The Life Coaching…

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NASB)

THE LIFE COACHING CRAZE AND THE CHURCH

By Deborah Munson

During the past ten years, life coaching has exploded into the secular world of professional, executive and personal development.  It has become the second fastest growing profession behind information technology.  Many professional counselors and therapists are making a switch to life coaching.  Even full time ministers are seeking out life coach training and changing their ministry focus.  Why are these professionals making this shift?

There exists in today’s Christian community a unique group of trained professionals with a vision to help believers become empowered to pursue their God given purpose and destiny.  They are called “life coaches,” and the potential they carry in enabling the Church to dramatically increase its effectiveness in areas of personal and spiritual growth is enormous.

Thus far basically untapped by the Church, Christian life coaches are a resource biting at the bit to help ministries around the world see a rapid rise in their ability to carry out their ministry’s purpose and vision.  How?  By helping the individuals in their congregations and organizations grab on to all that God has for them and thereby increase their role and effectiveness within the Body of Christ and as testimonies to the unsaved world.

Those transitioning from the mental and behavioral health fields are actually responding to the needs of their clientele.  They recognize that a majority of their clients are not suffering from dysfunctions or psychological illnesses.  Instead, these persons are looking for help in such areas as defining a life purpose, seeking fresh per-spectives on their situations, wanting accountability with their goals, desiring to create better balance in their daily life, working their way through change or major life transitions, or finding a way out of a “stuck in a rut” situation.

Ministers making the switch to life coaching are seeing the same needs in their profession.  Having benefited from the wonderful truth that the church is a great place to find help and support for life’s hurting situations and spiritual needs, healthy Christians are beginning to look for more.  Wanting to discover and pursue God’s best for them and believing God does have a purpose and design for their lives, the question before for them has become “what’s next?”  Christians are equally dissatisfied with their present circumstances and progress as their unsaved friends and colleagues.  The secret prayer of their lives is, “God, there has to be more to my life than this. Show me.”  Ministers who are becoming life coaches are dedicating themselves to helping these individuals find what that “more” is and walking with them as they step into what God shows them.

Whether it is outside or within the church, most people are seeking life coaches for several reasons.  Some do feel “stuck in a rut,” determined to find out why and what to do about it.  Others are remarkably successful people who feel that they have reached a plateau or peak based on their current skills and abilities and are looking to identify ways to grow and stretch themselves past that point.  Some have found that in achieving their success some areas of their life have fallen to the wayside and are in need of attention to bring life into balance again.  Others are those who have done the tough work of counseling and therapy and are simply ready to move on.

People wanting to make more of their lives are looking to life coaches to be a trustworthy sounding board able to project an honest objective voice into their situation.  They are looking for someone to ask them the hard questions, to challenge and motivate and keep them focused, help them identify obstacles to their progress and deal with them, and assist them in designing and taking actions that will improve and build upon what they have already achieved with their lives.  They are stable, responsible, hard working persons who don’t need therapy.  They want someone to be tough with them, encourage them, and cheer them on.  They need a coach.

In the success-driven, highly competitive, and fast-paced world of the West, it is no wonder why people from every walk of life are looking for this kind of highly interactive and challenging relation-ship.

Due to career pursuits both secular and in ministry, people are increasingly far from removed from traditional support systems such as family and long-term friendships.  Our culture is creating individuals who are feeling increasingly isolated, yet pressured to give more and be more to their employers, businesses, communities, and churches, coupled with a need to create more personal time and a less stressful lifestyle.  The desire to do so is there.  But the wherewithal to achieve this has to come from within, and that is not always easy to access and develop on one’s own.  Enter the life coach.

So what is the potential application of life coaching to the church?  Enormous!  Many pastors and ministry leaders often feel be muddled and frustrated with the struggle healthy believers, including themselves, of-ten have in pursuing the call of God on their lives.  Quick to recognize that their churches and organizations are filled with people who carry amazing potential and incredible vision, they are themselves feeling maxed out in their abilities and schedules.  The struggle has intensified between being able to provide pastoral care to those in need in an increasingly hurting society and being able to encourage and guide those ready to move forward in to new opportunities and areas of growth.  In short, ministry leaders need help keeping the healthy Christian challenged and moving forward.  It takes more than inspiring and motivating messages on Sunday mornings.

