Why Great Ministry Leaders Need a Coach

Three reasons why ministry leaders need a coach and why coaching works.

by Greg Salciccioli

Moses was a mess. He worked 10 to 12 hours a day. The people he led were frustrated. He teetered on the edge of burnout with no relief in sight. He felt separated and estranged from his wife and kids. He did not invest time in developing his skills — he rushed from task to task.

Sound familiar?

In my service to ministry leaders over the last decade, the No. 1 challenge they face is “getting it all done and keeping it all together.” Ministry leaders wear many hats — preach, lead teams, provide pastoral care, raise money, plan, relate to deacons, and deal with crises. By many people’s definition, ministry is one of the most demanding jobs on the planet.

With the task of “trying to get it all done,” ministry leaders often struggle to keep their lives together. They struggle with maintaining health and intimacy in their marriage and connecting with their children. They are overworked and undernourished.

While we are running the race to get everything done, we also miss opportunities to advance our skills, disciplines, and knowledge. We fail to expand our potential and, as a result, cap our growth.

This is where coaching can help. A coach will ensure you extract the mediocrity from your life and move toward greater excellence. A coach brings many benefits you cannot provide on your own. A coach can increase your courage to confront the areas of your life that need change — then help you change.

By taking a closer look at Moses and Jethro in Exodus 18, we can learn from their coaching experience. Ask yourself:

  • How I can change my approach to ministry to lighten my load and increase my effectiveness?
  • What action steps can I take to move away from mediocrity to greater excellence?

Moses had a mission from God to manage the Israelites, and it was a demanding job. People were complaining about their neighbors, living conditions, questions of the future, problems at home, at work — and on and on.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had insight that could greatly benefit Moses. This is the first reason why pastors need a coach and why coaching works.

Coaching Provides Outside Insight

Coaches can see what you cannot see. They have the power of observation working for them and you. As a coach observes your behavior and asks clarifying questions, solutions emerge. A coach sees ways to improve your performance and advance your skills and disciplines. A coach adds depth and greater discernment to decisions.

When you have a coach, you have an informed advocate investing experience and expertise in helping you think and act more effectively.

Imagine how empowering it would be to have a coach? You have someone who:

  • understands ministry and its challenges.
  • provides a safe place where you can discover solutions.
  • provides accountability to help you grow your character and righteousness as well as implement your goals.
  • brings fresh perspectives to expand your thinking.
  • challenges your thinking to arrive at better decisions.

Jethro cared about his son-in-law, daughter, grandkids, and his people. He came to Moses not only to reunite his family but also improve his leadership. He came as a trusted advisor to help.

This is the second value of coaching and why it is so effective.

Coaching Provides a Trusted Advisor

Good coaches are trusted advisors who understand your background, behavior style, challenges, and opportunities. They get to know you, your family, your team, and your culture, so they can give you maximum value in the coaching relationship.

Jethro was a trusted advisor who displayed self-control and maturity in responding to his son-in-law. Perhaps Jethro was concerned that Moses might be neglecting his wife, kids, and his own emotional and spiritual health because he was so busy with his work. Jethro looked to see how Moses could change, improve his situation, and emerge a better husband, father, and leader.

Jethro did what good coaches do: He observed Moses in his active leadership role. The next day as Jethro observed Moses, he saw that Moses had not developed a team to help him carry the load.

This is one of our most critical functions as a spiritual leader. A ministry team with the right gift mix and dedication can achieve greatness. Without it, ministry leaders are limited and unable to get much traction. Jethro helped Moses see what he could not see. Jethro wanted Moses to grow in his potential. With some simple steps, he helped Moses secure success. Listen to Jethro as he coaches Moses by confronting him through a paradigm change.

The confrontation

“The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father–in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’ ” (Exodus 18:13,14, italics mine). (These are great coaching questions.)

“Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will’ ” (verse 15). (Really?)

“Moses’ father–in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. (We need this honest feedback) You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone’ ” (verses 17,18). (Can you take this counsel?)

Jethro was bold and helped bring about a dynamic change in Moses’ leadership style. But he did not just confront, he did what great coaches do — he asked powerful questions that provided a practical path for Moses to resolve his problem.

This is coaching’s greatest benefit — helping the person being coached arrive at their own sound solution.

Coaching Produces Sound Solutions

Moses was a great leader, but he needed to change his approach. He needed the outside influence of a trusted advisor to help him see how to do things differently to get better results. Jethro gently guided Moses to a practical solution that resulted in change and advancement in his leadership style, family, and the people he led.

Fortunately for Moses, he welcomed the help of Jethro. He trusted his father-in-law. A coaching relationship based on trust provides freedom to explore thinking, evaluate situations, and strategize solutions.

People who utilize a coach say trust is what they appreciate about coaching. Coaching provides a consistent, safe environment that lets them explore possibilities with someone outside the context and challenges of their corporate culture.

Great leaders need a coach because they want:

  • to achieve their calling.
  • to advance their skills, disciplines, and knowledge.
  • to remove inefficient or ineffective habits or practices that are undermining their leadership.
  • to become people who enjoy life and loved ones.
  • to know they are doing all they can to be the best they can.
  • outside insight and an experienced, trusted advisor who can strategize with them so they can excel.

No matter what level of leader you are today, consider advancing your excellence. Here is an action plan:

Action plan

(1) Answer the following questions:

  • How do I want to grow in my personal life?
  • How do I want to grow in my leadership?
  • What are my goals for the year?
  • How does my team need to change to maximize our efforts?
  • What obstacles are blocking my growth?

(2) Contact a coach and review your questions to consider if the time is right to secure a coach’s services. If you are interested in engaging a coach, contact AG Coaching at: www.agcoaching.org; e-mail agcoaching@ag.org, or call 1-417- 862-2781, ext. 3535.

Final Thought

Ministry leaders focus on serving the people around them– which is their calling. But who’s focused on serving ministry leaders? Who’s caring for your soul and success in life? This is why coaching is so critical. A coach equips you to experience greater spiritual vitality and leadership success. So get a coach!