What is coaching?

As I have been saying, an essential component of SEND U’s training is providing coaching for those who are seeking to grow and develop in their ministry skills and leadership. Based on our own personal experience with coaching, and our understanding of the needs of our missionaries, our International Director and I are convinced that personal coaching is critical to the success of our training programs.

But what actually is coaching?  The word “coach” can conjure up in our minds an image of an angry, pot-bellied tyrant who yelled at you every time you touched the ball.   That is NOT what we are talking about.


The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”  Our SEND U website gives the following definition of Christian coaching: “Coaching is an ongoing conversation that empowers a person or team to fully live out God’s calling in their life and profession.”

Coaching Questions: A Coach's Guide to Powerful Asking Skills

The definitions are not particularly helpful until we start talking about what actually happens in a coaching session.   Coaching is all about asking powerful questions that enable the coachee (the one being coached) to more deeply and accurately reflect on their current situation and decide their next steps. A coach encourages you to take responsibility for accomplishing what you know you need to do. The coach refrains from giving advice or his or her ideas before the coachee can develop their own solutions under the guidance of the Spirit. The coach then provides accountability as the coachee commits to a particular course of action. In the next coaching session, the coachee is asked about the progress in accomplishing those action steps.

Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills, and Heart of a Christian CoachHow does coaching differ from mentoring? Both are one-on-one conversations, using accountability and support to help a person grow. Tony Stoltzfus (author of Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills, and Heart of a Christian Coach) says, “When I’m mentoring, I’m teaching a person, letting him draw from me or learn from my experiences. When I’m coaching, I’m pushing a person to draw from his or her own resources and experiences. Coaching is helping people learn instead of teaching them.”  Both mentoring and coaching are valuable methods of promoting personal growth, and both will have their place in SEND U. At times, a coaching relationship may take on more of a mentoring flavour, if there is a great difference in experience and age between the coachee and his/her coach. But in contrast to a mentor, the coach does not need to be more spiritually mature or experienced or knowledgeable about your particular area of ministry in order to become a powerful agent of growth in your life. Instead, the coach walks alongside as an encouraging friend who believes in you, and is trained in the process of change and growth.

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