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Effective Coaching
by Liz McGregor, Champion for Discipleship and Mentoring
7 April 2009

I know the inevitable questions have already popped up in your mind. What's coaching? Is it different from mentoring? Do you mean life-coaching or is it like sports coaching? As these questions come to mind, I can almost hear you saying, "I give up. I was just beginning to understand mentoring - and now coaching. This is too confusing". And you are right! So, relax and read on - you are in good company.

You need to get a spiritual coach. Call them a friend, a partner, a mentor, a discipler, a Timothy or Paul - or whatever. It doesn't matter what you call them. Just get a friend who says, "I’m going to hold you accountable, you're going to hold me accountable, and we're going to help each other grow." Rick Warren

God wants us to grow, and regardless of terminology, we all need others to help us on the journey. Coaching is simply another way to encourage growth.

Chris Cowie, formerly the SIM New Zealand Director, now serving in Nigeria expands on this idea:

Much has been written about mentoring and also about coaching—with the two terms often being used interchangeably. The more I learn, I think I am seeing a distinction between these 2 words. Both are valuable, but here I am concentrating on “coaching.” Recently, I have read a helpful and stimulating book, Christian Coaching, by Gary J. Collins. He is a well known author in the field of counselling, but in this book he identifies the successful principles of coaching and gives them a God-centred application.

In the 1500’s the word “coach” described a horse-drawn vehicle that would get people from where they were, to where they wanted to be. Coaching is all about engaging with people and helping them turn potential into reality. It is helping people to “look less at the mountain and more at the mountain-mover” (Bill Hybels).

In essence, Collins reduces coaching to three parts:

  • Getting a handle on where the person is at present.
  • Focusing on what he or she wants in the future.
  • Finding ways to get there.


Through focused questioning in each of these areas, the person being coached discovers the way to move forward. But before effective coaching can begin, the foundation needs to be laid in the following four areas:

  1. Build the partnership. The person being coached must desire it and the coach needs to be committed to the process as well. "A productive coaching relationship begins with two people with fires in their bellies: one who wants desperately to move forward and another who yearns to help that person make that journey," James Belasco.

  2. Clarify. Ensure that both the person being coached and the coach have an understanding of the process as seen in the following description:

  3. Coaching:
    • is a collaborative partnership between the coach and the person being coached.
    • involves dialogue rather than advice-giving, discipline or therapy.
    • is built on trust, integrity, self discipline and accountability.
    • is results-orientated—focuses on reaching goals.
    • discusses weaknesses and obstacles but emphasises strengths and positive changes.
    • assumes that people are resourceful and able to set goals and reach them.
    • lets persons being coached define and move toward their goals with God’s help and the coach’s guidance.
    • helps people reach their peak performance.
    • assumes that life is integrated—we can’t assume that someone’s work, family life, personal history, spirituality or lifestyle can be put into neat but separate compartments.
    • embraces change as something that is always occurring, sometimes confusing, often positive and usually growth-producing.


  4. Contract to work together. Both parties need to make the commitment to engage in an intentional coaching relationship. The practical details of meeting together need to be worked out. Coaching is much more than enjoying each others company around a cup of coffee!

  5. Plan. The coach needs to develop a road map (or model) of where he or she wants to go with the person being coached. Collins, in his book, describes a useful model. I have found other useful models in Solution Focused Coaching, by Greene and Grant.

From my own experience, I find that more of us are willing to mentor and coach but we are less willing to be mentored or coached! This is something to consider.

In our lives we are called to discern what is important and what really matters. Our lives are not to be characterised by a “flurry of busyness,” but like Paul, we must make good choices and consider what labour will be fruitful for us (Phil.1:22). I believe that coaching and being coached need to be part of our personal life priorities.


Comment on this post: Email liz.mcgregor@sim.org


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