What you need to know to lead leaders
Without a guy named John I wouldn’t be where I am today.
He was my coach of the first small group I led. When my confidence was waning or I was tired of leading, he came alongside me and said, “I believe you can do it.” That meant the world to me. Everybody loves hearing that they can make it.
He also repeatedly said, “I’ll help you. I’ll walk alongside of you, and you can come to me when you have questions and concerns or need prayer and support.”
But when I left college, I no longer had John to coach me. Nobody came alongside of me. It was kind of lonely. Sometimes I got discouraged, lost focus, and wondered what it would be like to have someone champion me.
There’s a lot of resources for leaders. And there’s a lot of helpful content for members. But there is not much out there for leaders of leaders, who are left thinking, Who’s leading me to lead? and How do I lead? The acrostic COACH highlights the essentials for coaching leaders.
1. Cultivate spiritual health. Your purpose is to nurture your small group leaders’ and members’ spiritual health. When you love and nurture the spiritual health of your leaders, then they will do the same for their group.
It is important to begin with the end in mind, and the end goal is that we create healthy groups that produce healthy spiritual lives. This often demands becoming your leaders’ partner, checking in with them about what’s going on with their group.
2. One step ahead, one step at a time. Sometimes coming on board as Coach can be a little bit daunting. You question, “Why me? I don’t think I’m spiritually ready.” But you only need to be one step ahead of the people that you’re seeking to lead. You don’t have to be miles ahead, because we’re all on a spiritual journey. Remember, you can’t expect to give your leaders that which you haven’t been given first.
3. Ask your leaders questions. Sometimes coaches get into a position where their leaders don’t know who they are or what their role is. To get to a point where your leaders know and trust you, it’s important to call them up and ask questions, like: How are you doing? How can I serve you? Do you have any needs that I can help out with? Leaders need to share what is going on in their groups, and coaches need to be available to listen to and serve them.
Before you end a conversation with a leader, always ask how you can pray for them. If you are comfortable, pray with them right then. Praying for them in the moment—not just saying you will pray for them—builds trust and confidence. While leaders may not be willing to meet with you every week for a Bible study, they want to hear from and be heard by you.
3. Connect with leaders regularly. Though it takes some planning, it is important that you weekly meet with your group of leaders in huddles. For six weeks, go through a study together, spending 30 minutes on Bible study and 30 minutes on discussion. This is a great way for you to connect with your leaders as well and cultivate their spiritual health while building in mutual support from other group leaders.
4. Help your leaders find spiritual partners. Every believer has spiritual goals and dreams, and to achieve these, we need partners. As a coach you can’t meet every one of your leaders’ spiritual needs, but you can connect them with people who can help.
One of the most catalytic things you can do as a coach is ask them who they would like their mentor to be. You may not know who it is, but they do. Your job is to help them connect.
Another good way to connect leaders with spiritual partners is to pair each leader up with another leader from your huddle. When you get together for your weekly huddles, the partners break out and touch base, set spiritual goals, and pray for each other.
And remember, spiritual partners are most often peer partners—not pastors or people in ministry—who similarly desire to go deeper in their spiritual journey. Connecting your leaders with spiritual partners is one of the most profound things you can do to help get people in the Word and working on the goals to which God has called them.