One of the most frequent questions is, "Do you have to have led a small group before you can be a coach?" It's a fair question. But I think it's really part of a larger question. "What are the essential ingredients of an effective coach?" is a much better question. Here's what I've found to be the essentials:
First, effective small group coaches have a vibrant and growing relationship with Christ. Especially in an environment where a lower bar of small group leadership exists, it is essential that your coaches be able to model a level of maturity that is a few steps ahead. Whatever you want to happen at the member level will have to be experienced first by the leader of the group. For that to happen it almost always starts with the coach.
Second, effective small group coaches have a passion for community. Can you be a coach without having the experience of leading a group? I think the answer is yes. They do need to have a passion for community; a genuine love of group life that only comes from being in a group. But since most effective groups have multiple members who play a leadership role...it's actually likely that some potential coaches are in groups but not the formal leader.
Third, effective small group coaches have a relational bent to their personality. They don't need to be highly extroverted, but so much of what you need your coaches to do requires them to interact with the leaders in their care that they've got to be relational. Coaching happens in the course of daily life. It's not a classroom experience. It's about communication. It's a conversation. That said, coaches without a relational bent will always struggle to make it work.
Fourth, effective small group coaches are higher capacity leaders. Don't miss this point. In the sense that there are thirty, sixty, and hundred-fold leaders (see my article for more on this idea), it is essential that your coaches are able to lead leaders. When you recruit coaches you need to be looking for people that your leaders will actually follow.
Finally, effective small group coaches are in it for the long haul. The temptation is to simply fill org charts or plug gaps. And it is possible to jump start coaching with the plan to move to a more enduring structure. Finding people who are fruitful (very effective) and fulfilled (find satisfaction in their effort) is the goal.
There may be other ingredients, but to me these are the five essentials. One of the keys to building an effective coaching structure is not settling for available...what Don Cousins used to call warm and willing. You really need to find hot and qualified...leaders with passion and skill...the essential ingredients of an effective coach.