Character and Competencies of the Small Group Coach
Group coaching is not an approach to manage leaders. Group coaching is an approach to lead leaders. It is one of the most recognized necessities in our group ministries but one of the most underutilized. It does not have to stay that way.
Our friend Joel Deacon of City On A Hill Church in Melbourne, Australia shared with us recently that “Good leaders desire coaches and have coaches, top athletes have coaches, successful executives have coaches and our Group Leaders need coaches.” And we find this to be true. But the key for us in coaching was focusing first on the who of coaching and then the what. So who is the person of character and what are the competencies of a group coach?
First, not every great group leader needs to be a group coach, in much the same way as not every great history teacher needs to be a vice-principal. Some of our greatest leaders are needed (and happiest) leading life lessons in living rooms full of group members. Not every leader needs to lead leaders. But some will desire to do so in a way that identifies, develops, and influences. These men and women of character are good initial candidates for coaching a group. But you first have to know who it is exactly you might have coaching your leaders.
Who can coach the heart of the leader? Who has the capacity? A man or woman doesn’t need to be the most dynamic personality to coach, but they need to be curious and biblically serious about leading leaders into increased spiritual vitality.
Identifying a coach who is able to identify leaders is more art than science. To know who needs to be a coach, you first need to develop a relationship with the people in your group ministry. Who is already living the coaching life you want to reproduce? Your group coaches may not be deacons, but you may find the character described in 1 Timothy 3:3:8-13 helpful as you consider the character of the coach.
Once you identify a coaching candidate, meet regularly with them for a time and talk through the role of a coach. Perhaps even create a group of coaches and equip qualified saints for the work of coaching ministry. Some books we have found particularly helpful on coaching are The COACH Model, Sending Well, and Organic Discipleship. You may enjoy summarizing them or reading them with your coaches. This allows you to equip them as well as get to know who you are inviting into the role.
The joy of coaching is seeing saints equip saints. A manual for coaches can be helpful, but coaching is a lifestyle. Have guidelines and expectations but also leave freedom for the coaches to develop in their styles and spiritual gifts as they coach.
Some of the essential components are that they have the time and capacity to coach. Can they make regular meetings to coach the leader (not the group) with personalized, open-ended questions that minister to the leader and increase their own influence on the men and women they lead in the small group? Your group coaches may not be deacons, but you may find the competencies described in Acts 6:1-7 helpful as you consider the capacity of the coach.
Good coaches coach apart from distraction. They set a space and place to listen and then summarize what the leader(s) is saying. They ask more than advise. They take notes. They talk no more than a ¼ of the time. Along with their minister, they create personalized and ongoing development plans for each leader. They keep up on current and classic resources on group leadership so they can share them at the ready.
Good coaches know to ask one crucial question, “What are you asking God to do in and through your group?” All coaching catapults out of the answer to that question. The coach is able to continually clarify the goal of group as well as coach the heart of the leader. And join them in prayer, asking God for what He has for the leader and group.
Good coaches do pray specifically with and over their leaders. Coaches ask the Lord for insight, words, verses, and pictures for the leaders they coach. If the heart of our leaders is deep waters, we need coaches of understanding to draw them out (Proverbs 20:5).
There is much more to the coaching discussion, and we love having that conversation with our own coaches and with you, our colleagues in groups ministry.