An Unconventional Way to Sharpen Coaching Skills

By Rev. Dr. Kevin Wilson

I’m sharpening my coaching skills more by listening to podcasts that aren’t about coaching than listening to podcasts about coaching.

Seriously. You can listen to podcasts about architecture or philosophy or fishing to hone your coaching skills. The topic doesn’t matter. You just need to know the secret to identifying the right style of podcasts and how to leverage the podcasts in skill building.

Identify the right podcasts.

The style of podcast you are looking for is what I call “Interview the Expert.” In each episode the host interviews experts about a specific profession or specialization. For example, I listen to a podcast named “LDRLB.” The podcast is hosted by David Burkus, an educator, researcher and author who specializes in leadership. On a regular basis he interviews other researchers and authors who focus on leadership for podcasts.

A more general style of podcast may also regularly use the interview model. My favorite podcast is Six Pixels of Separation, hosted by Mitch Joel. During any given month this weekly podcast will have one or two interviews with authors or leaders in a range of fields that apply to marketing or digital media.

The right podcasts are also about topics that interest you. The more you like the topic, the more likely you are to listen to the podcast.

Create a coaching environment.

I prefer to listen to podcasts while driving on the highway or exercising on a treadmill. However, these contexts are not conducive for learning. So instead of listening casually, block out time as if this were a coaching session. Find a quite place. Clear everything off the space except what you will use for notes.

Creating this environment helps you work on the coaching skill of “presence.” A good deal of “presence” is created by very intentional focus on the client. Actively listening to a podcast moves the coach into a mental state very similar to coaching.

Critique podcast interview questions.

Podcasts are great places to find a broad range of questions. Powerful questions. Thought-provoking questions. Questionable questions. Refine your skill in asking questions by evaluating the questions as you listen. Reword some questions to make them more powerful. Note powerful questions you might use.

Ask your own questions.

Another way to sharpen your skills is to formulate your own questions as you listen. Ask the questions aloud as if you were doing the interview. Create follow up questions to questions asked by the host.

Observe how the host structures the podcast.

Another skill to work on is structuring the coaching conversation. Podcast hosts develop unique frameworks for their podcasts. There are subtle differences between podcasts in guest introductions, narrative development and closings. Coaching conversations also have a framework. Compare and contrast the structure of your coaching conversations with the podcast framework.

Study the pace of the interview.

One of the challenges for coaches who coach infrequently is developing the appropriate pace in coaching sessions. Listening to quality podcasts provides a great opportunity to study the pace of an interview. Note when the interviewer pauses. Pay attention to the times when the host gives the guest a little extra time to formulate an answer. Listen for length of time it takes the host to ask questions.

The best way to sharpen coaching skills is coaching. Since a vast majority of us are not so blessed as to coach daily, we need alternatives for sharpening coaching skills. Listening to “Interview the Expert” podcasts is one way.

How do you sharpen your coaching skills? Share your answer on your preferred social media.

Discipleship: Silos vs Sending

As I look at the landscape of the church today. I wonder if due to our declining numbers we have shifted our discipleship practices to respond more out of fear and less out of a sense of mission. Have our discipleship methods created more silos because we are responding to the increasingly less Christian culture around us? Instead, should we be viewing discipleship more as an opportunity to equip followers for the challenges of this unconnected to God culture? The German Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred at the hands of the Nazis once said, “the Church is the church only when it exists for others” what he meant was for outsiders.

Silo Thinking

In one of my previous congregations sometime in the fall was time for the pastor to trick and guilt (00ps I mean encourage them to take on this opportunity to serve our Lord on our various dysfunctional boards and committees) members into filling positions of leadership in the church. I remember one time when I had decided gain some history as to how things had been done in the past, thinking that maybe there was a method that proved effective. My research uncovered a troubling bit of information. When I inquired of my then 80-year-old Financial Secretary how he got the opportunity to serve. He described a sad, but I would discover a recurring tale of woe. The current Financial secretary went on vacation and asked him to cover for him while he was gone, but the guy never returned. So this poor fellow had been stuck with this job for over 20-years. Me being who I am said to him so, “I guess you haven’t been able to trick anyone else into taking your place, eh?” This was an upper Midwest congregation.

