Building a Great Coaching System

When you build the people, the people build the ministry.

Few leaders understand what it takes to lead and build a growing small group structure. We all have some ignorance and few of us ever received training in the area. We resorted to trial and error, and learned along the way. Building this at Willow Creek has been an adventure, with successes and failures along the way—and we are still figuring it out! But we learned some coaching lessons that I'd like to pass along. It will help you build and maintain a great Coaching System.

1. Maintain Healthy Spans of Care

How many leaders a coach can care for depends on ministry requirements and the coach's other work, family and life responsibilities. Emulating Jethro's Exodus 18 wisdom—using ratios of 1:5 and 1:10 to ensure care for all without anyone caring for too many—we concluded that most coaches should care for no more than five leaders. Many of them are responsible not only to shepherd those leaders, but they are also responsible not to lead a small group, so they can focus on small group leaders.

When you connect leaders to a coach it's like connecting branches to a vine. If the vine is weak or becomes detached, the branches suffer. Or, if too many branches are grafted into the vine, the vine cannot support them, and they wither and die.

2. Coaches Are People—Not Pipelines

In our zeal to get on with the next ministry initiative, we have, at times, neglected our coaches. Once a needed lifeline to sustain the ministry, they soon became mere channels through which we could distribute ministry responsibilities. In other words, the coaching structure became a collection of pipelines, a set of impersonal spiritual plumbing used for delivering the next new ministry project.

A "ministry structure" is needed, but must ...

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