What Your Coach Wants You to Know

written by Kat Bair
5 · 15 · 24

A dear friend of mine in ministry (we’ll call him Brian) was recently assigned a coach by his supervisors. Their relationship is beginning with an on-site visit, and in the lead-up to the visit, his mounting unease about having an outsider in his space led to a lot of conversations about what a coach or consultant actually does. I thought, for any of you considering engaging coaches (through us or another organization), some of those conversations might be helpful to share. 1

What Brian said: “I don’t want him to waste my time.”

What I said: “Well he probably doesn’t want to waste his time either.”

Brian is in an exceptionally busy season of ministry, and with a sick baby keeping him out of work, and summer youth trips starting in just a few weeks, he was complaining that the on-site would be two days of wasted meetings when he could be getting some actual work done. A completely fair complaint. All of us who work as coaches and consultants either currently or formerly also worked at churches and we know that the idea of days of blocked out time feels exhausting and wasteful. 

Here’s what I told him (and am telling all of you): your coach doesn’t want to waste his time either. He is leaving his family for two days, and traveling across the country. He does not just want to talk about the weather. When we as Ministry Incubators do on-sites, we do not intend on wasting your time. If anything, we get a lot more feedback that our pace can be a bit disorienting for church workers who are used to their institution moving at a plodding pace. We move fast and fit as much into our time as possible, knowing that your team may have to spend weeks or months unpacking what was done in those few days. We know that it takes considerable financial and time investment from our clients for us to do on-sites, so we risk over-doing it rather than bore you. 

The time invested in those on-sites is intended to set the direction for the next six months to one year of your work in innovation. Gathering people and having them do the hard work together can create the shared understanding and vocabulary in a single day that it would take months to create over a series of virtual meetings, if ever. 

What Brian said: “I want it to seem like I have my stuff together”

What I said: “I don’t think he thinks you don’t have your stuff together.” 

Brian is a dear friend, and is a self-identified enneagram 3 – meaning that the idea of appearing incompetent or inadequate is his worst nightmare. It was clear as he spoke about the on-site that he imagined this coach was going to come and poke through all of his programming, his staff, and his office, evaluating everything against an unknown rubric. No wonder he was anxious about it, that sounds terrifying! 

I assured Brian that while the coach might have some initial assessment or evaluation of what the situation was, that it wasn’t meant to be a test to ace, but a framework for knowing what would be the most beneficial use of time and focus. When clients have presented a totally polished front to me, with no articulated areas of need or concern, that’s when I’ve wasted the most time, because I have to dig to find where it is we can most effectively work together. 

A consultant or a coach is not there to tell you you are doing a good or bad job, they are there to help you do a better job, and in MINC’s case, do a better job in innovation in particular. We want you to be healthy, happy, professionally fulfilled, feel successful, because that’s what we want for all leaders, but it doesn’t help you or us to project a success that doesn’t feel authentic. Honesty, and open communication about where and how you would like an outside voice, is a huge gift to your coach or consultant. 

What Brian said: “I’ll try whatever program he wants me to.”

What I said: “I seriously doubt he’s going to tell you to institute a program.” 

Brian told me that he wasn’t sure how he was going to have time to implement any program that the coach wanted to implement by the time the school year starts back in the Fall. I prodded, “Did he say he wanted to implement some programming?” and Brian said no. I told him that I didn’t know this coach, but that it would be pretty unusual for him to show up and tell Brian to institute a small group program or new Sunday school model or something. If his coach is anything like all the coaches I’ve ever worked with, his goal is to help Brian lead the best ministry he can for his context, and trusts that Brian knows what that context needs more than he does. 

We at Ministry Incubators focus on getting faith-inspired innovators to get their ideas hatched, launched, and sustainable. The very key of our consulting and coaching work is based around equipping and empowering leaders in the pursuit of the programs that they feel called to. We fully believe that you are the one called to your context, and the way that we can most participate in the Spirit’s work is to help you see and execute your own God-breathed vision more faithfully. 

The only things we tend to be prescriptive about are systems that are meant to protect you as a leader and help streamline your work and success (databases, rhythmic week schedules, balcony time, budgets, etc). 

At Ministry Incubators, our coaches and consultants are meant to be teammates, co-conspirators, cheerleaders, accountability partners, and outside voices for you to work off of. We don’t intend on wasting your time, judging your work, or telling you how to lead your own ministry. We are on your team, and consider walking alongside leaders and pointing to the way that the Spirit is at work in your community, a huge privilege. I’ll give Brian a call at the end of his on-site and see if I was right about his coach (or if I need to publish a correction to this article), and my hope is that the words that the words I offered him might be of some use to you too. 

If you want to learn more about coaching or consulting and how we might be able to partner with you, reach out today and one of our team will set up a time to hear more about your community and what you’re feeling called to. 

  1. If these responses seem a bit direct, know that Brian is like a brother to me. I promise I am nicer than this to most people. ↩︎

Kat Bair

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