To be honest, I fell into this trap of trying to get people into God’s Word to show them how they are called to serve in our congregation’s current congregational needs only. I fell into silo thinking. Silo thinking caused me to spend most of my time trying to keep the current institution alive and functioning. Our ministry had become far too internally focused in our thinking and practice. It made sense at the time we only had 54 in worship and were on District welfare. We needed to change our focus. We were creating silos and part-time low commitment disciples. We thought that asking for a higher level of commitment would only drive people away. We were not equipping the saints to share their faith and the congregation suffered.

Silo thinking produces part-time disciples and part-time disciples are:

  • More concerned with what people think. Gal. 1:10
  • More concerned with their public image. Gal 2:6-9
  • More concerned about bringing people into the church.

A major shift took place in how we equipped our members for ministry. Our members spend only a few hours in church, but the majority of their other time trying to navigate the hard realities of the world that was becoming less and less Christ-centered. The challenge for us became how to we prepare them for being sent every single week into an ever increasingly hostile mission field. The answer was shifting to a sending mindset. Just to add to the story once we made that shift God blessed us with an increase in membership from 54 to 74 in worship in 18-months.

Sending Thinking produces disciples who are:

  • Concerned with what God thinks. Gal. 1:10
  • Concerned about their private devotion. Rom 12:1-2
  • Concerned with the Glory of God. Rom 10:14-16
  • How Does Jesus Defined Discipleship in Luke 14:25-35

Jesus stated, at least, four key elements for becoming His disciple:

Jesus talked about the priority of a relationship with Him.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26).
A question to ask your leadership in response to this is:How do we grow in our love for Christ so that it becomes passionate? I don’t define passionate as solely an emotional response. I define passionate as what is that ministry or cause of Christ’s that will tug on your heartstrings and moves you to let that tug of faith cause you to act.
2. Jesus discussed having the right purpose.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).
A way to evaluate this in your local congregation is by asking this question: In what specific ways could you use faith stories and parables to help the church feel the tension of being off-course and too internally focused?
3. Jesus told prospective disciples that their commitment must be long-term.

Christian discipleship addresses every dimension of life. It is concerned not only with doing the right thing in every circumstance but also with doing the right thing for the right reason.
“Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together, to remain faithful to the gospel.” Phil. 1:27
Christian discipleship is a work of grace. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms life, not someone who tries to be good. The term, disciplined grace describes this process. While God transforms, a believer’s spiritual practice creates the transforming environment in which the Holy Spirit works
“But stay away from the godless myths that are passed down from the older women. Train yourself for a holy life! 8 While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has the promise for this life now and the life to come.” 1 Tim. 4: 7-8.
4. Jesus stated that the disciples must be willing to practice generosity.

Christian discipleship was intended by Christ to be reproductive. Those who follow Jesus’ life and teaching will be prepared to eagerly share their faith experiences and to invest themselves in the spiritual nurture of others with their time, talents and treasures.
“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. “A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles.” Acts 2:42-43
We can look at the challenges of this age and try and circle the wagons and hide away until Jesus returns, but is that the mission Jesus gave us to do? I am reminded of the message Jesus gave a frightened bunch of disciples hiding in an upper room. He appeared to them and said, Peace be with you and then this interaction. “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22. It is about equipping our people to be sent with the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission of God is a world that at times is hostile to the Truth.

Leaders It’s Time to be Selfish

Leaders it’s time to be selfish.
By Rev. Dr. Kevin Wilson
I’m serious.

Be selfish.

– Order a second shot of espresso.
– Download that audiobook you’ve put off buying.
– Leave a little early to hike the trail you’ve had your eye on for years.

Understand, I write for faith-based leaders. We are committed to placing God above all else. We are called to give our lives for others. We are conditioned to make sacrifices for the cause.

This means we are at risk for emotional burnout, physical exhaustion and spiritual drought. I look into the eyes of a lot of leaders. Too often I’m seeing a vacant stare, a stare that says a leader has nothing left to give.

If you are repulsed by thought of being selfish, then frame it as wellness. Here are five reasons to take your personal well-being seriously.

God gives permission to and even blesses self-care.
There is a litany of Bible passages that illuminate this truth. We care for ourselves because we were created in God’s image (Genesis chapter 1). It is assumed in the “Great Command” that we will love ourselves (Matthew chapter 22). Jesus went to lonely places to pray in part so He could recharge His batteries (Luke chapter 5). So we also should recharge our batteries.

Caring for yourself helps make you an effective leader.
Leaders experiencing burnout gain empathy but lose trust. Once trust is lost its almost impossible to regain. One key to effective leadership is consistently being ready and available to lead. Sustaining this ready state for leadership requires self-care.

