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Life Coaching, an Introduction

“When I return to my hometown I often meet someone who says, “I’ll never forget your dad.  He taught me to play baseball.”  My father coached in the recreation league for nearly twenty years.  Several of his players played professionally, including two of my brothers.  (Watching one of them pitch a scoreless inning in the World Series is still one of the highlights of my life.)  Ironically, “Pap” was never a star himself.  Most of his short career was spent in the minor leagues during the Depression, struggling to find a place in the starting rotation.  But he loved the game.  He died several years ago but his legacy lives on, immortalized by a small plaque at one of the city parks and through the lives of countless boys who played on one of his teams.”

“He coached at a time when some fathers were unavailable, so he became a surrogate dad to my friends, instilling skills on the field and discipline in the dugout.  But there was something else.  After the games the team would sometimes show up at our house for a meal.  He would move from player to player replaying the game as he rubbed heads and offered words of encouragement.  My father never achieved what many would call success, working hard all his life with few tangible results.  But when I bump into one of his former players, I’m amazed at the impact of his life.”

“Nearly everyone I know has had a similar experience.  For some it was a teacher who influenced their lives, others followed the lead of a drama coach, for some a music instructor or close relative helped to shape their formative years.  Many young people had a coach similar to my dad, someone who taught them more than game strategies and mechanics.  These people who influence and strategically shape the lives of others can be called Life Coaches.  The most successful instill more than training and discipline, they impart their very lives to others.  Of course, the best Life Coach of all is a caring parent.  Moses admonished the parents of Israel to teach the laws of God to their children as they went about the routines of life.  It was in the course of ordinary activities that lives were changed.”

The WDA Life Coaching Manual:

“It’s uncertain exactly how the term “Life Coach” became part of the popular vernacular, but the concept describes a person who is able to provide guidance, insight, and experience to others who are striving to succeed at various endeavors.  Used in the business world it refers to someone able to help others become profitable in commercial ventures.  In athletics, it’s a person who prescribes workout routines to maximize physical strength and prowess.  Used in a more general sense, it means anyone skilled at helping others remain focused and goal-driven.  Sometimes a Life Coach can be someone the ‘disciple’ has never actually met face-to-face.  In these cases, the insights are gleaned from books and tapes or by attending conferences.”

“But [the WDA Life Coaching Manual] is about a different kind of Life Coach.  It’s about Christian leaders who are willing to invest their knowledge and experience and even their very lives so that others might deepen their spirituality and relationship with God.  A spiritual Life Coach is a person who, in the midst of a caring relationship, imparts truth that changes the life (conduct/character) of another, gradually helping the disciple become more like Jesus Christ.  In WDA, we often use the phrase, ‘meeting people where they are and helping them take the next step®’ to describe the life-coaching process.  Those who are helped may not fully realize it until later, but they’re forever impacted by the life and example of these leaders.  It was Jesus who said ‘but everyone [disciple], after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.'(NAS)  Used in this way, there’s another term that can be substituted for ‘Life Coaching,’ ‘disciple building.'”

How have people invested in your life?  Take some time to write a comment and share the ways God has used people to impact you.

Consider picking up a copy of Life Coaching! Coming Soon at the WDA Store!

Coming up Next: Spiritual Life Coaching

*editors note: The quoted passages are from WDA’s upcoming Life Coaching Manual by Bob Dukes with Jack Larson and Margaret Garner.

Life Coaching Pt 2

Spiritual Life Coaching

Jesus Christ was the ultimate Life Coach.  In the Gospel of John, He offers this promise:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NAS) The Great Commission given to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 is both a command and invitation to join Him on one of the greatest adventures in life: building disciples.  Spiritual Life Coaching involves “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”(NAS)  There are two implications to this command that often escape our notice.

Teaching should be comprehensive.

The first is that the teaching should be comprehensive.  We are to teach everything, not just the familiar principles or the introductory concepts.  Spiritual Life Coaches must ask the question: “Is my coaching part of a larger, comprehensive plan to teach the whole curriculum of Christ?”

“We should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth.”

The second implication is that we should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth.  I like to call this doing truth versus just knowing truth.  There is a clear biblical priority to evangelize the nations and plant churches, but we must not forget that the Great Commission includes helping Christ’s followers become “conformed to the likeness of His Son [Christ].”  Our spiritual Life Coaching must be intensive and intentional enough to transform lives.

But any parent can tell you this is easier said than done.  Teaching others to ‘do’ truth is a complex process that involves the changing of motives, values, and worldview.  It also hopes to develop a walk of faith, teaching people how to trust God.  This type of training cannot be accomplished in a classroom alone.  It must be worked out in the context of real life experiences.  Some of the concepts, such as how to develop and demonstrate mature love, are not simple.  This is why spiritual Life Coaches are critical to the process.  It’s only in the context of a close relationship (where there is encouragement, accountability, prayer, and teaching) that this type of transformation can effectively occur.

The importance of the example and teaching of a spiritual Life Coach cannot be overstated.  Paul admonished Timothy to follow him as he followed Christ.  In another place the instruction was for Timothy to follow the “pattern of sound teaching” that Paul had taught.  Timothy learned these truths from Paul in the context of close relationships.  II Timothy 2:2 states, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NAS)  Jesus, after washing His disciples feet as a model of Christian love and leadership, urged them, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (emphasis mine).

