Leveraging AI to Coach Leaders in Ministry

Leveraging AI to Coach Leaders in Ministry

Full transparency – this blog was generated using Bard, Google’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) platform. When AI entered the internet it changed the Intellectual Property landscape overnight. Plagiarism was already suspect due to the accessibility of information on the internet, but AI has shot the trajectory of curated information into another galaxy.  

Should you not be concerned?

I tested AI in generating this blog and entered several topics to narrow my focus.  In each round I was able to zoom in more and more until I arrived at what I thought would be helpful information. Here is the progression I followed to arrive at my blog focus:

  • Positive applications of AI in coaching leaders in ministry
  • Applications for coaching pastors and church planters using AI
  • How can I coach church planters and missionaries using AI?
  • Which platforms are using AI to coach leaders in ministry?
  • Concerns for AI in coaching ministry leaders

I was then able to thoughtfully reflect on and curate the information to land on my topic: “Best practices to leverage AI when you coach leaders in ministry”. This was a tremendous advantage to facilitate my brainstorming process! 

Note: by “leaders in ministry”, I am casting the net broadly (small group leader, staff member, church planter, pastor – to name a few) and I will exchange the term “client” from time to time

There are also a number of concerns surrounding the use of AI when coaching leaders in ministry. Some of the concerns you should be aware of include:

  • Depersonalization: AI coaching platforms can sometimes feel impersonal and disconnected. This can be especially problematic for leaders in ministry, who often rely on close relationships with their mentors and coaches.
  • Lack of empathy: AI coaching platforms may not be able to provide the same level of empathy and understanding as a human coach. This is because AI systems are not able to fully understand the complex emotions and experiences of human beings.
  • Bias: AI systems can be biased, and this bias can be reflected in the coaching that they provide. For example, an AI system that is trained on a dataset of successful ministry leaders may be biased towards certain types of leaders or certain types of ministry contexts.
  • Accountability: It can be difficult to hold AI coaching platforms accountable for the results that they produce. This is because AI systems are often complex and opaque, and it can be difficult to understand how they make decisions.

In addition to these concerns, there are also some ethical concerns about the use of AI in coaching leaders in ministry. 

For example, some people are concerned that AI coaching platforms could be used to manipulate or control ministry leaders. Others are concerned that AI coaching platforms could be used to create a surveillance state in which leaders are constantly monitored and evaluated.

It is important to be aware of these concerns when considering using AI to coach your clients. It is also important to choose an AI coaching platform that is reputable and that has a good track record.

Five tips to leverage AI to coach leaders in ministry:

  1. Make sure that the AI coaching platform you choose is designed specifically for leaders in ministry. This will help to ensure that the platform is culturally competent and that it addresses the specific needs of your clients.
  2. Use the AI coaching platform in conjunction with other methods, such as mentoring and providing resources. This will help to ensure that your clients are receiving a well-rounded coaching experience.
  3. Be mindful of the limitations of AI. AI coaching platforms are not a replacement for human coaches. Make sure that your clients are aware of the limitations of AI and that they are still receiving the support they need from human coaches and mentors.
  4. Be transparent about how the AI coaching platform is using data. Make sure that your clients know what data is being collected about them and how that data is being used.
  5. Give clients control over their own coaching experience. Allow them to choose whether or not they want to use the AI coaching platform and allow them to set their own goals for coaching.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that the use of AI in coaching your clients is ethical and effective.

Getting practical. 

Here are some specific examples of how you can use AI to coach leaders in ministry:

  • Use an AI-powered coaching platform to develop a personalized coaching plan for each of your clients. The coaching plan should be tailored to the individual needs of the small group leader, staff member, church planter, pastor – to name a few – and should address their specific goals and challenges.
  • Use an AI-powered ministry assessment tool to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each leader in ministry. The assessment results can be used to identify areas where your client needs to improve and to develop a coaching plan to address those areas.
  • Use an AI-powered simulation to create a realistic ministry scenario for each client to practice in. The simulation can be used to help the client develop their ministry skills and to learn from their mistakes in a safe environment.

Here are some additional tips for coaching leaders in ministry using AI:

  • Be intentional about how you use AI. AI is a powerful tool, but it is important to use it intentionally and thoughtfully. Make sure that you are using AI in a way that is helpful and supportive to your uniquely gifted clients.
  • Be mindful of the limitations of AI. AI is not perfect, and it is important to be mindful of its limitations. For example, AI-powered coaching platforms may not be able to provide the same level of personalized attention as a human coach.
  • Use AI in conjunction with other coaching methods. AI can be a valuable tool for coaching leaders in ministry, but it is important to use it in conjunction with other coaching methods, such as mentoring and providing resources.

Overall, AI is a promising tool for coaching leaders in ministry. By using AI thoughtfully and in conjunction with other coaching methodologies, you can help leaders of all kinds to be more effective in their ministries.

