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How to Adopt a Coach Approach to Discipling People

Discipleship Coaching

Make it Personal

A coach approach focusses in on each person. Small groups are great. Teaching is essential. Small and large gatherings are really important and necessary. Most discipleship has been focussed around large and small groups and very little around the individual. It was more titled toward a one-size-fits-all approach. That seems to be changing. It’s a needed change. Chad Hall in his book Faith Coaching: A Conversational Approach to Helping Others Move Forward in Faithwrites, “perhaps bearing the image of God isn’t so much a one-size-fits-all; rather an exquisitely tailored spiritual journey for each person. A coach approach to spiritual formation will help reverse the curse of mass spiritual industrialization and begin to open up pathways that are fresh, meaningful and unique to each unique follower.” (Hall, p.29-30)

A coach approach recognizes that people need time to process the information they are learning. They also need to time to individualize their thoughts, apply what they know, and choose personal action steps that are in line with their own spiritual growth needs. A coach walks with a person as they set their own goals. Each person is so unique that the coach focuses on that person. One of the ways a coach does this is by asking questions.

  • What is God doing in your life?
  • What would you like to see God do in your life this year? What else?
  • Where are you now, and where would you like to be (in your walk with God)?
  • And what would that look like if that were to happen?
  • What makes that important to you?
  • What would help you get some movement in that?

These questions and others like them help the person to identify a goal or goals and break them down into pieces so forward movement is possible. 

Focus on One While Engaging the Many

Personalized coaching isn’t a replacement for small or large groups. Most people get nuggets of truth and ideas for their own lives from the things they are learning in Bible studies or worship gathering. A coach helps people capture what is relevant to their own goals. If the person seeking spiritual growth brings up something gleaned from what they are learning, then the coach would ask, “How does that relate to your own walk with Christ? What makes that important to you right now? How can that help you move forward in the way you have identified?” 

Often, a leader can use a curriculum to engage several people in a small group learning environment and then move into a coach approach to discipleship with the group and with each person individually. A coach approach might shift the discussion time to a group goal and or each person’s personal needs. This is even more effective if the coach can get the permission of the group and each person and then use a formal coaching approach to their goals.

Help Each Person Aim Their Growth

It’s a beautiful thing to help people identify their own spiritual growth goals, desires, and needs. Coaches who are curious about the people they are mentoring and coaching (two distinct styles) want to know the individual needs of each person.

The best thing that a coach can do is help people embrace a process so they can better “aim” at their goal of becoming a mature disciple of Christ. Sometimes that means adopting a helpful discipleship pathway to guide people in their walk with Christ. There are several resources available that adopt a coach approach to discipling people. It seems like most of them break discipleship into 3-4 responses to Jesus’s invitations/challenges as they are found in scripture.

  1. “Come and See” is for those who are curious about who Jesus is and his invitation to enter into relationship (John 1:35-46).
  2. “Come Follow Me” (John 1:43; Matt. 9:9) is an invitation to become a believer and committed follower. It’s the invitation to start learning as a disciple of Christ. Jesus’ second invitation that sounds similar to this one is “come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20). Some discipleship pathways break these two invitations into distinct steps (see 4 Chair Discipling by Dan Spader).
  3. “Come be with me” is the invitation to serve alongside of Jesus as a part of our calling (Mark 6:30-31). This is a calling to intimacy, serving beside Jesus, fruitfulness, and faithfulness for all of life.

Words that can describe the disciple’s path—curious, committed, called, and fruit bearing. A coach might use a path like the one above to help people assess where they are at in their own walk. When a person identifies where they are and where they want to be, coaching can help close the gap.

Disciple the Person, Not the Problem

Churches often choose small group curriculums and even sermons based on problems they see in the lives of the congregation or in culture. A series on how to have a better marriage is developed because marriage issues are so prevalent. A series on reading the Bible is developed because people are not spending time in scripture. Topical studies are developed to deal with sexual immorality, Christian living in the workplace, or encouraging volunteerism because those are the top of mind issues in the lives of so many people. Every single one of the above topics is important and, for the most part, everyone can learn something from a sermon or a Bible study focused around them.

A coach approach to discipleship focusses in on the person, not the problem. A coach approach recognizes each person’s uniqueness, the complexity of their lives, and their personal needs. A coach approach would take the time to listen, ask great questions, provide support and encouragement, and assist the person in developing action steps.  

The Benefits of a Coach Approach to Discipleship

  1. Individuals can take what they have been taught and then decide how to use it in their own lives.
  2. It is focussed to each person’s own walk with Christ, their needs, and their goals.
  3. Each person being coached chooses the goals that are right for them.
  4. Coaching focusses on the person, not the problem.

Would you like to learn more about adding a coach approach to your leadership skills?

Consider attending The Coaching Workshop for Christian Leaders. Coaching skills will increase your effectiveness as a leader regardless of whether you work in the marketplace or in ministry. People who take this workshop see significant advancements in their impact, while seeing their stress and busy-ness go down.

Based on the book, The COACH Model for Christian Leaders, this workshop is made for those who are experienced as well as those who are not-so-experienced in coaching skills.

If you’re interested in know more about coaching or in The Coaching Workshop for Christian Leaders, schedule a no obligation coaching conversation with me. Or shoot me a message.


Faith Coaching: A Conversational Approach to Helping Others Move Forward in Faith (pp. 29-30). BookSurge Publishing. Kindle Edition.