Finding Your Ideal Coaching Client 
Successful coaches are always looking to expand their work by finding new clients, but it can be difficult to know which clients are right for you. 

Written By Gary Reinecke

ICF Master Certified Coach, Resource Designer, Mission Strategist : InFocus
Whether you are just getting started in the business of coaching, or you have been coaching for years, there are some clients who will be a better fit for you as a coach. Knowing what to look for can narrow your focus and help you find the clients who you will be able to help the most effectively.  

Know Yourself, Know Your Client

find your ideal coaching client

You come to coaching with certain biases and values that will attract certain leaders and drive others away. Your level of effectiveness in coaching others will be determined by your “willingness” and “ability” to adapt to certain behavioral styles. For this reason, it’s essential to have some understanding of your client, and even more important to know yourself!

Working with any one individual will reveal  similarities and differences in background, approach, vision, values, and outlook. Your experience is different from anyone else’s. Your training and exposure to different approaches to coaching are unique. But when do you know when to draw the line and suggest that prospectve clients  seek a different coach? 

Finding Your Ideal Coaching Client

This leads to a number of hot button topics to consider when you are looking to build your coaching practice. The more aware you are of these, the better able you will be to ”vet” prospective clients. Through trial and error you will discover your ideal client – the type of people you are best suited to coach. For example, a coach with experience in leading large churches is likely better suited to work with pastors in similar situations, whereas a coach who spent more time in smaller congregations would better understand their needs. 

10 Things to Consider as You Identify Your Ideal Client 

Here are some of the top hot button topics to consider when vetting a prospective client: 

1. Philosophy of Ministry

A leader of 100 people, and a leader if 2,000 people are going to have very different needs and goals. Or a church plant vs. a revitalization project.  It’s important to know if you have preferences, experiences, or specialized knowledge with various church sizes, models of ministry, or principles that are at work in all churches. 

2. Personalities  at Play 

All leaders bring strengths and weaknesses that will either compliment your personality resulting in synergy, or in a way that repels, and over time, irritates. Know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can assess whether or not this is a good fit. Imagine a vertical and horizontal line coming together to form a 90-degree angle: the vertical representing “Willingness” and the horizontal “Ability” – the combination of these two traits will determine your effectiveness to work with your most challenging prospective clients.  

3. Ministry Goals

Every leader will have goals for their ministry. They may be stated goals such as: focus on growing numbers, church health, discipleship, community service, worship, etc. Or unstated goals like improving the image and relationships of the church within the community they serve.  Know what your client’s priorities are and be aware of your own so that you can determine if this is a good match. 

4. Theological alignment

Denominational affiliation is an obvious place to begin. For example, it might be difficult to coach a pentecostal pastor if you have a liturgical orientation, with little or no knowledge of pentecostal practices. This may or may not be an issue for you but one to pay attention to especially if you are just launching out in your coaching ministry so that you don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.  At the other end of the continuum is an independent, autonomous congregation.  This poses another set of issues that you will need to navigate and vet to determine if this is a good match.

5. Management structure

Some leaders manage their staff in a more relational one-on-one style, whereas other leaders may have to streamline their management style, outsource problems to other staff and focus on the bigger picture. Every leader will have different ways of handling their staff and the church’s needs, so again, how flexible are you with your management style?  If you are comfortable with the more relational approach vs. the more directive style then seek out that type of leader.

6. Culture and Community

What is the culture  of the church? Of the surrounding area? Is there tension within the staff and/or congregation? Is there tension between the church and the surrounding community? Are they close-knit and established, or just getting to know each other?  These questions will inform your comfort level of working with certain cultural dynamics inside and outside the church. 

7. Political and sociological alignment

Some of the most contentious topics in ministry are political and sociological in nature. Women in Ministry, LGBTQ rights, racial injustices, republican vs. democrat – to name a few.  Knowing where you land on these issues will help you better vet who you are comfortable coaching.  Remain curious, what might initially seem as a “non-starter” could actually be a learning opportunity for you to grow and expand your appreciation, knowledge-base, and experience.   

