In the world of leadership development, there are different buzz words that people try to use to define what they want to do.  For a while, the buzz word was “mentoring” i.e. to help someone, maybe just starting out in a profession, in walking alongside them and help them not make the same mistakes with the mentor’s experience and wisdom.  Lately, the buzz word seems to be “coaching”.  And like many buzz words, the definition becomes a bit too vague, without a defined expectation that comes from someone who calls themselves a “coach”.  When I first heard this word, I thought of a tough football coach who would put his players through hell to get them ready for game-day, and those players took it.  So, there are some who take that concept of coaching to my profession of youth ministry, and they are essentially a mentor or a consultant, telling their client what to do essentially, maybe even with a bit of heavy-handedness, but making it seem more like a “guidance” relationship.  Right now, there are many youth ministry experts who call themselves “coaches”, but I’m not sure if they really understand what it means, at least from a professional stand-point.

Through my life coaching courses, coaching (as defined by the International Coach Federation) is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” (http://www.coachfederation.org/about-icf/ethics-&-regulation/faq/)  If this is the case, what is the role of a youth ministry coach?  It seems to me that, essentially, a coach is there to help their client expand their awareness beyond their limited views, and then help delve into the “who” of the person, which is what really drives them.  A coach then is really a person that does not “give orders” (like the image of a football coach), but allows the client to essentially accept, reject or negotiate any suggestions given by the coach.  The coach doesn’t necessarily come with a defined “playbook” in which their clients follow through as if “one size fits all”.  The client becomes the driver in terms of what they really want to get out of that relationship, not the coach.  The coach isn’t there to “prove their worth” by trying to demonstrate their expertise (even if they have it).  Rather, a coach listens, asks the intriguing questions to try to dig a bit deeper into the person, occasionally challenges and advises, but really allows the client to own as much of the session and thoughts shared as they like. (At least that’s my understanding.)

If that is coaching, how would it affect the development of youth leaders?  Would it change the kind of youth leaders emerging?  Maybe, maybe not…

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