Coaching FAQ: What Is the Role of a Coach?

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Another very frequent question is what does a coach actually do?   Better, “What is the role of a coach?”   It’s a great question…and it’s actually where you should start in building an effective coaching structure.

Here’s the sequence:

  1. Determine in advance what the role of a coach is.
  2. Clarify what a win for a coach will be.
  3. Build the job description that will ensure steps toward that win.
  4. Recruit on the basis of this understanding.
  5. Measure engagement.

What Is the Role of the Coach?

In my system the main role of the coach is to do to (and for) the leader whatever you want the leader to do to (and for) the member.  As I’ve pointed out, whatever you want to happen at the member level must happen first in the life of the leader.

Want the leader to actually do more than convene the meeting?  Want the leader to do more than turn on the DVD player?  Want the leader to do more than facilitate a discussion?  If you want the leader to actually provide care for the members, guide members toward maturity, laugh and weep with members…you need to understand that for that to happen the leader will need to experience it first.  And that’s where the coach comes in.

How’s a coach going to know how to do those things?  Someone is going to have to do to (and for) the coach whatever you want to happen in the life of the member.

To accomplish these things I train the coach to ask four questions that start a conversation when they’re beginning to work with a new leader.  I’ve detailed those questions right here.  As I’ve mentioned, when you’re retroactively assigning coaches to existing groups you need to start differently. I’ve detailed that right here.

And that’s the beginning.  At some point early in the relationship I’ll have the coach introduce the Purpose Driven Life Health Assessment and Plan and that will become the basis for an ongoing conversation. That conversation will be intentionally facilitated through one-on-ones and huddles with the coach and several new small group leaders.  The same conversation will be more casually facilitated through brief interactions in the lobby between services and other times.

Clarifying the Win for Coaches

You’ll have to work out this one line summary to fit your own culture. For me, it really is that a win for a coach is when they’re doing to (and for) the leaders what we want the members to experience (care, prayer, love, challenge, concern, warmth, etc.).

Want the rest of the article?  Be sure and come back tomorrow for What Is The Role of a Coach, Part 2.

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  1. Larry Baxter on July 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I’ve read these and others on your site – Great posts on coaching role and structures Mark, thanks!

    I’m having a tough time reconciling two views/approaches, which make it hard to decide on the right role and job description for a coach. I just loved Jim Egli’s recent book Small Groups Big Impact which highlighted an effective coaching structure as the dominant factor correlating with the success of the small group ministry. Egli recommends the coach care for and support about five leaders, meeting with them and pulling together in huddles.

    Then I also read and like Gladen’s new book Small Groups on Purpose. There he describes how they’ve eliminated the ‘coach’ level in the structure and have gone to a community leader overseeing 25 SG leaders, caring for each one as they need which will vary greatly (priority, personal, phone and passive care.) The main reason he cites is that many ldrs simply want nothing to do with a coach, no matter what you say their role is (which leads to burnout of volunteer coaches). We have seen this pushback from SG ldrs when we tried (without success) to implement coaching a few years back. We’re a small-midsize church with 25 groups whose leaders have been highly independent and without much care or direct oversight for a while now.

    Any thoughts on how Elgi’s findings
    and Gladen’s recommendations compare/contrast/work-together? Which parts of the two approaches are key to consider when trying to (re)start a coaching system in a culture resistant to coaching/mentoring? Any insight you have on this would be appreciated 🙂

  2. Anonymous on July 27, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Great observations, Larry! This will make a better blog post than a reply. Watch for that in the next few days.