Every Pastor Needs a Coach
“So you finally let the nit pickers get to you?”
a friend commented when he heard that I resigned. I responded, “yeah, I think that is a pretty accurate assessment.”
Organizational guru Peter Drucker observed that…
The four most difficult jobs in America are, in no particular order: president of the United States, university president, hospital CEO, and pastor. (Chand, Samuel. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (p. 5). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)
I got weary in the saddle, being the point man, taking the hits that go with leading the charge day in and day out in a turn around ministry. Did I mention the “nit pickers?” I wish I had read Samuel Chand’s excellent book, “Leadership Pain,” as it would have helped me to realize that my predicament was not unique and that others survived through greater pain and hardship than I had experienced.
Samuel Chand writes,
There are many different external challenges for pastors, but resistance and personal animosity rank at the top. I was raised in a pastor’s home, I’ve been a pastor, and I talk with pastors every day. The greatest heartache I hear from them is the pain inflicted by their friends. It doesn’t take very many of these people to make our lives miserable. When I speak on this topic, I like to have a little fun. I tell the audience, “I know one thing about your church. I may have never set foot on your campus, but this one thing I know: at least 10 percent of your congregation are devils!” They usually laugh at that point, but they understand exactly what I’m saying. Those 10 percent cause 90 percent of the headaches and heartaches. They not only resist change at all costs, they question the leader’s integrity, wisdom, and authority. If they can’t stop progress by open defiance, they go underground with vicious gossip campaigns. It doesn’t take many of these people to spread the poison of doubt to every corner of a church! (Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (pp. 33-34). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.).
Of course difficult people are not unique to the church. Every business deals with these people and every family has these individuals who require extra measures of grace. When you step forward to lead people to change, you can expect to be challenged.
It’s not about going around trying to stir up trouble. As long as you’re honest and you articulate what you believe to be true, somebody somewhere will become your enemy whether you like it or not. —Criss Jami (Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (p. 34). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)
I have to agree with Samuel Chand when he comments:
… in all my consulting and conferences, I’ve seen a single factor: leaders of larger organizations have proven they can handle more pain. (Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (p. 33). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)
To be a better leader, raise the pain threshold in your life. To accomplish this, you first need a firm grasp on the three kinds of difficulties you will encounter: external challenges, internal stresses, and growing pains. (Chand, Samuel. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (p. 21). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)
This is why every pastor needs a coach.
Without courageous Pastors who are willing and able to lead, churches will continue to flounder in bringing about the change necessary to reach an ever changing culture with the never changing Gospel.
Elder Boards should invest in an experienced coach for their pastor, just as corporate boards have learned about this strategic advantage in the business world.
As a coach, I have forty years of ministry experience and perspective. I know what it means to be the point man leading the charge and second fiddle, supporting the lead pastor. There isn’t much I haven’t seen in ministry, building teams, choosing leaders, assessing the challenges, setting priorities and determining the pace of change, and ultimately I am able to provide healthy perspective on the pain of leading a changing organization. There is no perfect church, but there are key things we can do to develop healthier pastors and healthier churches.
I wish I had a coach when I was experiencing those sleepless nights, trying to sort out my thoughts and frame an action plan. A coach, providing a sounding board for me would have been so valuable when I felt so alone.
I’m confident that my ministry would have lasted longer and my leadership would have been more effective in sustaining the process of church revitalization.
Serving in ministry for 40 years, we talk to pastors and spouses regularly and can attest to the fact that the surveys are accurate:
- 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day
- 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming
- 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle
- 70% don’t have any close friends.
- 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
- 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
A coach can help pastors thrive during pastoral transitions, ministry style changes, resource sucking building projects and under inconsistent transitions in leadership.
In his book “How the Mighty Fall,” Jim Collins explores what went wrong in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street but later collapsed. He finds that for many, falling into
“the undisciplined pursuit of more” was a key reason for failure.” 1
Bigger is not necessarily better. The late Dallas Willard exhorted us:
“You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God.”2
Elder Board: consider this investment in your staff couples by funding a Pastoral Coach or Sabbatical Coach. Providing encouragement, a listening ear and a safe place to share dreams and challenges will enhance and extend the effectiveness of any staff couple.
1. Mckeown, Greg (2014-04-15). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (p. 14). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
2. Ortberg, John; Ortberg, John (2014-04-22). Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You (p. 89). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.