Skill Training: Four Questions Every Coach Should Be Asking

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What are you training your coaches to do? Have you trained them? Or have you left what they do and how they do it up to them?

Let me suggest that certain things can be left up to your coaches. Since they each have their own personality, experience level, and skill set, it only makes sense that they will do some things differently than everyone else.

But what your coaches do TO and FOR (and WITH) the leaders they support determines what the leader is likely to do TO and FOR (and WITH) the members of their group. Therefore, your coaches need to be trained to ask the right questions (and the right kind of questions).

I've found there are four key questions that every coach should be asking. Here they are:

1. What is the best thing that happened in your group meeting this week (Praise)

Notice that it's not a question about numbers. It's not a quantitative question. It's a qualitative question. It encourages a conversation. It's a question that helps spark opportunities for the leader to be commended for their service.

2. What's the worst thing that happened in your group meeting this week? (Problem)

This question allows the leader to grumble a little; sharing the things that aren't working. This is a great opportunity for the coach to use diagnostic follow up questions or prompts like, "Why do you think that happened?" or "Tell me more about that."

3. What are you going to do next? (Plan)

This question allows the leader to talk about next steps for their group or what they plan to do about what's not working. It's not necessarily a time for the coach to be directive. Instead, it encourages the leader to think out loud about what they should do.

4. How can I pray for you? (Prayer)

This is the key question among the key questions. More than anything else, this question helps establish the coach as someone who genuinely cares about the leader, about their family, their job, their relationship with Christ, etc.

Keep in mind that actually listening is very important. In fact, I recommend that every coach keep a simple journal with notes from their conversation. Whether you have 3 groups or 10 groups it will pay off to be able to look at those notes before your next call or cup of coffee and refresh your memory! I've also found it very helpful to keep post-it notes on my desk so that I can jot down prayer requests and have a visible reminder during the week.

Another really helpful practice is to call and follow up on things like health concerns, job interviews, and family challenges. Paying attention to the concerns and challenges of your leaders speaks loud and clear about your genuine appreciation for them.

Finally, these four questions can also be used during huddle time at a leader's meeting. Here's a downloadable copy of a form I use to generate discussion in the coach's huddle time during a leader's meeting.

I need to thank Brett Eastman for this idea. His, along with Carl George, Lyman Coleman, and Bill Donahue, are some of the broad shoulders the rest of us stand on.

Image by Jukka Zitting

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  1. Virgil Grant on January 20, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Mark, 4 great questions. I have passed them on to my small group coaches. Thanks.

  2. Mark Howell on January 20, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Thanks Virgil! Glad it is helping.

  3. Theresa Ip Froehlich on January 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    The small group that I’ve been leading just had a meeting talking about these questions. Besides leading groups, I also coach small group facilitators.

    Another question each group needs to ask: What are the negotiables and what are the non-negotiables? Each group goes through stages of development, and at each stage some of the members are going to be stretched. It’s important to draw out the negotiables and the non-negotiables as the group transitions through changes.

    Theresa Froehlich

  4. Anonymous on January 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here, Theresa! There are definitely additional questions that will prompt a better understanding of next steps for groups.

  5. Andrew Mason on February 18, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Downloaded, thanks!

  6. markchowell on February 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Glad you found it helpful Anthony!


  7. Lisa King Richards on February 11, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Great site! I am the growth group(small group) administrator for our church and I have come up with similar questions for our team leaders(coaches). It is a really great way for our TL’s to get the ball rolling with our leaders. I am going to borrow some ideas you have. Thanks for posting!

  8. markchowell on February 12, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Glad you’re finding my site helpful Lisa!