Guest post by Phil Whittall for Saturate

I can’t quite remember when I first came across coaching as a leadership concept, but it has been one of those ideas that has slowly invaded my thinking. Last year I read a short taster book on coaching, and I began to think some more. This year I followed it up by reading the full version of Keith Webb’s The COACH Model for Christian LeadersI had finally become fully convinced of the importance of coaching.

Last week I went on a coaching course. It wasn’t a Christian course nor one aimed at Christian leaders—mainly because I wanted to meet people outside that world, which I was glad to do. The training involved some listening, some thinking, and quite a lot of doing. The analogy to what church should be was not lost on me.

I’d read about the COACH model, and now I was learning the GROW model (and to be perfectly honest they’re basically the same).

C — Connect
O — Outcomes
A — Awareness
C — Course
H — Highlights


G — Goals
R — Realities
O — Options
W — Will

Coaching is essentially a structured conversation that takes people through various stages to help them discover their own solutions to personal development, problem-solving, or pretty much anything. The various stages help define goals or outcomes, understand the challenges and the situation, consider the alternatives and ways forward, then choose one with a specific course of action that is time-bound and not open-ended.

The key to all this is asking good questions. I’ve always been good with questions with people I meet. I’m curious and interested, and in a short time I can learn a lot about someone I’ve just met. However I’ve never really applied that skill (nor perhaps even thought of it as a skill) to leadership.

Actually that’s not true. I have used questions for diagnosis and understanding. I’ve just never used them for problem-solving or self-discovery. I think my main style of leadership up until now has been akin to a doctor’s consultation. The doctor listens, examines, and then dispenses the course of action. I’ve questioned, listened, examined, and then told people what to do. It sort of works—sometimes.

What coaching does is take the power of a good question and apply it to all stages of the process. It helps the individual or group to see and choose their course of action and not your course of action. This is fundamentally a more empowering process and pushes the initiative back onto the group or individual rather than the pastor/leader assuming yet another area of responsibility.

I’ve already begun to think differently and approach discipleship conversations with a different mindset. I’m not yet sure I will pursue further training in terms of coaching, but I have some more books to read and intend to practice it consistently from here on out.


Phil Whittall serves as the team leader of Grace Church Stockholm and works with the Relational Mission family of churches in developing church plants across northern Europe. He is married to Emma and they have two children. He writes at


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Episode 006: Why is Coaching Important for Missional Communities?


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