Caring for yourself prepares you to help others with self-care.
Being selfish can produce selfless benefits. In learning how to care for yourself you learn how to help others learn the same. By modeling self-care you can mentor staff and members in self-care.

Only you can ensure you practice self-care.
It is shameful, but there are faith-based organizations that drain their leaders dry then leave them behind. Even in organizations where the Board of Directors set healthy boundaries for leaders, there is no guarantee these efforts will prove effective. The bottom line is that only one person can ensure you practice self-care. That person is you.

Caring for yourself can demonstrate you are ready for more responsibility.
I read about the apostle Peter with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew chapter 17) and understand that Jesus is preparing to carry on His mission after Jesus’ ascension. I look at Paul serving in Antioch under the direction of Barnabas (Acts chapter 11) and see Paul being preparing to lead the first mission trip. Mastering self-care as a leader today may well prepare you for future work.

I admit that my opening illustrations of selfishness seem rather trite in the context of self-care. Then again, if you are accustomed to giving your last drop of blood for the cause, getting that second shot of espresso could be a big step. Steps towards self-care for leaders are good steps.

What Are Your Core Values

Often times there is a big disconnect between who we image ourselves to be and the way we actually behave. Have you ever wondered why you struggle to lose weight no matter how determined you are to change this time? If you put aside the physical reasons dieting isn’t working: your metabolism, age, genetics and the like; maybe just maybe, the issue has more to do with your core values. Let me give you a clear definition of core values. In a new e-book, “Multiplication Matters,” written by Todd Wilson for Exponential, a church-planting organization, he defines core values this way: “Core values … the things so important to us that they shape how we think and how we do all that we do. Our core values reflect our heart, what we really care about deep down. They overflow to shape the words of our mouth (our narrative) and the actions of our hands (our behaviors).”

Organizations often struggle to clearly define their core values. There is a risk when core values are not defined or in some cases not even recognized, that these groups will waste valuable time and human resources on ministry plans destined to fail. They are destined to fail because those well-developed strategies, the God-inspired mission statement and big God-sized vision statements are contrary to the core values of your church or organization.

There are two key elements to help shape your organization’s core values: your narrative and your behaviors.

How Are You Sharing Your Story (Narrative)?

The stories you highlight in your public assemblies (worship) are how your members discover the organization’s values. What do you talk most frequently about with your people? Is it the metrics we commonly measure: worship attendance, the dollars collected toward the budget or the numbers of people in Bible study? While these things are important, the message you are sending by highlighting those is that these things are the core of who we are. If you want to change that focus change the stories, change the narrative because what we celebrate determines what is most important to us. Our story should inspire others to embrace our values and desire to join us in the mission God has called us to carry out.

What are we actually Doing (Behaviors)?

I remember growing up hearing this saying, “Talk is Cheap.” We can have all the good intentions, but in the end, people judge you by your actions. What are you actually investing your time in? That’s what determines your values. If I say I want to lose weight, but never change my eating habits and actually just pass by the gym on the way to Kristy Kreme donuts then I really can’t expect to lose weight. My behavior reveals my real core values. So how and where you invest your time, talents and treasure testify to the organization what you truly value.

If you want to change the direction of your ministry, before you waste valuable time and energy looking for the magical mission bullet, take the time to look at your core values. What is the message you are communicating to your tribe? What are the stories you are highlighting as important? A shift to mission may be as simple as telling different stories and modeling the behavior you want to be emulated. Having a coach can help your begin to make those changes in your organization and stay on task moving forward.

What is Coaching?

Our vision is to create a coaching culture in the church centered around our Triune God.  This is accomplished by training qualified and mature individuals serving our Lord to come along side of professional church workers, their families and leaders of congregations (referred to from now on as leaders) to help them discern the working of the Holy Spirit toward expand the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  The vision of the coach mentoring ministry is focused on our coaches so that they are the best trained quality coaches in the church.

Great Lakes Coaching focuses on forward movement of the leader, which  results in different behavior for different results to the glory of our Lord Christ.   We are interested in the “what” God has in mind for the future and are not interested in going backwards and discovering why something has happened or did not happen.

How would a coach actually benefit me?

Having a Coach Advance certified coach benefits you or your team immediately by providing a non-judgmental, non-threatening environment that allows you the freedom to really explore God’s vision for you and discover action steps that will move you towards it!

Coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry, and then cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become a reality.

