Practical Steps on How to Coach

By Joel Comiskey, check out: Living in Victory, Spring 2020

I talked with a pastoral team recently who said to me, “Joel, can you explain how to coach in a practical way. It seems that coaching is more subjective and not as clear-cut. We understand the equipping, the order of the cell, and of course, how to run a Sunday celebration service, but coaching seems fuzzy.”

As I reflected on what they said, I had to admit that the practical matter of how to coach can sometimes be more subjective. And yes, coaching  is more of an art, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. Here are some basic guidelines:

1. Prepare to Listen

Listening well takes diligent preparation. It means clearing your mind of all the chatter that wants to get you to think of your needs, your problems, and your goals. It’s actually much easier to do all the talking, but listening take more work and it is the foundation of good coaching. The coachee’s agenda should guide the coaching time.

2. Prepare the questions.

The coaching time with the leader should be based on open-ended questions, rather than closed-ended ones. Before talking to the leader, the coach should write down questions. The following are only examples that might give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Personal Questions

  • What are your hobbies?
  • What are you doing to improve your marriage?
  • How is your quiet time?
  • How can I be praying for you during the week?

Homework Questions

  • Last time you said you were going to read the chapter 7 of in Dave Earley’s book, 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders.
    • What did you learn from that chapter?
    • How can you apply that chapter in your group?
  • Will you be willing to read chapter 8 for our next coaching meeting?

Cell Questions

  • How did the group go this past week?
  • Share some of the victories
  • What are some of the challenges you’re trying to overcome?
  • Who is the next leader you are preparing? Where is he or she in the equipping process?

Administration Questions

  • Can I call you again on March 03 at 7 p.m.?  

3. Write down what you learned.

After the coaching conversation, be sure to write down what you learned. You will then be able to go back to those notes before the next coaching time with the leader.

4. Be a fanatic for encouragement.

Great coaches are encouragers. As the leader answers your questions, be sure to encourage them whenever possible. Leaders need encouragement.

5. Be willing to challenge the leader.

You won’t always need to do this, but if you’ve noticed that the leader is failing in the group, marriage, or personal walk with God, you need to be willing to say, “Can I have permission to share with you something?” When the leader says, “yes,” then share what’s on your heart.

Coaching is more personal and maybe not as clear-cut as the equipping, cell lesson, or celebration service. But it is doable, and you will learn as you practice. Be willing to fail forward. Ask God for wisdom, and he will give it to you.