September 07, 2021

What Makes Christian Coaching Different
How is Christian coaching different? After an extensive research project, we compared our results to other leading models for secular coaching competencies. It was affirming to discover how parallel the models were—with just one glaring difference…

Written By Gary Reinecke

ICF Master Certified Coach, Resource Designer, Mission Strategist : InFocus

A Look into the Uniqueness of Christian Coaching

The Birth of Christian Coaching

Bob Logan and I, both partners at Christian Coaching Tools, took somewhat differing routes on our journeys toward coaching excellence to get to where we are today, which is serving as effective and experienced Christian Coaches.

Bob was practicing coaching, without knowing what to call it, as early as the late 1970s. He was essentially following his father’s definition of success: “Find out what God wants you to do and then do it.” Bob came alongside people, intuitively listening and asking questions, to help them figure out where they were, where God wanted them to go, and then what next steps might help them on their way forward. Bob was always developing people as they were doing the work of the ministry. He learned coaching skills through practice and watching how it worked, assessing what was effective and what was ineffective. Then Bob heard about coaching and had the internal response of, “Oh! That’s what it is!” He started using the term coaching in 1990.

I also began practicing coaching intuitively in the Christian sphere. In my early ministry as a college intern, I utilized the foundational coaching skills of listening and asking questions as I discipled new Christians, coached people through their spiritual gifts discovery process, and developed leaders. Later I expanded my coaching approach in a church plant where I developed small group leaders. At this time there were few books on the subject of coaching, so most of what I learned was on-the-job, learning through experience and speaking with other practitioners, like Bob and Steve Ogne who were also developing their coaching skills.

Establishing Christian Coaching

It was around this time when Bob and I began to collaborate, teaming alongside several others, to research Christian coaching to discover the underlying competencies and behavioral expressions that make Christian coaches successful. After an extensive research project, we compared our results to other leading models for secular coaching competencies. It was affirming to discover how parallel the models were—with just one glaring difference: the involvement of God in the process.

What Sets Christian Coaching Apart

This competency, which we called Abiding in Christ, sets Christian coaching apart by the practice of listening for and discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit throughout the coaching relationship. That includes the coach listening for direction, and also the coach asking questions that prompt their clients to listen for the direction of the Holy Spirit. Doing this takes the coaching relationship to another level of understanding—and often another level of impact. I cannot overstate the significance of Abiding in Christ.

This missing element in secular coaching is something that other coaches often try to address through words like intuition. They may be reaching for that spiritual element. In the secular coaching books, we find terms like instinct, intuition, gut, or inner voice. These terms can cross over to Christian coaching but the way they are used varies depending on the context of the conversation.

3 Key Practices for Abiding in Christ as a Christian Coach

As Foundation

First of all, a Christian coach will aim to live out their own faith, relying on God and listening to his voice in their own life. Much of this is identical to living as a disciple: obedience, faith, prayer, meditation on scripture, integrity, etc. Without a personal foundation, rooted in lived experience, one cannot practice Christian coaching.

On Mission

Second, a good Christian coach will want to tailor questions based on the faith framework of the person being coached. Asking an atheist client what she is hearing from the Holy Spirit would likely be not only unhelpful, but counterproductive.

A Christian coach can practice Christian coaching regardless of the faith of the client. It’s a matter of the coach listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit and taking direction from God. Just because a person is not a person of faith doesn’t mean we abandon our connection to God. Like Jesus, we adapt what we say to them and how we approach them. God is always at work, whether a person is following Jesus or not. Our coaching is still a ministry.

  • With an atheist client you might want to use questions like, “What is your gut telling you?” “What is your human instinct telling you?” or “How do your values impact your decision?”
  • With a Christian client, you might want to use questions like, “What do you sense Jesus wants you to do?” “What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?” or “What is God asking you to do?”
  • With a spiritual-but-not-Christian client, you might want to use questions like, “What do you hear when you listen to that still, soft voice?” “What are you sensing from your higher power?” or “What are you sensing from the spiritual realm?”

With Intention

Third, practicing real Christian coaching requires an intentional awareness of the Holy Spirit—a moving aside to make room for and listen to God. Just because a coach happens to be Christian does not necessarily mean they are practicing Christian coaching. It is possible for a Christian person to practice secular coaching… and it is common among those who are not trained in competencies such as Abiding in Christ.

The longer you coach, you realize your job as a Christian coach is to help the client discern the voice of the Holy Spirit. In this way, you can help them find solutions that fit for them and align with their values. Your relationship with God is infused in the coaching you’re doing, and you’re bringing your whole self to the table in serving your client.

That was a great coaching moment!

Most coaching assumes a formalized coaching relationship with a beginning, a middle, and an end, with clear goals to be accomplished along the way. However, you can also use your coaching skills in less formal ways– just as a way of relating and interacting. Think of it as a “coaching moment” instead of a “coaching relationship.”

Steps to Help You Make Decisions with God

You’ve got a big decision to make. When you make a decision based on the human intellect alone you might come away with a “good decision”; in contrast, when you consider God’s perspective on a matter you engage the spiritual dimension. This will lead you  down the path of prayerful decision making.

Can you find coaching in the Bible?

If you are trying to help others understand the biblical basis for coaching, here are two key scripture passages to help.

9 Ways Coaching Aligns with Biblical Principles

You may be wondering if coaching is biblical. The Bible never commands us to coach. In fact, the word coach is never used. So why coach? Should we even coach? Here are 9 ways coaching aligns with biblical principles.

The #1 Secret to Raising Self-Led Adults

You want your kids to become self-led adults. People who make good decisions, live into their gifts and talents, and contribute to their communities. The teen years are when the rubber hits the road. 

Purpose-filled Conversations with Your Teens

Conversations with your teens can feel one-sided. There are a lot of grunts and minute head nods, or if you’re lucky–one word answers. But this is a time in their development where they make important decisions that have lasting consequences. So, how do you move past casual chats to more meaningful and purpose-filled conversations with your teens? 

Coaching your kids

Translating your coaching skills to support your parenting will help you raise kids who have a clear understanding of who they are and have a solid framework for making good decisions. 

5 signs that you could be a better coach

You’ve been coaching for a while now. You may have even completed coach certification; but you feel there is something more… Are you coaching at your optimal level or could you be a better coach? How do you really know how well you’re doing? 

5 Steps to Clarify Your Values

Having trouble moving forward in your ministry goals? What about those you serve? If you are struggling to fill seats and find volunteers the issue may not be WHAT you are doing but a disconnect from the WHY.

Learning to trust your coach and your team

Are you at the top of your game? Even if you are, are you ready for what’s next? So many gifted and purposed pastors burn out because they are playing a solo game. Learning how to work with your team raises your effectiveness and reach in ministry.