What Kind Of Coach Do You Need As A Pastor?

Back in 2002, I hired my first coach.

That factoid (? shoulder shrug) is important because later I'm going to show you how to choose the coach you need as a pastor to get the results you want.

I blew out my left hamstring trying to beat out an infield single in a church league softball game. 

Yeah, I know. The stuff of legends. 

The gym I trained at had a half-dozen trainers and I decided to hire one of them to help me build strength and flexibility in my legs once I finished my rehab.

My plan was to vet them informally. In between sets of my workout, I'd watch how they interacted with their clients.

Most of them seemed more interested in their friends or the women who were working out. On one level, that didn't bother me. But I eliminated those guys from my internal competition.

The trainer (Wade) I chose was an obvious fit. He paid attention to his clients. He seemed genuinely interested in their questions. 

But that's not why I chose Wade.

I picked him...well, the reason I decided to work with him is crucial for you as a pastor.

'As a pastor, how do I know what I need in a coach?' 

That was the text message I received yesterday.

It's a good question. Because church leaders - pastors and planters alike - are increasingly told they need a coach.

What isn't being discussed are the different types of coaching that exist, and how to decide which approach you need right now.

What Results Do You Want?

I privately coach around 20 pastors per year. 

I turn down a lot of requests that I get to coach someone because I know exactly who I can help and how I can help them.

Let me explain.

When I talk with prospective clients, the first part of our conversation is about the results that they want to see in the next 3-6 months.

Without that clarity, coaching tends to be a waste of time. Without a sense of direction, coaching turns into little more than running in circles.

But once results become apparent, then the conversation turns to what you need as a pastor to get the results that you want.

Different Needs For Different Situations

In my experience, pastors primarily need one of three things when you work with a coach.

Knowledge OR Relationships OR Skill


You don't have the information you need to get the results that you want. So you work with a coach who can give you that information. 

Coaches who primarily share information are mentors. They have been down the road that you want to go. They have already done the thing that you want to do. 

Mentors take you where they have already been.

Some mentors are informal. You read their blog or their book. You ask questions once over coffee. You call them up occasionally to get their perspective.

Some mentors are formal.

Brian Howard from Context Coaching serves as a mentor to a group of church planters every year. He has 10-12 topics that he covers, and he shares with them best practices based on his experience and research.

Sojourn Network also runs cohorts for church planters, as well as executive pastors and multi-site leaders.

The benefit of mentoring is that the information you need is out there. Someone has traveled down the road you are on. It's only a matter of finding the information that you need.

The downside to mentoring is that you are getting information from a single source.

If your mentor does not have a framework for helping you extract the universal principles from their experience, you'll likely end up with some elements that simply don't resonate with your experience.

I'll fill you in on a secret.

Best practices are best practices until they're not.

For every good idea, there are others who believe that a wildly different idea is just as good. So press against anyone who prefaces their information with the definitive article.

That is not THE best practice.

That is not THE biblical way to do something. 

If you primarily need knowledge, formal/informal mentoring is a fantastic option, but just understand this, that it may not help you get that information all the way into the situation and circumstances in which you find yourself. 


Being a pastor can be a lonely job. It's not difficult to end up leading in isolation. That leads to blind spots and poor decisions.

If you primarily need relationships to get the results that you want, then get into a mastermind group.

Masterminds are groups of two or more people who share knowledge and effort as they work towards a common goal. Someone usually convenes this group, but the primary value is the relationships formed among the group. 

For larger churches and fast-rising leaders, Leadership Network does great work through masterminds.

I highly recommend Leaders Collective (just check out their testimonial page, and you'll be ready to sign up if what you need most right now is a group of pastors who are walking through a season of life with you).

The benefit of masterminds is that you're surrounded by other pastors who you don't have to explain yourself to. They think and feel and do the same thoughts, emotions, and actions that you have. And a superb mastermind will pass along helpful information and skills.

The downside to masterminds is that information, and best practices can get smoothed out to fit into everyone's context in the group. So if you need logical actionable steps that are custom-built for you and your context, that may not happen.

For some pastors, masterminds are the mile marker in their journey that kept them on the road of pastoral ministry. Seriously, check out Leaders Collective if you need relationships to get the results that you want.


You might have all the information you need. You may feel overwhelmed by all of the information that you have. But you need a way to be able to focus through all of that noise. 

Performance coaching builds on what you already know. A good performance coach helps you clarify where you are and what you need, creating an environment where you get the momentum you need to get the results that you want. 

There are two primary approaches to performance coaching.

Passive performance coaching operates out of the belief that the answers to your questions and the solutions to your problems already exist inside of you.

For some coaches, this means they refuse to be directive, choosing instead to solely ask questions and create space for you to reflect and choose the best path forward.

While I appreciate much of that particular approach, I have modified this into the framework that I use in my practice as a coach. With GPS Performance Coaching, I provide clients with three benefits:


  • Where are you?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • What mindset do you need to get there?


  • Create 90-day goals
  • Build two-week projects to measure progress
  • Nail down time in your schedule to work on those project


  • Tangible
  • Measurable

Performance coaching is ideal for pastors who have the knowledge and information to succeed but feel overwhelmed by their present situation and circumstances. By creating space to work on your church, and a framework that helps you focus, you end up consistently getting the results that you want

Choosing A Coach

Remember Wade, the coach I hired to help me rehab and train my legs?

I chose him because he had the skill to help me get the results that I needed.

I didn't need information. I had been training for more than a decade at that point. I knew the different benefits I could get from, say, a 45-degree leg sled versus a vertical leg press.

I wasn't looking for a relationship. Now in a twist of providence, when I sat down with Wade (the coach), he asked what I did for a living.

Ever seen a bodybuilder cry?

Well, when Wade found out I was a pastor, he asked me to shut the door to his office.

Not gonna lie. Didn't know if he wanted to kick my rear end.

Turned out he needed some privacy so he could have a good cry.

Come to find out that Wade was a brand new Christian, his marriage was on the rocks, and he had prayed that morning for God to send someone to help him.

Crazy, right?

He agreed to train me if I'd help him 'learn to be a Christian.' But the only reason I was in that room was that I knew what I needed to get the results that I wanted. 

Get The Results That You Need

Look, you might know exactly what you need in a coach. I've given you a few places to go if you need a mentor or a mastermind.

If you'd like to learn more about performance coaching, let's grab a few minutes on the phone, and I'll walk you through the GPS Performance program.

It's a free call, and I guarantee you'll walk out with a strategy you can put to use.

The ball is in your court. 

Where do you want to go next?

Go book your call now!

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