How to Structure Coaching, part 1

By Joel Comiskey, check out, Groups that Thrive and From Twelve to Three

“But what coaching model should I use, said the bewildered pastor?” He had heard of 5×5, G12, and G12.3, and yet he had no idea what was best for him. He was just starting his small group ministry and was ready to throw in the towel.  I told him not to worry about the exact coaching structure. “First you have to raise up leaders to coach. When you have  leaders to coach, the coaching structures will make sense to you. Right now, the most important thing is to concentrate on the content of coaching.”

Coaching Structures

The most common coaching structure is called the Jethro model, based on Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18:21-22. This coaching structure is geographically based and is sometimes called the 5×5 structure. For every five small group leaders, there is a supervisor. For every five supervisors, there is a section leader; for five section leaders, a zone pastor; and for five zone pastors, a district pastor. This structure is easily charted and organized because it is geographically based.

Another popular coaching model is called G12, which originated from an evangelical church in Bogota, Colombia. This coaching model is based on the example of Jesus and His twelve disciples. G12 doesn’t observe the  titles district pastor, zone pastor, and section leader  because it is not based on geography but homogeneity. Thus, a non- geographical network is formed to reach women, men, children, youth, professionals, and so forth.

The two main principles in the G12 model is that every person is a potential leader and every leader is a potential coach.  In other words, the small group leader is the one who coaches the leaders that multiply from his or her group, while continuing to lead the normal small group.  The goal of each leader is to multiply his or her group twelve times and then care or coach those new leaders.  

From Idealism to Reality  

Most of our staff at the Republic Church in Quito, Ecuador had visited the famous G12 church in Bogota more than once, and we had even hosted a G-12 seminar in our church.   Our problem was not failure to understand the G-12 strategy; it was asking busy lay people to lead a small group, multiply it twelve times, and then care for each new leader. Our middle-class church leaders weren’t buying it. Instead of motivating, we noticed that the lay congregation slid into glazed stares.

We came to the point of acknowledging that the number twelve for busy lay people in our setting was too high.  It wasn’t based on reality for us. It did not motivate people to action. As we talked, we discovered two crucial points:

  1. Most of our leaders would be able to envision multiplying their small groups three  times. We agreed that a lay leader would be able to oversee three groups that were birthed out of his or her group.
  1. A small group overseer or coach would be more effective when he or she continued leading a small group. We noticed that some small group based churches asked their supervisors to stop leading open groups when they began coaching other small group leaders. Such supervisors become experts in telling other people what to do, while they themselves are  neither winning people to Jesus nor exercising their spiritual muscles. We found that when upper leaders are only supervising and not in the battle of touching people in an open small group, a hierarchical stagnation occurred. “Leading an open small group and then caring for three daughter small group leaders would be manageable,” we concluded.