8. Organization Life Cycle

Orient yourself to the “S-Curve” from the study of organizational life.  Imagine a vertical and horizontal line coming together to form a 90-degree angle: the vertical representing “Growth” and the horizontal “Time”.  The “S-Curve” consists of three phases: Infancy, Expansion, Maturity.  As a church approaches the last stage they can pre-empt the inevitable plateau and decline if they are mindful and able to reinvent themselves.  This is a real challenge as 80% of the churches in America are plateaued or in decline.  You must be aware of the church’s phase of development and if you are the best to work with them.   Or is there someone else that is better suited.

9. Congregational vibe

A vibe is a feeling that you get, or a feeling that is shared in a room.  Do you resonate with a vibe that is more urban or suburban, rural or metropolitan, multicultural or homogeneous?  Like it or not you have certain biases and prejudices that influence your behavior.  Be honest with yourself and know who you gravitate towards and what context make you uncomfortable.  If you are from an urban background it might be challenging to connect with a rural congregation, and the opposite is true.

10. Fee Structure

Do your market research, test your rate, assess if this is the fee your services can charge.  If your fees are too high, you will not sustain your practice and if too low, you run the risk of working harder than you need burn-out in a short amount of time.  Find the sweet spot and stick with that unless something dramatically changes, like a windfall of work that you can’t service.  This will allow you to increase your fee incrementally over time until you find the threshold of what you can charge.

Questions to focus your connecting & networking efforts:

  1. What are the values that drive my coaching?
  2. What type of person is fun for me to work with?
  3. What areas of specialization are my superpowers?
  4. What type of people drain me?
  5. What is the “win” for me in coaching my ideal client?

To learn more about leveling up your coaching practice and consider one of our cohorts this fall:

Coaching Essentials

You want to maximize your impact. The most effective coaches are those who have experienced excellent coaching and coach-mentoring. The Christian Coaching Essentials Cohort is designed to equip you with all you need to know to start coaching. Bob and Gary walk you and your peers through foundational principles and get you practicing right away. Learn more HERE.

Coaching Excellence

You’ve got the basics down and have been coaching for a while. You are seeing some traction in your coaching ministry but feel like if your skills were more honed, you could be more effective. It’s time to intentionally move towards coaching excellence. The Coaching Excellence Track combines assessment with one-on-one mentoring and group webinars. Learn more HERE.

Cover Photo by Medienstürmer on Unsplash

Photo by on Unsplash

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The Volunteers Pastors Need

Volunteers are at the core of getting ministry done and moving vision forward. Recruiting and training volunteers can be a full time job… and everything can still fall apart. Here’s how to coach your ministry leaders to spot, train, and mobilize volunteers that get the job done and come back to serve again. 

Is your client working with an unhealthy team?

Recruiting volunteers has always been a touchy ministry subject. But since the pandemic recruiting and keeping volunteers and lay leaders necessary to run a ministry has become increasingly difficult. Here’s 5 reasons why. 

Coaching through Scandal

If you stay in the coaching game long enough, at some point you will coach leaders on how to deal with division in the body, disciplinary issues, and, well, scandal. Sadly, these issues are a part of life. As a coach, you have an opportunity to help leaders rise above the problem and take the higher ground.

Getting revitalization right 

Your client’s church is in a slump. Whether it’s just a feeling or a steadying decline in attendance the word that is in the back of your head is revitalization. It’s clearly time to do something new. Here are 4 revitalization strategies to help your client make the right changes.

Set effective—and reachable—goals 

Your client has a big vision. To help them see that vision become reality means strategically breaking up that vision into manageable goals. Easier said than done…

Is your board functioning well?

Being stuck with a dysfunctional board can feel like a being out to sea, alone on a sailboat, without wind. You can’t get anywhere and it feels like there is nothing you can do about it. But there is!

Is timidity in the way? 

Timidity can feel like a major obstacle to overcome. The good news is that assertiveness is a skill that can be learned. Here’s a good place to start.

Level Up To Transformational Learning 

Your goal as a coach is greater than the tasks at hand. Excellent coaching moves a client through reflection to action to transformational learning. 

How good are you at time management… really? 

You’ve thought it. You might even recall (with a pit in your stomach) of a time you’ve been told to “get your priorities straight”. We’ve all been there. Either way, it’s a red flag that you aren’t managing your time well. The good news is, prioritizing is the first step in the right direction.