We who build disciples should be encouraged by the importance God places on the Life Coaching process.  The Scriptures remind us that anyone who aspires to the office of overseer has an honorable, noble role in the Kingdom.  But we should also be sobered by the responsible role God expects us to play.  Paul warns the Corinthian church that “each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Paul goes on to explain that we can either build by using temporal materials or eternal materials, but there will be a Day when we must give an account for our work of building up others.

In order to be effective disciple builders, we must realize that God is the author and finisher of the process of sanctification.  Paul states, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (NAS)  In another place Paul asserts that “He who began a good work in you will perfect [complete] it until the Day of Christ Jesus.” (NAS)  Spiritual Life Coaches can take heart that God will sovereignly oversee the process.

The role of spiritual Life Coaching is only one part of the disciple building process.  For years there has been a debate in disciple building circles about what is the best forum for helping people grow spiritually.  The advocates of small groups can list examples of people whose lives have been changed by the intimacy and accountability of this arrangement, while the proponents of one-to-one discipleship (Life Coaching) cite the advantages of this format.  Others extol the merits of teaching and preaching, or the benefits of being well-read.  Some point out the importance of putting disciples into ministry situations as the best way to facilitate growth and development.  The spiritual disciplines such as fasting, solitude, or personal devotions are mentioned by many as being especially beneficial in spiritual formation.

All of these forms constitute healthy approaches to spiritual development.  All should be included as part of a disciple building program.  Each format has certain advantages and certain limitations.  It is valuable to note that Jesus used all of these forms as part of His disciple building training.  Because the local church has all of these structures (e.g. small groups, teaching, preaching, etc.), it is the best location for making and training disciples if the structures are utilized strategically.  Within the church there is a unique role for a well-equipped Life Coach.  This person is able to “meet people where they are, and help them take the next step®.”

If disciple building is the overall process in which more mature believers assist younger believers as they grow, then spiritual Life Coaching is the “one-to-one” part of the process.  A Life Coach is able to help a disciple integrate and incorporate all the other growth processes into a unified whole.  The Life Coach is responsible for tracking and overseeing the progress of the individual believers entrusted to his care. This individual encouragement and accountability is invaluable. As we will see later, this is best accomplished when the Life Coach works in concert with a team of others in a ministry context.  One of the purposes of this manual is to offer assistance and coaching skills to help make the task of Life Coaching more manageable and successful.

Where have you seen a “one-on-one” or Life Coaching process have an impact on others? Have you ever considered learning how to be life coach?

WDA Life Coaching Manual will train leaders to coach others as Spiritual Life Coaches.  If you are a Discipleship Professional or Leader, you can use the WDA Life Coaching Manual to train a team of Life Coaches for you church.

Read more of this series on Life Coaching:

Part 1 – Life Coaching

Have you ever asked, “What qualifications do I need to disciple someone?” For much of my early years in WDA’s next generation ministry (which was once called campus ministry), I would have looked at the role of disciple builder as a bible teacher or small group leader. Teaching was one of the first things I recognized as a gift of the young men who were helping me establish my faith in my years as a student. As I have been looking back at my early years, I began to see that my understanding of the role of a disciple builder was limited and seen primarily though my gifting as a shepherd/teacher. The problem was that Jesus calls all who follow him “disciples” and not all of them are called to a teaching role!

Somewhere my view of a mature follower of Christ left out the majority of believers that I love and minister with. Disciple Builders were people who were really serious about their Christian faith and were involved in teaching others. In my world that meant leading a small group. I think Jesus disagrees with me! He is making disciples who have all the gifts and callings in scripture.

The church needs to see Jesus’ pattern for discipleship and grasp the long term vision of Christ in Matthew 28:19-20. We are called to a life of ministry, which involves participating in building mature followers of Jesus.

Many Christians are confused at this point. How can I fulfill Jesus’ command both to share the gospel and to help people grow to maturity, “teaching them all things I have commanded” when I don’t have a gift for teaching?

Why not start where Jesus did? The first thing he did was call some young men to follow Him. He began by building community! Why don’t you build a friendship and begin to read the bible together and talk about it. What you learn from others, explain to another person. If you can’t explain something, find another person who can help you. This doesn’t mean you pursue the role of a teacher, you are instead a fellow Christian who loves to share the things God is teaching you.

Every mature believer must understand how to participate in the growth of others! Certainly some are called to a particular task of teaching while others may be called to serve. In your loving of others you are teaching them! Being like Jesus speaks loudly in a culture that is skeptical of those who say one thing and do another.

I have realized that many people who have taught me spiritual principles were mature people who were following Christ and living their faith before me! So when someone loved me well by serving me, I learned to be like Jesus! Discipleship happens while we spend time together!

A church that is made up of mature Christians who have taken time to grow in Christ-likeness will have an impact on future generations. Sure, some are called to use teaching gifts and some will lead in many other ways. All are called to grow to maturity and be part of the mission of Christ!

How do you influence and participate in the discipling of others? What ways do we teach others?

Jesus also had a particular vision for disciple building. WDA has spent years looking at his life and ministry with a view toward providing the church with the foundational principles necessary to see Christian men and women grow to maturity. Learn more about WDA’s Biblical Approach to Disciple Building.

Get A Free digital pdf copy of Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework at the WDA Store