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Small groups transform churches—and lives. Small group leaders often feel the weight of shepherding their small group members. But who shepherds the shepherd? Small group coaches fill a unique role by providing support and guidance for group leaders. When you’re called to coach a small group leader in your church, your mind may be filled with questions: Am I godly enough? What do I have to offer? How do I begin? Although the challenge seems immense, Bill Donahue and Greg Bowman break down the work of coaching ...
Small groups transform churches—and lives. Small group leaders often feel the weight of shepherding their small group members. But who shepherds the shepherd? Small group coaches fill a unique role by providing support and guidance for group leaders. When you’re called to coach a small group leader in your church, your mind may be filled with questions: Am I godly enough? What do I have to offer? How do I begin? Although the challenge seems immense, Bill Donahue and Greg Bowman break down the work of coaching small group leaders into achievable steps. This expanded and updated edition offers field-tested and biblically supported advice on such topics as modeling a surrendered life to those you coach, gaining the tools and wisdom you need for coaching, and helping leaders grow spiritually. This workbook can be used as a stand-alone resource to train coaches, or it can be used with the training videos taught by the authors, available on the Equipping Life-Changing Small Groups DVD (sold separately). For those who want to coach with excellence and truly help small group leaders thrive, this go-to guide offers practical answers and inspiring examples. You’ll find both challenge and promise in these pages as you learn to carry forth your God-given calling with confidence.
What does it mean to be a coach? Why is it so essential to have people in the church who are willing to guide and encourage leaders of groups and teams? What does it look like when someone takes on this role and invests in the life of a leader?
To become effective coaches in the church, first we need to embrace a vision for the practice of coaching. It is often a misunderstood role, mistaken by some to mean "boss" or "faultfinder." That's not coaching, at least not when the spiritual growth of leaders and church members is at stake. Coaching is different from mere oversight or supervision. It is personal, developmental, and supportive. Coaches bring out the best in leaders. Let's take a few moments to get a clearer picture of what it means to coach leaders in the church.
EVERYONE HAS A STORY
Every coach has a story. Every leader has a story. Each one has his or her struggles and successes. Each group, each ministry team, has a beginning. It has, or soon enough will have, its share of problems, relational challenges, victories and breakthroughs. And at some point, everyone's leadership of his or her group, or the group itself, will come to an end.
What will make the difference in a leader's story? Each day, leaders write a page in their leadership narrative. Every aspect of life is a part of their unfolding story: every decision they face, every conversation they have, every prayer they offer, every relationship they forge, every gathering they participate in, every new skill they learn and practice, every way they try to balance their personal time with their leadership responsibilities. What makes the difference in a leader finding joy and fulfillment as they live out their story?
Woven into the leader's story line are people who offer sage counsel as the story progresses. It's not important that these influencers have all the answers or that their stories are picture perfect. What is important is the willingness to graciously share life in a way that helps other leaders grow. As Proverbs 13:10 tells us, wisdom comes when we listen to each other's counsel.
In many vocations and avocations, this wisdom comes from someone called a coach. This is not a term unique to leaders in our world. Coaches exist everywhere, in every kind of work. Use any search engine on the internet, and you will find millions of sites offering information about the word coach.
Executives hire professional coaches to get their businesses running at peak performance and keep their leadership skills sharp. Scan a handful of professional coaching sites, and a few key words and phrases keep popping up: focus, effectiveness, results, motivation, skill, clarity, time management, follow-through, commitment, cooperation. Interestingly, coaches for these corporate executives often stress a balance between work and play, business and family.
John Russell, managing director of Harley-Davidson Europe, Ltd., is an avid fan of coaching because of its ability to bring out the best in leaders. He says, "I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual, and which invariably finds a way to solve a problem previously thought unsolvable."
Life coaches are quick to emphasize they are not therapists; they are more than a friend and more than a consultant. Life coaches are there to help you be successful — to clarify your goals and help you take action. They are there to help you do whatever it takes: eliminate the distractions that suck time, energy, and money from life, upgrade your friends (getting interested?), smooth out your life wrinkles, and create a life plan that works. (Honestly, these words were taken from real websites!) Good life coaches will, in fact, challenge your thinking. They will help you alter ingrained behavior patterns. They can help you make real and lasting changes.
The world of creative arts has long adhered to a coaching model in many disciplines. Dance, drama, sculpting, painting — the list is endless. Coaches are also coming forward to help artists build their business; some are calling it "left-brained skills for right-brained people." These coaches are wise in the way they are tailoring their counsel to the natural ways that artists think and process their world, and the best coaches are helping them bring their artistic discipline to the business of art.
Even in the construction trades (carpentry, electrical work, plumbing), there is a coaching relationship between skilled workers and their apprentices. There are skills to be learned, tools and techniques to be mastered, a language to be understood, relationships and deadlines to be managed. The apprentice takes cues and counsel from the tradesman, his or her coach, who in this case has years of on-the-job experience.
Last, and most obviously, is the world of sports. The list of legendary coaches is topped by names like John Wooden, the UCLA coach whose record of ten NCAA national championships in a twelve-year period is unmatched by any other college basketball coach. Or Pat Summit, who in her four decades as coach of women's basketball at the University of Tennessee has changed the way women's hoops is viewed. Vince Lombardi led his Green Bay Packers football team to five NFL championships in the 1960s. Butch Harmon, the top swing coach for ten years running in the world of golf, has helped shape the game of professionals like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, and Greg Norman.
Sports coaches help athletes do their best, stay grounded in the fundamentals, never get complacent, overcome the little mistakes that lead to big errors, and always give their all. The best coaches will also help their players with integrity on and off the playing field. It doesn't take long to come up with a list of athletes whose promising careers have been cut short by failings that had little to do with their athletic prowess or performance. As John Wooden said, the challenge is always to give that coaching without causing resentment.
Even the best leaders need a coach, whether they are the top athletes in their chosen sport or successful executives in a large corporation. Leaders need someone to offer a gentle course correction when they stray from the fundamentals. They need a safe environment to process the challenges of leadership, to celebrate the victories, and to determine what actions to take next. Every leader needs a coach who can step into his or her story and bring clarity when the plotline gets confusing, when the narrative is heavy or troubling or involves something the leader has never faced before.
Every leader has a story, and woven into that story are a number of coaches, individuals who have had a positive influence in the leader's growth and development over time.
Take a few minutes and think through your leadership story. What individuals have offered sage counsel to you at various points in your journey? If it is helpful, break your story into ten-year periods of life and single out one or two people who were most influential in a coaching role in each of those periods.
What was it about each coach's relationship and interaction with you that was most helpful?
The Bible is full of stories that describe what happens when a coach or mentor speaks into the life of an ordinary person, investing in an individual who shows leadership potential.
Moses with Joshua
According to Numbers 11, Joshua was one of several men who served as aides to Moses, and Joshua did so from an early point in his life. Moses evidently spotted some leadership potential in him, because over time Joshua was given increasing amounts of leadership responsibility and opportunity.
Excerpted from Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders by Bill Donahue Greg Bowman Copyright © 2012 by Bill Donahue, Greg Bowman, and Willow Creek Association. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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