By Bill Tenny-Brittian

There’s a new “craze” in the world of church leadership development called “Peer Coaching.” Although peer coaching isn’t really “new,” there’s been renewed interest in it because of the inability of most church leaders to transform their stagnant or dying congregations. The hope is if they throw a dozen local church leaders together that somehow they’ll move past the natural tendency to lick their wounds in the safe environment of their peers and find a way to help each other succeed where others have failed in the past.

There’s a lot right with the concept of peer coaching. For one, an effective coach doesn’t have to be an expert in the field of those they coach (they do need to know the basics, though), they just need the expertise to draw the best out of those they’re coaching. In other words, peers can make great coaches. Second, peer coaching can use group dynamics to help each participant achieve their personal and ministry goals.

But the fact is, most peer coaching programs fail and few last as long as a year because they don’t deliver on what they promise. In general, peer coaching produces few results beyond providing a setting for cheesy whine parties.

There are at least seven keys that build the foundation of a successful peer coaching program.

  1. Peer coaching sessions include both training and coaching segments. This helps church leaders learn new skills and provides them the opportunity to hone those skills.
  2. Peer coaching sessions are facilitated by a respected coach. There are many church leaders who claim to be coaches, but very few who actually have the training, skills, or experience to actually coach their peers. When peer coaching sessions are led by a respected coach, the church leaders are more likely to trust themselves to the process.
  3. Peer coaching sessions are well organized. Sure, spontaneity can be helpful, but effective peer coaching sessions cannot be left chance.
  4. Peer coaching is goal oriented. This probably shouldn’t need to be said, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what “coaching” really is. The aim of coaching is to help leaders create specific goals and aids in their achievement of those goals. Peer coaching is simply a group process that helps each participant set personal and ministry goals and helps hold them accountable for achieving them.
  5. Peer coaching participants take responsibility for the full participation. No one can just go along for the ride when it comes to peer coaching.
  6. Peer coaching embraces group accountability. Many peer coaching groups actually help the participants set goals, but when it comes to holding one another accountable for the goals they set, they fall well short. However, one of the greatest strengths of peer coaching is the group dynamics that enhance personal accountability.
  7. And finally, effective peer coaching is resourced beyond the group’s ability. Few church leaders have the time to keep up-to-date with the breadth of church growth and leadership development resources that are currently available. Instead, most are only familiar with either the classics or the currently popular. The problem is that these resources are seldom what most church leaders need. By having an outside source (see #2 above) who keeps up-to-date with available resources, participants can be assured of having access to the knowledge they need to enhance their ministries.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Peer Coaching, check out the Easum, Bandy, and Associates Peer Coaching Leadership Tool by clicking here.