Book Review: Coaching in Ministry

coaching in ministry coverI am, not to put too fine a point on it, full of myself. Far too often in leadership and ministry, I’ve found myself telling people what to do. Sometimes there is a place for that – ‘stop sinning’, ‘here is why Jesus was the Son of God’ and stuff like that. But all too often when it comes to developing leaders, which I’ve never had enough of, I find myself telling them what to do, solving their problems for them and generally enjoying being the fount of all wisdom. Now I know that I’m not the fount of all wisdom and knowledge but that doesn’t stop acting like it or enjoying the ego boost I get when I do or people think I am.

There are all sorts of problems with this but one major one sticks out – it is profoundly dis-empowering. Indeed, many times, it is the opposite of what I am supposed to be doing. I am supposed to be equipping people for the works of ministry (Eph 4:12-13). Sometimes instruction is equipping. Sometimes people do not know the answer to tough problems and questions, sometimes people need instruction. However there are lots of times where good leaders, good men & women do not need, even if they want me to solve their problem, to do that work for them. In their ongoing discipleship & following of Jesus they need to equipping to follow through on what the Holy Spirit is speaking to them about. Most of the time I’m just getting in the way.

Keith Webb’s Coaching in Ministry: How busy leaders can multiply their ministry impact¬†is a short introduction to coaching. And it’s good. It’s a short book which you can read in an hour or so (I started, finished and wrote this review on a flight from Stockholm to the UK) – it serves as a primer on what coaching is and what it is not. Webb draws helpful distinction between mentoring (putting in) and coaching (drawing out) from the mentored/coached. He then gives a few helpful questions and pointers as to how to go forward with a coaching approach to leadership development in terms of questions to use, length & frequency of coaching meetings and so on. There are links & suggestions for further reading & training for those that want to pursue that.

Webb is a qualified coach and has learned through experience how coaching can work well especially in a cross-cultural environment. This is not the first time in the last year that I’ve seen the need to get better at using this tool. Over the past year I believe the Lord has clarified in my head that my job is to equip others and that in fact I don’t serve them all that well if I end up being the source of guidance instead of the Holy Spirit. Especially as the Spirit is far better at this than me. Essentially the theory goes like this: equip others to do what I have called them to do and more will be done. Well equipped leaders is multiplied leadership and that is what we need more of pretty much everywhere.

What I’ve not done is actually do much about it other than some vague thoughts and a few conversations. Reading this short (have I mentioned that it’s not a long book?) book was a small step in a better direction.

It’s worth noting that coaching is just one of the tools in a leaders toolbox. The problem for me is that far too often it’s either been missing or left stuck in the box. As always the art of good leadership is knowing when to use what tool and having the wisdom to use it right. Coaching in Ministry¬†proved a helpful little reminder for me to wisen up.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Coaching in Ministry”

  1. Simon Almstrom says:

    Great insight. I have just finished reading Co-Active coaching myself. A more extensive book on coaching. Not written from a Christian perspective but surely applicable anyway. What do you think about sharing notes sometime?

    1. Phil Whittall says:

      Sounds good!

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