1 Reason Why Discipleship and Coaching Work Together


A number of years ago I hired a personal coach.  It proved to be one of my best leadership decisions.  I am learning the art of asking and answering powerful questions. i am discovering how that art can be effectively applied in authentic friendships.  Any discipling relationship is, by its very nature, an authentic freindship. 

If coaching is helping a precious person (think Cinderella’s coach) move from where they are to where they want to go, and discipleship is helping someone learn how to follow Jesus, then doesn’t it make sense that these two disciplines go hand in hand?

I think so.

Why teach coaching skills to church people?

Let my coach, Lynn, answer: (from Lynn Schoener’s coachNotes for the Church, December 27th, 2012)

My friend and I were discussing our respective businesses a few weeks ago, helping each other noodle on strategic plans for the year ahead. She wanted to know why I teach coaching skills to “church” people. “They are just normal people, right?” I laughed as she quickly added, “What I meant is that coaching isn’t part of their job.” “So are you saying I’m not normal?” She smiled, and said “No, you’re not, and that’s not a problem for me! But seriously, do they have to know how to coach to belong to that church?” I gave her a bit of context around the purpose of lifeGroups, and posed this question to my curious friend:

“When you share a problem, a goal, or a dream you have for your life with someone in your circle, what usually happens?”

“Nothing, because I keep that information to myself.”

“Why is that?” 

“Because I don’t want to hear what they think I should do, or listen to them explain why what I did do wasn’t right. It’s exhausting. They nod as if they are listening, but I can feel the judgment.”

“Let’s say you do open up about a struggle you’re having, and they react like you’ve described. What would you do?”

“I’d get defensive, or I’d agree, just to shut them up. Then I’d figure out a way to get out of the conversation. Can you tell I’ve been there, done that?!”

“What if that person really listened, asked more questions about the situation, wanted to know what you’ve tried, or what your ideas are–what would you think about that?”

“Oh, you mean what would I do if they could hold it with me? If they could be present with me in the struggle? Instead of rushing ahead with solutions I’ve already tried, or shaking their head at the stupidity of my past actions? Wow, that would be great.”

“Holding. Yes! That is exactly what we’re up to with coaching at the Church.”

Below the level of skills and tools, process and approach, coaching is essentially about holding. New dreams and old fears, choices and chances, uncertainty and enthusiasm…the new year will bring these to each of us in some configuration. Who will God place in your path to coach? What will you have the privilege of holding?

“What if that person really listened, asked more questions about the situation, wanted to know what you’ve tried, or what your ideas are-“

What if?

So, here’s my #1 reason why discipleship and coaching work together:

Discipleship is relationship.

We can’t help someone, truly help someone, if we don’t care to know them, really know them.  We can’t help someone discover the riches of the glories of God if we don’t make the space to walk with them.  We can’t help someone discover where God’s story shows up in theirs if we have no idea what their story is.  And, we will never be able to assist them to discover for themselves the Good News of Jesus’ Kingdom in their life if we are forever teaching and dictating.  We need to allow space for them to consider the deeper answers that God Himself is leading them to grasp.  That’s why learning the art of asking powerful questions in authentic friendship is THE BEST discipling approach I can think of.