What Is Leadership Coaching in Ministry?
Many pastors and church leaders are discovering that they have little to no training for the leadership challenges they face on a daily basis.
Church leaders are trained to preach sermons, teach classes, and walk with people through grief and celebration, but often have no idea how to lead their congregations into the future together. The pandemic has only heightened these challenges for pastors and church leaders.
Leadership coaching for pastors and church leaders takes many forms, but in essence, it’s a series of confidential conversations between a pastor or church leader and a coach, focused on helping the leader get “unstuck” in some way.
Gravity’s approach to leadership coaching for pastors is unique:
- We’ve developed a practical model that trains pastors to notice how God is at work in their everyday lives, so they can participate more deeply in the life God shares with us. This increasingly allows pastors and leaders to minister from a centeredness in God’s love.
- We gather pastors and leaders into small groups for this live online training. We’ve found that this fosters a sense of camaraderie among participants, and doesn’t isolate learning to just one leader. Everyone benefits from everyone else’s learning, and the impact is multiplied exponentially.
- We focus on training, not just teaching. This means participants actually practice the discernment model with each other in real time, and receive immediate feedback from the coach. Pastors really learn to do something new in our coaching.
Why Leadership Coaching Is Important for Churches
Research studies have shown that pastors and church leaders are overworked, inadequately trained, and constantly fighting depression and anxiety. Often pastors have no real friends, and report that ministry has negatively affected their families. Many say they would quit ministry in a heartbeat if they had another way to make a living.
Pastors and church leaders often sense a huge gap between their desires for ministry and the realities of ministry. They want to make disciples of Jesus and help people make progress in their spiritual lives, but often feel they are merely managing a religious institution and trying to placate various political factions in the church.
Because most pastors and church leaders don’t know how to change this vicious cycle, the risk of pastoral burnout is high.
Leadership coaching for pastors can be a vital part of church leaders getting out of these negative patterns and cultivating new habits of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
Types of Church Coaching
Leadership Coaching for Pastors
The overall spiritual health of a church often flows directly from the overall spiritual health of the pastor, so leadership coaching for pastors can be a game-changer for churches.
There are different kinds of services that are sometimes associated with “coaching,” including life coaching, spiritual direction, consulting, mentoring, and counseling.
All of these have their place, of course, but we’ve found that two of the most fundamental needs for pastors and church leaders are:
- To be trained in an “everyday spirituality” that allows leaders to notice and participate in what God is doing in their lives (so they can pass it on to others)
- To be in relationship with other leaders on the same journey, who can share in the frustrations and celebrations of pastoral ministry.
Other kinds of coaching can provide some of these benefits, but we’ve found that a leadership coaching experience that brings these essential ingredients together is vital for the overall health and effectiveness of Christian leaders.
Coaching for Church Leaders
Leadership coaching isn’t just for pastors, of course. It help church leaders of all kinds, such as:
- Small group leaders: With coaching, leaders of your church’s small groups can go from merely facilitating conversation on pre-written discussion questions to training others in noticing how God is at work in their lives.
- Worship leaders: Instead of merely performing songs the church enjoys singing, worship leaders who’ve received leadership coaching can discern how their church needs to pray and worship based on what God is doing in their midst right now.
- Children’s ministry leaders: Too often, children’s ministry devolves into merely running the kids through the curriculum. With coaching, children’s ministry leaders can become a discipling presence in young people’s lives, helping them see that God is at work in their lives, too.
- Youth group leaders: With leadership coaching, youth group leaders can go from merely planning pizza parties and keeping kids safe to activating the energy and vitality of young people to follow Jesus into adulthood.
- Adult ministry leaders: Leadership coaching enables adults ministry leaders to create truly transformational discipleship environments instead of merely planning social events.
Our Process: The Gravity Formation Course
The Gravity Formation Course forms the core of our spiritual formation process, and it the basis of all our leadership coaching for pastors and church leaders.
The Gravity Formation Course is a 12-month cohort-based training and coaching intensive for Christians who want to learn to pay attention to how God is at work in and around them.
It starts with you as a leader learning a new way of being, finding a renewed centeredness in God’s love, and allowing it to affect every aspect of your life and leadership.
Here’s some of what you’ll learn in the Gravity Formation Course:
- Discover the hidden false narratives that sabotage transformation before it even gets off the ground, and how to counteract them in your life and ministry.
- Learn how ordinary moments can become transformative encounters with God.
- Grow in the non-anxious, transformational presence Jesus embodied in every interaction.
The Gravity Formation Course is more than concepts and information. It’s an immersive, embodied, practical, participative, reproducible training that has the potential to revolutionize your life and ministry.
More Christian Leadership Development Resources
Church Leadership Books
Here are a few recommended books on church leadership:
- Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness by Dan Allender
- Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton
- Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger
- Managing Leadership Anxiety: Yours and Theirs by Steve Cuss
- Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work by Eugene Peterson
Church Leadership Podcasts
Here are few recommended podcast episodes on church leadership:
- Ben Sternke: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Ministry
- Christy Penley: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Ministry
- Matt Tebbe: 5 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Ministry
- Marc Alan Schelske: What Emotions Are For in the Life of the Leader
- Tod Bolsinger: Learning to Lead in Uncharted Territory
- Marcus Warner: What Brain Science Teaches Us About Leadership
- Jim Herrington: Leading in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty
- Susan Carson: Living and Leading From Rootedness
- Rod Wilson: 3 Leadership Sayings that Can Change the World
Articles About Church Leadership
Here are few recommended articles on church leadership:
- How a Leadership Crisis Is Killing Discipleship in the Church
- 2 Ways We Get Leadership Wrong in the Church
- Center-Out Leadership: A New Framework For the Church
- 6 Ministry Lessons I Wish I Had Known 20 Years Ago
- From Affinity to Affection: Building an Actual Community
- Is Your Church Structure Killing Your Mission?
- Why All Good Leadership Starts With Listening