people to support with their  time and money something that does not yet exist.


In the coaching relationship, the coach will help the  planter to clarify and articulate his vision.  It is crucial for the success of the new  church for the planter to be laser focused on his God-given vision. The coach  will ask the church planter end-game questions that cause the planter to focus  on future outcomes without getting bogged down in the process. Vision questions  a church planter coach asks may include:


·      On the twentieth anniversary of this church,  what will people in the community be saying about how the church changed the  community for the better?

·      What will it look like when someone comes to  know Christ and is discipled by this new church?

·      Who are some of the leaders produced by this  church and what will they be doing in 10 years?

·      Describe the direct impact that this church will  have on global missions.



Church Planters Need  Help Developing Systems


Systems are simply God’s way of organizing the universe.  Solar systems, molecular systems, biological systems, mathematical systems, and  societal systems are all examples of systems that we could not do without.  Churches have systems too. Just as the  human body has multiple systems that are interconnected and allow the body to  function; churches function best when critical systems are properly set up and  functioning. Most lead pastors oversee systems that were established decades ago, while church planters must create and develop new  systems as the church is planted, grows and reproduces.


As mentioned earlier, church planters are not always good at  detail-oriented projects. They need people around them who are strong where  they are weak. Good leaders will recruit to their weaknesses. They will hire  people or enlist volunteers to fill in the gaps of their own abilities.  However, human nature leads us to surround ourselves with people who are like  us and agree with us. This is a problem in many organizations and often the  leaders don’t see it. This leadership blindness can happen in church planting  as well.  As the church planter is  developing systems for the new church, his coach may ask powerful questions  such as


·      What are the gaps in your church planting  system? What pieces are missing?

·      What is your evangelism strategy?

·      What is your process for discipling new  believers?

·      How does your assimilation system work?

·      What is your leadership development path?

·      Who are you equipping to do what you do?

·      How will you plant the next church?


A church planter coach can help the church planter to  overcome his feelings of loneliness. The coach can also help the planter to  bring clarity of purpose and vision while defining values, strategy and  critical next steps.  The job of the  coach is to help the planter to define success from God’s perspective and to  deliver on it.


Developing a Coaching Culture


Ministry leader coaching is something that every church  should offer and not just for church planters. While the results are often  phenomenal, few churches ever go through the trouble of implementing a coaching  system.  The process may not be as  complicated as you think, and the rewards may be greater than you realize.


Identify Potential  Coaches


The first step in developing a coaching system in the local  church is to identify potential coaches. A good coach needs to be a good  listener and good at asking questions. A coach does not need to be a subject  matter expert; in fact the coach does not even need to know as much as the  person who is being coached. Remember, the coach is not there to impart  knowledge, but to help the other person to draw upon his or her own knowledge  and experience.


A church planter coach does not have to be an experienced  church planter, but it is helpful if he or she understands the unique  personality and needs of church planters. In the coaching relationship, the  coach views the church planter as the expert. After all, if the  planter has been called by God, vetted by the church and trained by the  experts, now he simply needs a coach to guide him through a thinking process.


Offer Coach Training


Coaches don’t need to be experts, but they do need to be  trained in the art of coaching. A coach needs to learn the discipline of  withholding instruction and asking questions. A church planting coach needs to  have an opportunity to be around church planters and to understand their unique  coaching needs.  This can be  accomplished through a series of training events and practice.  Training can take place online or in  groups. However, the art of coaching is more caught than taught. Listed below  are some resources that can help churches to develop a coach training process.


Facilitate Peer Learning


Peer learning groups are a great way to train both coaches  and church planters. In this environment, the participants learn from each  other. Peer learning can start out in triads where two people practice coaching  each other and the third person observes and gives feedback. Triads could be a  part of a formal coach training event and then extend  beyond as follow-up training. The groups should meet weekly in a neutral  location where each person can take on the role of coach, observer and person  being coached. After at least three sessions, the triads can return to a  follow-up training event where they share their experiences and ask deeper  questions about their coaching roles.


On-going coach training can take place in a peer learning environment of not more than twelve coaches.  As coaches gain more experience, they can get together monthly to share ideas  and best practices. This environment is a great way for coaches to encourage  each other, hold one another accountable and to practice their skills.


Coaching Resources



·      Free  online coach training: goba.org/coaching

·      Coach  certification: coachnet.org

·      Coaching  101 by Bob Logan: churchsmart.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=C101



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