Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

I began coaching in 1988.  I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach leaders to start all kinds of churches & pioneer disciple-making movements.  I’ve learned many lessons from coaching some of the most amazingly gifted, truly faithful & hard-working leaders serving in the Lord’s Church today.

Lessons that I’ve gleaned:

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of the spiritual foundation (Lesson #1: Discern the will of the Father and helping those you coach, do the same) the relational foundation (Lesson #2: Value the other person) of coaching. This week, I focus on the personal foundation.

Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

Each of us has a unique contribution God has designed us to make. This is not a pre-destination issue – it is a design issue. Based on your unique design, what is your contribution?

When I first began coaching I was 28 years-old, recently graduated from seminary and single. One of many mentors the Lord used in my life modeled the kind of ministry I sensed God calling me, so I asked him if I could carry his bags to assist him on any upcoming projects. Over the next few years I immersed myself in learning all I could on church growth, leadership development, church planting & multiplication. This led me to pursue my doctorate through Fuller Seminary where I received my DMin at the age of 32.

During those early years I was developing the skills of a coach, trainer and consultant with the singular focus of starting healthy churches that reproduce. The more I refined my unique contribution the more I sensed God’s pleasure. It was, and remains, an ongoing process of stretching myself by taking measured risks, reflecting on the experience and assessing the fruitfulness of the work.

This three-step process of action – reflection – evaluation has served me well. Of course it is never as clear as it may appear in writing, but, the process does work itself out if you are committed to discovering your unique contribution. To help you through that process here is a list of 9 questions to help you refine your Unique Contribution so that you can more faithfully steward the gifts the Lord has given you.

Unique Contributions Reflection Questions:

Self Examination:

  1. What am I passionate about?
  2. What abilities have I demonstrated that produce fruitful results?
  3. What spiritual gifts fuel these skills & abilities?

Feedback from others:

  1. What positive feedback do people share with me?
  2. What skills do people consistently affirm in me?
  3. What impact do these skills have on other people?

Spiritual Litmus Test

  1. How do I measure effectiveness?
  2. What activities leave me energized?
  3. When do I sense God’s pleasure most?

Next week I will share another lesson that I’ve learned as the Lord has allowed me to partner with leaders who are making a significant contribution to the work of cultivating disciplemaking movements.

Coaching across generations

Coaching across generations

How do you work with someone who has been in the workforce for thirty years (50+ years of age) as opposed to three years (30-40’s years of age)?  Take into consideration the following scenario.

First time church planter (in their 30’s) – high on vision & low on experience.  I coached a new church planter who primarily asked “how to” questions to process his philosophy of ministry, challenges he encountered and self-discovered action steps.  I challenged his thinking by asking pointed questions to help him realize that he has the resources inside himself to take the next steps in his church planting journey.  The new church planter is in many ways, unaware of what he/she does not know.

Contrast him with a seasoned leader – high on vision & high on experience.  The seasoned leader (50+ years of age) asked “what” and “when” questions.  He has a rich experience base to draw from and his confidence runs deep.  The seasoned leader is in many ways more aware of what he/she does not know.

Following are reflection questions for you as the coach to consider during the when coaching across generational lines:

  • What questions are they asking?
  • What kind of help are they seeking from you?
  • What is the best way for you to support them as a coach?

There exists real differences that are important to recognize when coaching across generational and experiential lines – see the Generational Differences resources for more insight into these subtleties.

A comprehensive coaching process – anchored in Christ

A comprehensive coaching process – anchored in Christ

I’ve trained leaders around the world in the coaching process (commonly known as the 5 Rs – see below) who are catalyzing disciple making movements, planting churches, empowering leaders, leading teams and pioneering networks.  A conversation with one missionary reminded me that the five elements of the coaching process are more descriptive than prescriptive.  It was evident this gifted woman was wrestling with the process.  When I gave her freedom to come up with her own language to describe the process she uses, she lit-up!

  • RELATE – Establishing a coaching relationship and agenda
  • REFLECT – Discover and explore key issues
  • REFOCUS – Determine priorities and action steps
  • RESOURCE – Provide support and encouragement
  • REVIEW – Evaluate, celebrate and revise plans

That is the way I present the 5-R coaching process.  Once people become familiar with the five elements then I challenge them to personalize it so that is fits their context.  Find language that captures the essence of what they do and how they do it.  And most of all – begin using it!

Below are five questions to help you identify the coaching process you use:

  1. How do I connect with people I coach?
  2. How do I help people analyze their situation?
  3. How do I help them envision the future?
  4. How do I help people identify resources to implement their plans?
  5. How do I help people I coach review their plans, celebrate success and capture insights?

Answers to these questions will help you uncover your coaching process.  The more transferable, the better.  If you have a process you’ve created, I’d appreciate you e-mailing me or sharing it with the InFocus coaching community below.


