Why do pastors need coaches?

It was just the first week of pastoral ministry when it hit me: I had no idea what I was doing.

I’d preached a few sermons, but not weekly. I’d led a few meetings, but no elder/session meetings. I’d dealt with difficult people before, but not whiny congregants. I’d been to a VBS as a kid, but I’d never organized leaders for one. The same with Sunday school. And on it went. Mission trips. Committee meetings. Budget meetings. Worship wars. You name it.

I was out of my element, but everyone was expecting me to know what I was doing and lead them in this church thing. I was the professional. I’d been trained. I had both Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees.

As every pastor who has been to seminary says, “They taught me how to read the Bible and prepare sermons in seminary, but they didn’t teach me how to be a pastor.”

I needed help. I needed someone to walk with me through the transition. And so I met with my friend John Carpenter every week for six months, talking and praying about my new vocation. That was huge, helping me navigate some sticky situations while learning the ropes. And over the following 14 years, I’ve been a part of a covenant group with John and two other pastors which has provided much-needed support.

But as good as the covenant group has been, there are a number of things it was not built to do that I didn’t realize until I started being coached as a church planter several years ago. Spending an hour on the phone every other week with Dan Steigerwald helped me think through and prepare for all kinds of things my covenant group wasn’t set up to deal with.

In each session, the one being coached establishes the agenda for the session. Here are some sample questions that might be asked:

Is there a personal crisis that needs immediate attention?

Is there a key relationship that needs to be nurtured?

Is there planning for events that need to be thought through?

Are there missional practices that can be added personally?

How are personal spiritual disciples being engaged in and how can they be modified to better fit you? What obstacles does pastoral ministry itself bring to engaging in spiritual disciplines?

How is your home life? Where are there signs of stress there that need to be dealt with?

How is your physical, financial, and emotional health? What steps can be taken to improve them?

How does the church’s leadership team (staff, elders, etc.) respond to your leadership?

How well are vacation and continuing education times being used? Are they being used? How can they be planned for greater personal and pastoral health? Where might a sabbatical fit in?

How can a potentially volatile situation be diffused? How can an actively hostile situation be calmed down and resolved?

How are the temptations of money, sex, and power being handled?

Who needs to be visited?

What issues are being avoided?

How can you navigate change in a way the congregation can handle?

How can you prepare for the end of ministry to a congregation? How can you prepare for transition to new ministry to a new congregation?

And so on.

The church is a complex organization of people who often feel passionately about their church community and the role they play within it. Because of this complexity, there is a huge need for a good coach to come alongside pastors to ask the questions and provide the tools necessary to remain healthy while seeking the health of the communities they lead into worship and mission.

Having been immersed in pastoral ministry for many years and have both received and given coaching, I am available as a coach to pastors who could benefit from being asked the questions above and more on a regular basis. If you are a pastor who could use this or if you have a pastor who could use this, please contact me.

Coaching volleyball and coaching pastors are two of my favorite things. I’d love to have you on my team.