How To Implement Coaching for Existing Group Leaders

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One of the great challenges in developing a coaching structure is providing care for existing group leaders.  It’s one thing to connect a new leader with a coach.  It’s another thing entirely to retrofit seasoned, existing leaders with a coach.  This is true for at least three reasons:

  1. Survival of the fittest: Once an existing leader has survived without a coach, any suggestion that they need a coach is counter-intuitive…it just doesn’t make sense to them.
  2. Perspective:  While coaching is almost always explained as a means of encouraging and equipping, from the perspective of an existing leader it is about control or keeping score.
  3. Lack of genuine affinity:  The tendency is to select coaches and then evenly and randomly deal out the existing leaders.

Strategies for Implementing Coaching (for Existing Group Leaders)

It’s very important to embrace an easy-going attitude when you are introducing coaching after the fact.  Command and control does not work very well.  Much better to gradually whet your existing leader’s appetites for the upside of a mentoring/encouraging relationship.  Here are four strategies I’ve used to begin to provide care for existing leaders:

  1. Reposition the idea of coaching in your leader’s minds.  It’s not about score-keeping or control.  Instead, establish and build on the idea that coaching is about encouraging spiritual growth.  In the same way that group members benefit from the support and encouragement of the leader and other group members, group leaders can benefit from the encouragement of someone a step or two ahead.
  2. Introduce peer-to-peer accountability in a leader’s meeting.  Ask leaders to form huddles of 3 or 4 and then share the answers to the following questions: (a) What’s working in your group, (b) what’s not working, (c) what’s next for your group, and (d) how can we pray for you?  Have them share contact information (cell phone and email) and follow up later in the week.
  3. Introduce the Purpose Driven Life Health Assessment and the Purpose Driven Life Health Plan in a leader’s meeting.  Have leaders complete the assessment and plan and then huddle up to share their plan with a group of their peers.  You’ll find out more about these tools right here.  Have them share contact information (cell phone and email) and follow up later in the week.
  4. Think through the natural affinities within your existing leaders.  Do your best to group them by affinity around tables in a leader’s meeting.  Lead them through a scaled down version of a connection and have them choose a coach from amongst themselves.

Have you found a way of implementing coaching for existing leaders?  Why not use the comment section and share it with the rest of us!

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  1. Josh Hunt on January 13, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Should coaching be required? What do you do about leaders that don’t want coaching?

    Josh Hunt

  2. Mark Howell on January 13, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Good question Josh. I’ve found very few of us are able to grow independent of the encouragement and challenge of a trusted adviser. At the same time, the terminology “coach” or “coaching” suggests “help with technique.” That’s why I’m suggesting that step one is to reposition the idea in the minds of your leaders. Make it about encouraging spiritual growth. Once you’ve repositioned the idea it should remove resistance to coaching. Leaders who are resistant to spiritual growth are another matter (and could be the subject of another article!).


  3. joeyclyde on January 7, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Is it important for a “coach” to have experience as a small group leader when technique is not the role?

  4. markchowell on January 8, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Good question! I would say, technically, no. However, since it is much more difficult and much less common for an experienced leader to accept a coach after they’ve made it successfully through the first several months of leading a group without one, it would not be easy to introduce an inexperienced small group leader as a coach or mentor.