Level 1 Church – Moves to Level 4

Level 1 Church – Moves to Level 4

You are probably familiar with a Level 1 church.  It is a church bent on survival.  In 1988 I began a long and arduous journey with Historic First Church in Phoenix, AZ.  The only way out of the dismal decline, from my perspective, was to plant a new and vibrant church with the intent of revitalizing the parent church.  To work within the denominational polity we were led to plant a church within a church – aka “venue”.  Some 25+ years later that new congregation has evolved into an urban, multi-ethnic community of faith call Urban Connect relocated in the revitalized warehouse district.  Lot’s to report from that experience but for now, this Level 1 church serves as a good example of a church that has taken the leap to become a Level 4 church – read more below.

Previously, I introduced the book “Becoming a Level FIVE Multiplying Church Field Guide” (by Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson with Alan Hirsch) and five levels of church multiplication as follows:

  1. The primary characterization of Level 1 churches are “subtraction, scarcity, and survival.”
  2. The primary characterization of Level 2 churches are “tension, scarcity, survival, and growth.”
  3. The primary characterization of Level 3 churches are “addition, growth and accumulation.”
  4. The primary characterization of Level 4 churches are “discontent, new scorecards and reproducing at all levels.”
  5. The primary characterization of Level 5 churches are “multiplying, releasing and sending.”

I found the book with the self-assessment helpful to determine where congregations are on the multiplication continuum. Read “Becoming a Level FIVE Multiplying Church Field Guide” and administer the self-assessment to determine where you are on the multiplication continuum.  Here are a few questions to help a Level 1 church reflect and move forward, based on a self-assessment the authors created:

  • Are we content being a Level 1 church?
  • What options do we have to grow and reproduce?
  • What level can we, by God’s grace, realistically become?
  • What steps can we take to get from here to there?
  • What steps will we take?

In the upcoming blogs I will take a closer look at the 5 Levels of Multiplication to illustrate the characteristics above with questions to coach your team to the next level.

Coaching Basics

Coaching Basics

“The Coaching 101 Handbook” was published so that church planters, pastors and church multiplication network leaders would be equipped to empower missional leaders (2003).  Since then, the handbook has been translated into a couple of languages, hundreds of leaders have been trained and are coaching using the process known as the Five R’s.  The purpose Bob Logan and I co-authored this resource was to offer a comprehensive coaching process that is spiritually anchored in Christ.

I’ve done a bit of reflection on the basic skills of coaching since then.  As a result, I’ve altered the language slightly under the third area, from giving feedback to “Timely Advice”.  It focuses on the the “timeliness” of the feedback  Of course, advice-giving is discouraged in coaching and only encouraged when the person being coached has exhausted her/his ideas.

Why is that?  I like to put it like this:

You have a 50-50 chance that anyone will do anything you suggest; but when people discover something for themselves, the ratios change drastically (like to 95%) that they will act!

  • Listening: “…it is best to listen much, speak little, and not become angry;”  James 1:19
  • Asking: “Then he asked, ‘Who do you think I am?’ Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah.'”  Mark 8:29
  • Advising: “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.”  Proverbs 25:11 

I have also re-discovered that the most important discipline is at the hub of the illustration.  Apart from Him, we can’t accomplish anything of value.  The ability to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit and help leaders align themselves with God’s agenda sets world-class coaches apart from good coaches.  This reminder gives us confidence in a Helper to accomplish the task.

  • Abiding: “When you obey me you are living in my love, just as I obey my Father and live in his love.”  John 15:10

Abiding in Christ is the glue that makes the three skills above “sticky” – it is a game-changer for leaders.  How many times have you had people you coach come back days, weeks, months or even years later telling you that what you helped them take action on – confirmed the very thing the Lord had been prompting them to do?  This is the gift that you give to people and sometimes, you receive a gift in return and experience the impact.

If you have a story of how you have helped people take action in obedience to Christ or make shifts in their leadership, please share your insights below.  Until next week – keep on empowering leaders!

Discipleship vs. Leadership

Discipleship vs. Leadership

The question goes something like this: “Is there a difference between discipleship and leadership?”  In your experience I wonder if you have found that discipleship and leadership bleed into each other.  I actually had a leader ask the question and it caused me to reflect – my initial response was “Yes, there a difference.”

One simple distinction is that discipleship focuses on following and leadership, on influencing.  This to is too simplistic of course; because a leader, the best leaders, follow Jesus.  At the same time though, a disciple does shift their behavior when they lead and intentionally influence others.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 25+ years focusing on these two dimensions.  If you would like to read more, check-out the free downloadable article entitled the Leadership Multiplication Pathway (go to the bottom of the page).  In the article, I focus on the distinctions between being a disciple and a leader, using the Leadership Multiplication Pathway storyboard to illustrate a path leaders can use to coach people on their journey.