My first experience using AI to generate this blog content was impressive:

  • Reduced the amount of time spent in research and development by 80%.
  • Helped narrow my focus for sharper content without having to be a subject-expert on the particular topic (in this instance, using AI in coaching ministry leaders)
  • Allowed for more energy to be spent on how to say what I wanted to communicate

AI is here to stay. The choice is always in your hands. Choose carefully. Choose wisely. But choose – or else others will choose for you.

If you have insights you would like to share about your use of AI in coaching Christian leaders in ministry – please share them below or email me directly at greinecke@infocusnet.org.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Is Coaching Always the Answer?

Is Coaching Always the Answer?

You heard it here… coaching is not always the best approach. There are times when, as a coach, you will need to switch hats in order to meet the needs of your clients. Let’s dive into the when and how.

When you have a problem with your car, you need a mechanic to diagnose and fix it. If you slice your finger, you need a doctor. When you need a ride to the airport, you call an Uber. Different needs require certain expertise.

The 5 Hats You’ll Wear as a Coach
The table below was shared by my friend Micah Dodson of www.thrivechurchplanting.org. I personally found the descriptions of each role helpful to distinguish one from the other. These roles can easily blur into each other, especially if you have a background in teaching, counseling or mentoring and are now adding coaching into your toolkit. A key point to being a new coach is to learn to be clear in your mind when you are functioning in a particular role, or it will confuse and potentially frustrate those you are attempting to help.

Each role has a specific function. Here are the functions along with the scripture reference. Look below and contemplate which ones you resonate with:


Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. / Proverbs 13:20


Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. / Proverbs 13:20


He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom,  so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. / Colossians 1:28


 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. / I Corinthians 11:1


The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. / Proverbs 20:5

*All scripture passages from NIV

You Can Over-Coach

A classic problem I faced parenting my kids, I over-coached them. This surfaced when they were home as young adults during COVID. I was using questions to help them challenge them to “do something”.  My approach was making them suspicious of my intent. I was using key questions to help them come around and do something I wanted them to do, in the way I wanted them to do it. Manipulation is not the intent of coaching.  But that is how it came across. Fortunately, my family pointed this out and I became more aware of what I was doing.

This raises a few important questions that arise when I am training leaders in coaching:

  1. Is coaching always the best approach?
  2. What cues should we look for to determine when to use another approach?
  3. How to make the shift from one approach to another without confusing clients?

Is coaching always the best approach?

No, but I’ve found the more we can use a coach approach, the better.  Realistically, you can blend coaching into each of the other four roles above.  I view coaching on a continuum. One end of the continuum is Directive and the other end, Non-directive. The more Non-directive approach, the more likely we can help people discover for themselves. The goal is for the client to feel empowered to take action.  

Of course, when you play that out in each role, it becomes obvious when you need to stop asking questions. You need to learn to be aware of what the client needs at the moment! For example, if I take a bad fall on my mountain bike, I need to go to the ER. The only question I want to ask is – “Which way to the hospital?”

What cues should we look for to determine when to use another approach?

The simple answer is when it stops working; like in my example with my kids. At the peak of frustration, they gave me explicit feedback: “Just tell us what you want us to do!”  Below are some ques to look for when coaching so it doesn’t go this far:

  • Frustration – you are agitating your client more than helping
  • Silence – this can be a sign that your client really does not know what to do
  • Lack of follow-through; the client in not engaged

How to make the shift from one approach to another without confusing clients?

I’ve found that being clear with what role you are playing is respectful to the client – and critical for you. When it is murky in your mind personally,  it can be confusing or frustrating for the client.  For example, when a client comes to you for advice and you are operating as a coach, then you are going to approach the conversation differently than your client.  

For example, let’s assume you have been serving a client as a coach but you also have the capacity to switch into counselor mode. When you make the switch it is helpful to signal your client about the switch. This can be simply saying something like, “I’m taking off my coaching hat and now putting on my counselor hat.”  

This will have several benefits. First, it will reinforce the shift you are making. Second, it will communicate a shift in the tone of the conversation. Third, it has the potential to accelerate the conversation. The caution here is, only switch when it’s absolutely essential for the client to move forward.  

When the Hat Isn’t Your Size

I’ve found that, to some degree, most coaches can navigate through these 5 roles. That doesn’t mean that everyone is excellent at all 5. The key is to know when your client’s needs surpass the help that you can give them.

Assessing your roles

  1. What reflections do you have from the table above?
  2. Of the 5 passages, which one resonates with you most?
  3. As you reflect on the 5 roles above, which ones do you naturally gravitate to?
  4. When you are in coach mode, what other roles do you tend to lean towards?
  5. What can you do to stay in a coach mode when you’re in the role you typically operate? 

Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

Workplace Culture and Respect

Workplace Culture and Respect

“Hey, bro! What’s up my man?”

You might greet a buddy with a “What’s happening?” But is this an appropriate way for your staff to interact with their supervisor on your church staff?  

