What is Coaching?

By Ken Willard

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “coaching?”

While more and more people in both the business and the church worlds are working with a professional coach, there is still a lot of confusion about what coaching really is and is not.

Over the past ten plus years I’ve been honored to log over a thousand hours coaching pastors around the country. It has also been my privilege to train pastors and laity leaders in coaching skills as part of the faculty with the organization Coaching4Clergy. The following are some key points intended to help you better understand the discipline of coaching, and to distinguish it from other important disciplines.

First, let’s look at what coaching is not.

  • Consulting – The key is that a consultant “tells” the client what to do. Usually a consultant is hired as the “expert,” does an assessment, and then makes recommendations as to what needs to be done.
  • Counseling – This normally deals with a person’s inner feelings, their mental health, experiences of the past, and the “insight” needed to make changes. There may also be some form of healing which needs to take place within the person.
  • Mentoring – Often this process is used in the church/ministry setting so that a more experienced person can share with and help a less experienced person deal with issues or challenges. The mentor is considered the “expert” and will give advice and tell the person what they would do in their place.

Quick Note: All of those disciplines are good and often needed by both clergy and laity leaders. But just like you would not take your car to a veterinarian when you need new tires, we need to work with the appropriate professional with our own situations and needs.

Here are two definitions of coaching:

“Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” – International Coach Federation (ICF – the world’s largest coaching organization which also provides independent certification for professional coaches)

“Here is how I define coaching: As a coach, I help people get the results they want by bringing out the best in them. I’ll also explain that coaching isn’t about fixing people or solving problems, rather coaching is a developmental or discovery-based process. Similar to athletic coaches, we further develop the skill and talent already inherent in the people we coach.” – J. Val Hastings, MCC (Founder and President of Coaching4Clergy)

Coaching focuses on the future and action steps toward achieving goals.

Coaching is partnering with people to help them learn instead of teaching them.

Coaching works best with people who are fairly healthy.

Coaching accelerates what is already underway or about to begin. Coaches help people see what God is already doing.

Coaches maximize potential, moving people from good to great.

“Coaching takes you from where you are to where you believe God wants you to be.” – Gary R. Collins in the book, Christian Coaching

If this piqued your interest and you want to know more, great! Here are a couple of resources to check out:

You can also contact me if you have questions or want to know more about coaching.

We are making plans now to offer some basic coach training in the fall of 2019 for clergy and laity leaders in the West Virginia conference. Stay tuned for more information.