Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

  • C. S. Lewis

Humility expresses itself in a teachable spirit. Something the coach can work with to help the pastor achieve personal and professional performance levels he couldn’t have dreamed of on his own.

  • Eager to listen.
  • Ready to admit fault
  • Sober awareness of strengths and skills
  • Willing to take direction.
  • Hungry to improve.
  • Thinking about themselves less so they can focus on the task at hand.

These traits make it possible for us, as pastors, to think about ourselves less so we can think more clearly about what is best for the church we serve But most of us (pastors) find it hard to think clearly about our churches.  There are lots of reasons why.

  • We’re flying too close to the flame
  • Our egos and sense of self-worth are involved
  • A paycheck – and our ability to feed the family – might be in jeopardy
  • Our feelings of inadequacy and failure draw focus to ourselves rather than the church

So we become isolated and lonely. We’re mystified about the real problems in our churches. We’re clueless about what really ought to be done.

Is it any wonder pastors are burning out at record rates.1

Pastor, you need support, personally ““ to say the least ““ and professionally.

But where do we find the help and support we need? Its hard to know who to approach. Who do you talk to about what’s happening (or not happening) in your church? Elders, staff, and trusted advisers may be helpful, but they may be too close to the problem But a coach (or mentor or counselor – pick your own term) who is outside the church can fill a crucial role.

But here is the challenge: Getting a coach takes humility.

It means being vulnerable, asking for help to see things more clearly and to see yourself more realistically  But it’s more than worth the risk  Humble yourself, and God will lift you up  (James 4:10)  And God may raise up a coach to do this.

4 reasons you need a coach.

1 – You need a “Barnabas.”

Every pastor needs a Barnabas, a “son of encouragement.”  (Acts 4:36)  Ministry is “loss prone,” meaning pastors face losses and discouragement   It is well known that pastors now score higher than average in depression, obesity, and burnout   In such an environment, a coach who is an encouragement can be a huge blessing   I recall talking to one successful executive who had just finished taking an inventory of his professional and personal life  He decided he needed more “nutritional relationships,” relationships where he not only gave, but really received  Pastors deeply need nutritional relationships.

2 – Accountability.

Accountability can be a tired word  As Rick Warren once noted, we all can “fake it” in accountability relationships  The value of a coach is having someone to pour into your life for personal spiritual growth  It is not just about “holding your feet to the fire” in a few areas, but being able to talk about what matters with a wise mentor. Objective assessments some coaches may use can help this tremendously.

With that accountability, your coach will help you excel, to achieve personal and professional results you thought were beyond your reach. In fact, a good coach will insist on your best! Lou Holtz famously said, “I won’t accept anything less than the best a player’s capable of doing, and he has the right to expect the best that I can do for him and the team.”

If it’s true in college sports, it is all the more true in the Church!

One key to higher standards of pastoral performance is learning  about your leadership style, stressors, and needs through reliable and valid assessments gives you a context for growth relating specifically to you  (I am certified in the Birkman Method.)   The Birkman can actually build a coaching plan unique to your needs and stressors  It also has a spiritual component to review prayer, learning styles, preferred teaching style, and how you relate to God  This kind of supportive, individualized accountability and investment in yourself as a person could be worth a great deal to a pastor  It probably is worth much more than attending the latest, hottest seminar.

I almost put a counselor on retainer for five hundred or a thousand dollars a year so I could call them when knotty issues came up with “jerks” in the church  I wish I had  Would it be equally wise for pastors (or their churches) to invest in a coach?  I think so.

Our research has shown the need for assessment and coaching  If only 10% of pastors are hard-wired for turnaround, yet 75% of churches are plateaued or declining, we have a severe problem: not enough pastors to lead in turnaround  But, having discovered the statistically significant differences of turnaround pastors, we now can coach any pastor to make progress in leading a turnaround through “best practices.”  But you will need assessment and a coach.

3 – Perspective.

The longer we serve a ministry the harder is it for us to see the “forest from the trees.”  We become insiders and we begin to miss things that are important for the church’s health  A discerning coach can keep us sharp by asking strategic “outsider” questions.

But there is another reason we need an outside perspective  Dare I say this?  Some pastors are clueless about how to lead their church to be outward-focused.

They are fuzzy about a vision for their church. They have been taught to teach and preach, counsel and evangelize, but to assess and lead?  That is a different matter altogether  Some may not know where to begin and need a wise coach to take them on the journey   Even pastors with the gift of leadership have reached those times when the question, “What’s next, God?” leaves them in a cloud of confusion  Humbling yourself in seeking an outside perspective shows wisdom.

4 – Prayer Partner.

Pastors need to ask for personal prayer  And I mean personal, as in prayer for personal struggles and sins  As every pastor knows (or should know!) they have to use great discretion in what to disclose to whom in the church   To whom should they confess when they are having lustful thoughts every week about the woman who sits up front and to the right?  Perhaps they can confess to their wife, but probably to no one else in the church  They need a trusted same-sex prayer partner in whom they can confide  The perils in ministry are many, and what grows in secrecy and darkness needs to be brought into the light   A trusted coach can be an invaluable personal prayer partner.

Pastor, humble yourself  No one should walk alone in ministry   Invite a coach into your life to meet these four critical needs.


1. See, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work,” Paul Vitello, NY Times, August 1, 2010