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.


lemonIf you’ve been in an evangelical church on a Sunday morning in the last 10 years you may have noticed the backgrounds behind the lyrics on the screen. These are ultra-beautified scenes designed to stimulate people’s sense of beauty and pleasure… A dew-laden glen, sun streaming through trees, a child on a swing. They are photoshopped to the max. Today I saw one that amazed me. It depicted a sillouhetted Christ hauling a cross against the background of swirling white clouds and an impossibly blue sky. I laughed to myself. Leave it to Christians to turn a scene as morbid and dark as the crucifixion into something pretty and palatable!

In fact I think Christians have been in the business of cleaning up God’s mess for a long time.

Same thing with communion. We got rid of the wine in favor of Welch’s. But I rather like the bitter beauty of wine. I mean, it’s an acquired taste right? You need a certain level of exposure and romantic indoctrination to fall in love with a well-crafted wine or beer (though most of us would agree there is something innate to be discovered in the drink… we’re not just manipulating ourselves). But, as my father-in-law reminds me, it’s bitter stuff. And he’s right. It is bitter. And it’s gorgeous. Life can be like that. And I think that the place where God intersects our lives can be like that. Beautifully bitter. Gorgeously mundane. I mean, why would God command the Jews to eat bitter herbs on passover? Why would he want people to codify and commemorate within the very heart of their spiritual rhythms the bitterness of slavery?

Christians have gotten good at giving lip service to ugliness recently. “It’s hard but good.” “It’s been really challenging but I know God has a plan in all this.” But like the artistically framed picture of the passion, it only hints at a reality that’s tough to look at, tough to hear about. When I went to see the Passion of the Christ in college, the lady sitting in front of me said during the credits, “I paid 8 bucks for that?!” I think that’s how a lot of Christians feel when they find out that Christianity is not an opiate for the masses after all. Jesus told his guys: “In this world you’ll have troubles. But take heart, I’ve overcome the world” (Interesting he didn’t say, “I’ve overcome your troubles.”)

Maybe that’s why I swear. One, because swearing helps me talk to normal people and communicate that being Christian is different from being Ned Flanders. But more importantly, I feel that well-chosen profanities CAN give the linguistic gravity to talk about the ugliness all around us. And I WANT to have the language for ugliness because when we talk about ugliness with unapologetic honesty, it’s cathartic. AND we’re identifying with a God who talksabout ugliness throughout the bible and makes himself beautiful in the ugly and the everyday.

God is like Pablo Neruda. The Chilean poet had a knack for finding beauty in the little things. Things like a cat or a lemon. And the poetry is breathtaking. I mean…

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
aromatic facades.

If I were a poet I’d try to write about sunsets and mountaintops, but Neruda seems to see God himself in the lemon. I guess what I’m saying is that God himself sees himself in the lemon… in bitter herbs and bitter wine, in life’s disheartening ironies, in our unthinking exhausted moments when we can’t even bring ourselves to care. In the ugly and the plain and the bitter, there’s God like a kid with finger paints… making art; a strange kind of upside-down image we need a new framework, a maturity of thought in order to decode, to reveal the altars, the aromatic facades, the beauty.

problem modelWhy is Life so unfair sometimes? Why do I have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s behavior? Ever heard those questions before? Ever asked them?

I know I have. And I have heard those questions asked numerous times in counseling sessions with other people.

None of us like it when somebody else messes up and it affects us. It leaves us with the responsibility of figuring out how to correct the problem. One of the biggest areas that I help people work through in counseling has to do with their fathers. Many fathers are absent, neglectful and hurtful towards their children. Some fathers don’t even realize what they are doing, or the effect it might have on their children.

When these children become adults, the fallout of their father’s interactions with them can cause major problems. When they show up in my counseling office they are suffering from the results of someone else’s behavior. Together we have to figure out how to correct the emotional damage done to them. The good news is that there are solutions. The bad news is that the solutions involve going through a process that takes time and hard work. Yet there is hope and healing during the process.


In the Pocket Principle (Fallenness of Man) , I noticed many similarities between the counseling process and the solution God has provided for man’s fallen condition. They both involve a change of heart and a process of restoration. Read on to discover the good solution that God has given us for the consequences of Adam and Eve’s bad behavior.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

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