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6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach

There are differences of opinion about the importance of coaching in the small group community. Some have tried (more than once) to build a coaching structure and decided it just didn’t work in their environment. Others have tried to provide certain aspects of coaching through a “call center” approach (i.e., call this number when you need help). And some have concluded it is too important to be entrusted to volunteers and so it is a budgeted staff position.

I believe it is very possible to find the right men and women to serve in this essential role. They’ve been in every church I’ve served and they are in your church too.  See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure, Part One.

Here are what I believe are 6 essential characteristics:

1. Capacity. To be crystal clear…high capacity. Willingness to serve is not enough. Warm and willing will not get the job done. If you want to build an effective coaching structure, you must be on the lookout for high capacity men and women. I describe this ingredient using Jesus’ line about the relative capacity of a seed (30, 60 or 100 fold) from Mark 4:1-20. Jesus isn’t talking about the maturity of a seed. He isn’t challenging 30-folds to become 100-folds. He is simply observing that there are seeds that have a higher capacity. Question: When you evaluate your current coaching team, what is the capacity of your coaches?

2. Spiritual maturity. The best coaches are a few steps ahead of the leaders they are coaching and steadily growing closer to Christ. Since the primary thing I need the coach to deliver has to do with a kind of spiritual mentoring (doing to and for the leader what I want the leader to do to and for their members), spiritual maturity is an essential ingredient. Question: Are you investing in your coaches?

3. Teachability. The kind of men and women who make great coaches know that like Paul they have not yet arrived (see Philippians 3:12-14). The best coaches are being mentored and passing on what they are learning. Question: Are the coaches on your team teachable?

4. Availability. The right people will almost always be very busy people. High capacity people are rarely sitting around looking for something to do. Still, it makes no sense to recruit people to a role that to which they can’t give quality time. At the same time, this is a role that is right in the sweet spot of abilities for many and they will respond to the right challenge. I ask for a 1 to 2 hours a week commitment (which can often be done on the phone). Question: Have you recruited people who can’t give the time needed?

5. Productivity. I often refer to this ingredient as fruitfulness. Many high capacity leaders are simply in the wrong seat on the bus (to use the Jim Collins metaphor). I think if you’re building a coaching structure, you need to monitor productivity. Question: Have you recruited players who are actually bearing fruit?

6. Passion. I often refer to this ingredient as fulfillment. It is very possible for a high capacity individual to not have passion for the coaching role. A high capacity player can be productive for a season without passion, but they will not stay in the role for long. If you want to build an effective coaching structure you’ll need to look for passion. Question: Are your coaches fulfilled but not fruitful?