Helping Your People Grow through Coaching: An Interview with Craig Glassock from VineGrowers (Part 1 of 3)

What follows is an interview with a friend of the ministry, Craig Glassock of VineGrowers. In the interview we define coaching, talk about its importance for church ministry, and share a simple method to follow when coaching.

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran: Can you briefly tell us who you are and what VineGrowers is all about?

Craig Glassock: My name is Craig Glassock, and I’m the director with VineGrowers, which is a ministry based in Sydney, Australia.

Our mission is growing disciples and growing the gospel. We’re trying to help churches to develop a culture of disciple-making disciples.

Craig Glassock of VineGrowers

Looking at everything that happens in churches – all the ministry structures and trellises and the people—how can we get that all geared toward disciple-making, so that the normal life of the Christian is as a prayerful proclaimer of the Word? That’s what we’re about.

KH: Can you define coaching for us? Specifically as it relates to different activities such as mentoring or counseling, etc.

CG: Coaching in its simplest form is about helping a person develop and grow. Whenever we coach someone, that’s what we’re trying to do. That can be contrasted with things like counseling, consulting, and mentoring. The type of coaching that I do, which is working with pastors and church leaders, is overlapping in some of those areas. (Although, we try not to delve into the counseling side of things too much.)

If you think about a quadrant with asking questions being at the northern point and giving advice being at the southern point, analyzing problems on the west and creating solutions being in the east, coaching kind of sits in the asking questions/creating solutions quadrant. We’re trying to help people find the answers and unveil the answers for themselves.

In Christian coaching we’re trying to do that within a Christian framework, a biblical framework. That’s where there’s overlap with consultancy or with teaching or mentoring as well. I’m always very careful about differentiating the modes too much. Because you typically end up offending someone somewhat, but counseling tends to be about analyzing problems and problem solving: What’s happened to us in the past? How can we move through that, work through that?

Mentoring tends to be hierarchical, one expert talking to someone who doesn’t have as much expertise. Consultancy would tend to be something like going in, finding what the problem is, and solving it, and then leaving again.

It might be something like in the business world: A company gets a supply chain consultant in, looks at what’s going on, he offers suggestions, and then leaves. It’s a different kind of mode to coaching. Coaching tends to ask questions, dig and explore, and try to help people to find solutions and to be quick to be able to move forward into the future.

KH: Craig, why is coaching so valuable in ministry, and in what situations might a pastor or church leader find themselves with an opportunity to coach?

CG: I think it’s valuable in ministry because we’re sinful people and our flesh is at war with the Spirit. We all need people to help us. We need people to teach us to apply God’s word to our lives, to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16–17). We also need people to listen to us, to ask the right questions, to understand, to find out what makes us tick.

How is it valuable in ministry? I think it’s valuable in just about every level of ministry. I’ll talk about some structures or trellises where it might be useful, but I guess it’s important to think about what we’re coaching people in. I’m a product of the ministry of Colin Marshall and Phillip Jensen and others who for a long time talked about three Cs (which I know you’re familiar with): character, conviction, and competence—they’re the things we want to see people grow in and churches grow in.

We want people to grow in godly character and grow like Christ. Romans 12:2 says to stop conforming to the patterns of the world, be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so we know what God’s will is. None of us drift towards holiness. So, we need coaching; we need help to do that. That takes intentionality. I think that there’s a real gap. Some churches are doing it really well, but broadly speaking, in our churches there’s a real gap in coaching people to develop in character.

A few of us have maintained great spiritual disciplines throughout our lives. Spiritual disciplines are important. We don’t want to drift toward legalism, but how can we coach people to implement the basic spiritual disciplines of reading, and prayer, and proclaiming the Word in their lives? We want people to see what’s worked in the past for them when they’ve been doing that well, what hasn’t, and how we can move them toward that.

In terms of convictions, what are we actually believing, and how are we living those convictions? One example of this is that we’re encouraged to meet together regularly, as Hebrews 10 says, to consider how we might spur each other on to love and good deeds. If we take that seriously, then we’ll prepare for church, prepare to learn, prepare to think about who we can encourage.

Use the B-E-L-L principle: Be Early and Leave Late. We want to coach people so that their convictions shape their practice. That’s a role for small group leaders and others: to coach their people to have their convictions shape their practice of church.

But also competence, which is the third C. When we talk about competency, we’re talking about ministry skills, which is anything from leading a service on Sunday, to preaching, to reading the Bible with a non-believer, knowing how to evangelize, knowing how to lead a small group, and on and on it goes. I think coaching is applicable at about every level of ministry structure.

There are many very competent pastors, but coaching can be very helpful to them considering the burdens, the responsibilities, the diversity of skills that’s not just required but expected these days of pastors, particularly the solo pastor who has a huge diversity of responsibility. Pastors need help with that. They need someone to listen. They need someone to help them develop in those skills. They benefit from outside support. I think a lot of pastors just benefit from a listening ear. Someone they can share with. This is beneficial across other ministry structures, if there’s a lay person leading the Sunday service or praying or welcoming, for ushers, Sunday School, leaders, and on and on it goes.

We need to coach people to develop. We want to help them grow in those areas so that we are growing and building a disciple-making culture. When we think someone’s got potential, we should say, “You can lead the service” or “You can pray.” We might help them grow by getting them training and shape and structure, and then help them develop in those things, knowing they’ll make mistakes. We’re selling them short, essentially if we don’t do that. We need to coach people at every level.

I think that the big thing—and this is a growing movement in the States, I’ve noticed—is coaching small group leaders. It’s such a vital ministry for those who have small groups or adult Bible fellowship (adult Sunday School). How can we coach and develop our leaders to be equippers of others, to be disciple-making disciples, more than just facilitating a group? That takes coaching.

Leaders need to know how to lead a meeting, how to interpret Scripture, how to keep meetings on track, how to manage prayer, how to drive our people to have those deep convictions and develop character and competence. If we don’t, it’s like teaching a kid how to hit a baseball and then saying, “Alright, I think you’ve got potential to hit a baseball. Off you go. We’ll see you in a couple of years and see how it’s going.” We need more regular input for our small group leaders. And that is really challenging, particularly for solo pastors. They’ve got so many things on their plate.

If someone is ready to lead a small group, then I think 99 out of 100 of them can be trained to help people grow and change with a simple coaching framework and some simple coaching questions. I think coaching can be learned by lay leaders. It’s really important across all our trellises so we grow that disciple-making culture that we’re talking about.

Part two talks about asking good questions and the importance of listening.

Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.