For the healthy Christian sitting in the pew, the frustration is not from lack of desire to be and do more.  The frustration is an issue of not knowing where to take their vision and dreams or how to develop them.  For the believer ready to move on with God and make the most of what He has placed in their hearts and lives, it’s a question of how and with whom, not if and when.  This person knows that they need to shape their vision according to their life purpose, values and spiritual beliefs.  They also are deeply concerned about keeping their life balanced, and how to deal with the challenges that come with the changes their life will undoubtedly face as they step out in faith with their vision.  A person in this position is not looking for another small group to join or someone to pray with.  They are looking for relationship with a fellow Christian that will both challenge and encourage them.  They are looking for someone with whom they can be vulnerably honest and who will be lovingly and courageously honest with them.  They are looking for someone to both befriend and confront them.  Enter the Christian life coach.

These trained men and women could well be the newest gift of God to the Body of Christ.  If implemented, life coaching could quite possibly be the tool that will assist in the launching of hundreds of new outreaches and ministries waiting to be born, waiting to fulfill the role God has for them in His Kingdom purposes and designs.  Not to mention the increased number of individuals that will be walking out daily life with greater meaning and purpose.  Life coaching is perhaps the greatest “pre-ventive medicine” to come along for the church’s use in helping people avoid crashing in their faith and personal lives.

At first glimpse, the temptation is to think of a Christian life coaching relationship as discipleship or mentoring.  Neither is the correct picture.  In a discipleship relationship there is a spiritual parent-ing aspect — a mature believer helping one who is less experienced and knowledgeable.  In a mentoring relationship there is an experienced superior raising one with aspirations in a similar specialty.
In a life coaching relationship, the coach and the person being coached are equals.  The coach may or may not be someone with shared interests or background.  The person being coached may or may not be of the same spiritual maturity or biblical expertise as their coach.  Though spiritual and professional/career issues will be addressed along the way, it is not the coach who provides advice or answers.  Rather it is the coach’s role to be sure that the client seeks out and finds the answers or advice they need to keep moving and growing.  It is a role of providing the desired level of accountability, maintaining motivation, and seeing results.  If an issue needing counseling or therapy does surface, it will not be the coach who deals with it.  The person being coached will be referred to and expected to seek professional help before preceding any further in a coaching relationship.

Christian life coaches are trained professionals that offer their services in a variety of options.  All coaches provide individual sessions through their private practices.  Many also provide group-coaching sessions for people sharing a common issue or goal, in similar circumstances and demographics.  (For example, businessmen in their mid-forties desiring to deepen their life purpose and set goals for the next portion of their lives.)  Most coaches do have a niche they work best in, such as working with entrepreneurs, executives and professionals, ministers, homemakers transitioning to careers, creative persons and artists, celebrities and public figures, and so forth.  Many Christian coaches are looking for opportunities to be of benefit to churches in their communities, willing to work on retainer to provide their services to congregation members and ministry staff.  A handful of churches in the USA have already seized the potential of life coaching by placing coaches on their ministry staff as paid positions.
Coaching carries another unique aspect pastors need to take advantage of in working with individuals in their congregations.  Coaches are extremely affective with people either face to face or simply by telephone.  Therefore, geographic boundaries do not prevent a person from benefiting from life coaching no matter where in the world they may be living.  Pastors can be comfortable in referring individuals to a life coach that they have checked out and established a ministry connection with, even if the person being referred can meet with the coach only by phone.

Christian coaches are networking amongst themselves so that they are easier to locate and are able to refer persons to coaches that better fit their situation and desires.  The largest network is The Christian Coaches Network and can be contacted at http://www.christiancoaching.com/.  They have a referral system accessible at their site that assists people with their search for a life coach most likely to fit.  Their site is also a great place to learn more about Christian life coaching.

A recent book by Dr. Gary Collins also explores Christian life coaching and presents the potential it has in the ministry of the church.  Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential Into Reality is great reading for anyone wanting to understand the life coaching phenomenon from a Christian perspective.

Pastors and church leaders wanting to learn more about Christian life coaching shouldn’t hesitate to contact a Christian life coach.  He or she will be happy to discuss their profession and answer questions.  Many life coaches are also speakers and workshop leaders and would be great additions to conferences and seminars dealing with improving life and fulfilling potential.

Christian life coaches are a unique group of professionals ready and waiting to help believers reach for all that God has placed in them to be and achieve.  These coaches have caught a vision for a strong and progressing Body of Christ made increasingly effective by individuals that are stepping into their full personal life purpose and vision within the life of their local churches.  Life coaches are a resource ministries can and need to embrace to help propel their people forward in faith and action as never before.

This is a time when ministries are acutely aware that “the harvest is great but the laborers are few.”  Help has arrived.  They are called life coaches.

© Deborah Munson 2002