What is at play here?

Have you noticed a shift in how employees interact over the last 3-5 years? Respect is a really important quality in the workplace, but sometimes the culture of a church staff is so informal it can slide into that gray zone where everyone is subtly functioning as though they are all operating at the same level of influence. An intern should not be viewing their influence as a peer with the Executive or Lead Pastor. Why is that so important?

Reasons why demonstrating respect is important:

  1. Demonstrates honor in a relationship
  2. Reinforces values that strengthens team culture
  3. People feel safe when they understand their role, responsibilities and boundaries

What happens when relationships are not handled carefully?

Sloppy boundaries lead to sloppy work! The casual nature of a relationship might be misinterpreted and reflected in an employee’s work ethic and quality of work.

How did we arrive at this point?

To some degree, this falls along generational lines. Cultural influences like entertainment, politics and social media – to name a few – have influenced the way we interact in different spaces. The disruption of the last three years also has much to do with our informalities – specifically social isolation. People have spent so much time on screens versus real, genuine, face-to-face interactions, communicating in meaningful conversation, allowing for reading of social cues, discerning nuanced inflections, body posture, and observing and following cultural norms.

But I think it might go deeper than this…

“Look him/her in the eyes!”

Some skills I learned in the home that I grew-up in, when greeting people, included:

  • Look the person in the eyes when greeting someone
  • Offer a firm handshake
  • Speak clearly and loud enough to be heard
  • Make the conversation about the other person
  • Smile

Are these basic skills taught in the homes in which our young people are being raised? It might require some back-filling on your part, in addition to relevant orientation and training to shape or reinforce the culture you envision for your team – it is really up to you!

What do you want the culture of your team to look like?

Team norms (normalized behavior) are important to help people understand the expectations of being part of a team. Here is an example of a list of team norms (values + distinctives + standards of leadership) of a one-year-old team that I have been a part of at the Refinery Church – CLICK HERE.  Every Sunday morning as we gather to review and prepare for the service with approximately 30 volunteers, one person is asked to review 2-3 of the norms and select one to go a bit deeper. This has genuinely reinforced and normalized behaviors we expect from each other.

Reflection Questions to land on you team norms:

  1. What is important to us?
  2. What can we keep people accountable to?
  3. How will they be upheld?
  4. What are the consequences when a norm has been ignored or broken?
  5. Are these actual or preferred norms?

Following are resources to help you understand the distinctives of the various generations!

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Avoiding Burnout as a Leader

Avoiding Burnout as a Leader

The season of fall is a big focus for all churches. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. It’s a time to set vision, make clear goals, find a rhythm, and invigorate the community. It is often one of the busiest times of the year, and without careful planning it can lead to burnout. 

Burnout affects almost everyone in a leadership position at some point, often at multiple times during their ministry career. Many hard workers tend to shrug it off and attempt to push through periods of high stress, anxiety, and little rest. However, burnout can have serious ramifications. Prolonged stress and exhaustion can take a toll on your body, mind, and emotions. You are more prone to mistakes in your work and may judge yourself (and others) harshly. You can drive yourself to serious illness. Burnout will also eventually trickle into your personal life, affecting your relationships, sometimes even causing lasting damage. 

What you can do to prevent burnout:

In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he suggests prioritizing what is important and unimportant, urgent and not urgent using four quadrants. 

  • Quadrant I. Urgent and important: Important deadlines and crises (Must do immediately)
  • Quadrant II. Not urgent but important – Long-term goals and plans (Prioritize next)
  • Quadrant III. Urgent but not important – Distractions with deadlines (Delegate or push back)
  • Quadrant IV. Not urgent and not important – Distractions (Eliminate from to-do list) 

While Quadrant I is full of deadlines and crises that must be dealt with immediately, most of our time should be focused on Quadrant II. This is the quadrant that looks to the future, prevents crises, and organizes what must be done. If enough attention is paid to Quadrant II, then crises (such as burnout) will become less common. As the old idiom reminds us, “The best defense is a good offense.”

Here are some tips for keeping your focus in Quadrant II:

  • Keep clear boundaries 
  • Have clear communication between staff
  • Take a weekly sabbath to rest and make time for activities that bring joy
  • Take care of physical health (eat well, sleep as needed, exercise)
  • Take care of emotional/mental health (check in on relationships and check in with self)
  • Prioritize urgent and important activities and let go what can be let go
  • Ask for help instead of taking on too much

Reflection questions to help you avoid burnout:

  1. Which Quadrant(s) are you in right now?  
  2. What triggers do you need to be aware of that suggest you are reaching your limit? 
  3. What practices do you need to maintain to stay in a healthy space? 
  4. What new practices do you need to adopt? 
  5. What habits do you need to break?
  6. How will you free up time and energy to focus on new initiatives?
  7. Who are the key people to remind you to keep healthy margins? 

See our Time Management Resources to leverage your most precious resource – time.  See below:

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