What the Best Coaches Do

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

Effective coaching is all about facilitation, rather than teaching. I recommend coaches to perfect the following skills:

  • Listening: More than anything else small group leaders need a coach who is willing to listen to their problems, fears, and needs.
  • Encouraging:  Small group leaders easily face discouragement and need encouragement to keep them going. Great coaches continually encourage leaders, acknowledging their important effort and ministry.
  • Caring: Great coaches befriend those leaders under their care. They show this care by an occasional birthday card, help on moving day, or any other practical gesture of love and kindness.
  • Resourcing: Great coaches are constantly resourcing their leaders through email articles, free books, and any type of counsel that will help the leader become more effective.
  • Strategizing: Great coaches plan with the leaders how to multiply the group by looking at potential leaders in the group, where the new group will meet, and overcoming obstacles to actually making it happen.
  • Challenging: Coaches should never allow the leader to be content with mediocrity. Care-fronting means speaking the truth in love with improvement as the goal.

My book How to be a great cell group coach goes into great detail about effective coaching.

Pastor and team

If the fulltime pastor is overseeing a lay volunteer coaching team, I recommend a group meeting once per month, or if possible, every fifteen days. Group coaching meetings are critical between pastor and team. If the pastor has gathered a paid staff, they should meet weekly.

During those group coaching meeting, the pastor ministers to his key leaders through the Word and prayer. Then the group talks about the G12.3 network, carefully analyzing the health of the leaders, statistics, the equipping, multiplication dates, and prayer needs. Like a quarterback in a huddle, the  pastor directs the small group system through the hub of the leadership team. 

Lay coaches with leaders

I encourage each lay coach to call each leader under his or her care once per month and to meet with each lay person once per month.

In North America, that’s asking a lot, and thus, group meetings between the lay coach and the lay leaders might not be as frequent. I’ve seen too many “ideal” coaching structures fail because they were based on what should happen rather than what is actually happening. Thus, if time doesn’t permit for the volunteer coach to have a regular huddle meeting with leaders under his or her care, by all means the coach should commit to the one-on-one personal time each month and a once a month phone call.

The Marathon 

The 12.3 model ensures each leader receives coaching and that there is a constant supply of coaches. The structure helps each leader to believe the possibility of coaching those who multiply from his or her group. Rather than appointing coaches who step down from leading a small group, the G12.3 model encourages all leaders to see themselves as potential coaches.

Remember that  whether or not the leaders are actually being coached and cared for is much more important than a particular model.  Churches can successfully start groups—even hundreds of them. People will even readily offer their homes—for a few weeks. However, to make it over the long haul, small group leaders must have a quality support line, much like the supply line that funnels food and other supplies to battle-wearied soldiers. Small group based churches succeed or fail on the quality coaching given to the small group leaders.