Coaches come alongside to help, just as Barnabas came alongside Paul, and then Paul came alongside Timothy and others. By encouraging and challenging others, coaches empower them for ministry. Barnabas may never have been in the starring role, but without him many others would not have been able to accomplish the great things for God that they did. Through his investment in people, his impact was exponential.

The goal of coaching is helping someone succeed, which is finding out what God wants you to do and doing it. Given that definition, success will certainly look different on different people, but it will all be tied into accomplishing Biblical mission. Far from a top-down program designed to accomplish pre-conceived ends, coaching empowers each individual believer to listen to the Spirit and act in accordance with the mission they sense God calling them toward. Coaching is essentially listening to the Holy Spirit and taking action accordingly.


What makes coaching so powerful?


People are at least twice as fruitful when in coaching relationships. Good coaching empowers people to discern God’s will and take the appropriate next steps for their personal and ministry development. Some of the benefits and functions of coaching:

  • Provides encouragement for the journey
  • Cultivates wisdom and strategic insights
  • Discovers breakthrough opportunities
  • Maintains focus on the truly important
  • Transforms vision into reality
  • Instills accountability while moving into the future
  • Stimulates growth in being a Godly leader
  • Establishes an action plan and take action towards achieving goals
  • Become more self-reliant
  • Gains more job and life satisfaction
  • Takes greater responsibility and accountability for actions and commitments
  • Works more easily and productively with others

Communicates more effectively

Five “Times” to Find a Coach

ORev. Dr. Kevin Wilsonne of the more common questions I am asked is, “How do I know its time for a coach?”  Here are five times its wise to find a coach.

You face a significant challenge or opportunity. 

In day to day life, there are only so many times truly significant challenges or opportunities arise. There are only so many times you have a chance to relocate your organization. There are only so many times you can expand staffing. There are only so many times you will face an emergency shortfall in funding. When these challenges or opportunities arise, you still have to handle the day-to-day routine. That’s its a great time to consider a coach. A coach will help you navigate both the daily responsibilities and the steps to meeting the challenge or opportunity.

You are unable to sustain an important change in the way your work.

There are two “truisms” at work in this one. First, we are creatures of habit. It is difficult to make lasting personal changes in the way we work because we fall back into old patterns of behavior. Second, organizations constantly seek to conform to form. The established systems in organizations push back against changes. If the personal or organizational changes are important, a coach can help you create new healthy habits that stick and organizational changes that last.

Your work is so chaotic that you are struggling to focus on anything. 

Even leaders with the most unstructured personalities can reach the point where chaos at work is draining. You have a new boss. The congregation changes the Sunday morning schedule. You’re “right hand” leaves to lead another non-profit. The greater the confusion or change at work, the more a coach can help you gain focus and traction on the work that matters most to you.

You are changing jobs. 

Concerned about adjusting to a new job? Not sure how to make the best first impression when you receive a promotion? Excited about the opportunity at your new call? Starting a new job or position is almost aways a whirlwind. A coach can ensure you create a plan to start your new position, provide you with space to breathe in the new position or help you identify those key resources necessary to start well.

You have a deep desire for personal development.

The classroom is not for everyone. Some people learn better by putting together a personal development plan. The challenge is how to follow through with the plan. Coaching is one answer. If you want to develop as a leader, CoachAdvance can provide Effectively Leadership training and then coach you through the development process. If you want to better align your actions with your values, then a coach can walk you through the process of becoming consistent with your values. Coach is tailor made for personal development.

Posted by Kevin Wilson, who serves as a coach, coach trainer, coach mentor.

Generosity Training

As pastors, we long for the day when God’s people would be more effective in reflecting God’s generosity.  CoachAdvance (formerly known as Great Lakes Coaching Center), a training organization of the Ohio District and the Northern Illinois District, LCMS contracted with CoachNet to develop a Generosity Storyboard to assist pastors in training disciples in generosity.  I am truly excited about the potential for helping God’s people become more generous.
The first roll out of the Generosity Development Training for leaders will be May 30th, from 9:00 A.M. — 3:00 P.M. at the Ohio District Mission Support Center.  Before you leave the training, you will be assigned a coach who will coach you toward implementing the process toward generosity within the congregation.  The coach will work with you once a month for one hour over the telephone for eight months.  The first three months of the coaching is without cost.  A scholarship will be given to all who attend this training making the monthly cost for coaching $35.00 instead of $150.00.
I pray that the Holy Spirit would lead you to become involved in this training and implementation within your congregation.
Send the registration form and check to Vern Bok by May 20th.