Coaching is on the rise. I’m currently coaching 23 pastors in taking their churches to the next level.  A couple are trying to break the 200-in-worship barrier; two or three are trying to break the 1,000 barrier; and a bunch are trying to break the 500 barrier.  In the last three years I’ve experienced a huge increase in the number of pastors asking for coaching to the point that my coaching and consulting have become almost equal. Five years ago, consulting took up the vast majority of my time. “The times, they are a-changin’.”

Learnings from My Coaching

This shift is happening for a variety of reasons, but I think these are the top three.

  1. Times are changing faster than most pastors can keep up with while continuing to pastor.
  2. There are more church plants underway among mainliners than there have been at any time in the last 40 years, and mainliners are beginning to see the value of a coach.
  3. Younger generations are more prone to a coaching relationship than boomers are.

Several learnings pop out from my coaching.

Many pastors…

  • are notoriously bad about not setting out clear expectations for their staff. So I have found it helpful to help the pastor determine a Personal Mission Mandate to which to hold staff accountable.
  • allow themselves to get pulled in so many directions that it’s hard for them to focus on what really matters. They need regular reminders to focus on the main thing. Often my role is to simply remind the person of the handful of leverage actions that are going to take the church to the next level. One of my favorite questions is “If your church were twice its size, what would you have to start and stop doing?” We then make a list.
  • have a hard time fully appreciating the fact that once they get beyond 150 in worship the burden for growth begins to shift from them to their staff (which many don’t have). Any pastor can grow a church to 200 without much help, but no pastor can effectively take a group of people past the 500 barrier all alone.
  • find it difficult to set aside time for family and personal growth.  I have to remind them that it’s not how long they work, but what they accomplish while working.
  • need remedial training on knowing how to hire or fire staff.  It’s not uncommon for a pastor to have so high a mercy gift they simply find it devastating to fire someone and they are so rushed for time that they hire the first person who comes along.  One of the things I constantly remind my folks is that they need to constantly be looking for staff that they don’t yet need.

There’s a huge difference between coaching and consulting, so I’ve had to be on a fast learning curve. But I’ve learned there’s also a lot of crossover. I’ve found that coaching without the consulting ability often leaves the one being coached dangling in the wind not knowing what to do next – or what not to do.  Failure to wear the consultant hat often results in fatal mistakes.

Because of this growth in coaching, my partner and I have set up the Next Level Coaching Network to assist pastors in growing their churches. If you’re interested in a coaching relationship, my partner and I still have a few openings.

Question: What do you see as the main difference between coaching and consulting? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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