Coaching is a Multiplication Catalyst      

Powering Decentralized Networks One Conversation at a Time

July 1, 2024

Think about your city. 

Now take the perspective of 5,000 feet above ground. You are flying over your city. It is night and your plane is circling the airport, preparing to land. As the aircraft banks, you lean to the left, looking out the window to scan below. You see thousands of lights, outlining highways and neighborhoods and illuminating where life is happening. There are quite a few dark places still, but the lighted city is lovely.

Now I invite you to stretch your imagination. 

Think of those lights sprinkled throughout your city as coaching conversations. These are thousands of purposeful conversations empowered with the light of Jesus’ character and mission. Conversations lighting up, happening here and there. People are supporting and challenging one another to imitate Jesus and do what he does. Transformation is happening and the city is impacted. The light of these conversations begins to saturate your whole city. Certainly, it would take many conversations for this analogy to hold true. But what a beautiful vision; Jesus-followers challenging one another in an intentional process, creating forward momentum, following Jesus closely as he’s on the move. Each light signifying the light of the good news, with the ultimate ability to permeate the entire city.

My city is very large.  

We have more than 1.3 million people living, working, learning, and playing here. Another million new residents are projected to join us by 2050. What an opportunity. Yet, if we linger and look at this opportunity long enough, it stimulates some God-sized questions. How can we lean into the power of the Holy Spirit to engage almost 2.5 million people in gospel conversations, even more so in coaching conversations? How can we make first, second, third, and fourth generation disciples? How will that happen?

This raises an important issue

How do we get to true multiplication, the heartbeat of microchurch movements? The State of the Microchurch in the West report, by Catapult & Leadership Network, describes the findings of a convened learning community in 2022. They shared this learning community’s insights concerning a barrier that must be broken for microchurch networks to thrive in the west:

“The practitioners of this learning community agree that God’s dream is to see a “family of families” that reproduces to the third and fourth generation. In 2 Timothy 2:2, we see a minimum of four generations represented: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Disciple-making movements and church planting movements around the world often see 10 or more generations in their microchurch movements being fueled by multi-generational disciple-making that has gone significantly beyond that number of generations. Some of the participating networks have examples of third and fourth generations while others have more than seven. However, this is rare because most find themselves “stuck” at the first or second generation. There was a general agreement that this is a significant barrier in the West that will require additional insight, experimentation and equipping so that breakthrough beyond the second generation becomes the new normal.”

Do we really believe in multiplication where “good things can run wild”? Are we compelled to find the breakthrough, so disciple-making in our city goes beyond the second generation?  Let’s experiment with infusing our disciple-making ecosystems with equipping for coaching.

Jesus is our model.

We can agree Jesus is our model for everything. We operate in the reality of his Kingdom, his family, and his mission done his way.  As we imitate Jesus, we can embrace his intentions for us by engaging the catalytic coaching process. Coaching is simply focusing our time and energy in a purposeful way on the commission we’ve been given by Jesus to go and make disciples. We rely on the Holy Spirit for empowerment. Our ultimate focus is bringing glory to our Father. 

Foundational to this Kingdom mindset is the commitment we have to Jesus to help his people discover their masterpiece mission and bear much fruit. Serving with a coaching mindset, we acknowledge that every disciple is chosen, capable, creative, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor their stories, their perspectives, their giftings, and their decisions. As coaches, we co-labor with coachees to develop courage, resilience, risk, creativity, obedience, fortitude and whatever else God is calling them to be and to do.  

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

 

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:15-17 (NIV)

Be a thinking partner.

Working with a coaching mindset takes time and commitment to intentional, relational conversations over time.  If you’ve functioned in other types of equipping roles before, you will need to differentiate your coaching role from that of a consultant, mentor, trainer or counselor. A consultant is an expert who diagnoses problems and prescribes solutions. A mentor has specific experience and provides wisdom and guidance. A trainer creates tools to meet learning objectives set by the trainer or organization. A counselor helps clients resolve difficulties from the past that hamper current functioning. For a coaching mindset, consider yourself a “thinking partner.” Coaching is collaborating as a thinking partner with a person or a group in an intentional relationship, working together so coachees can discern what God wants them to do and then can accomplish it.

Try a simple tool.

The Five Questions combine the art and science of the coaching process into a simple framework. With this tool, a disciple-maker can provide both support and challenge. Thinking and actions are considered during this type of focused conversation. Coaching is fueled by well-formed questions, the necessity of dialogue, and the importance of clear goal setting in facilitating change.  

First, ask the coachee to choose a specific topic for the conversation. Then guide the conversation through The Five Questions, listening and asking questions that fit your coachee and your context. By the end of the conversation, the individual or group being coached will have gained awareness and designed next steps. You will be engaged together in the reflect, plan, do cycle. When you meet for your next coaching conversation, begin with the coachee’s topic of choice for that conversation and repeat The Five Questions.  Reflect, plan, do. 

  • What’s working?

Be deliberate about noticing the good work occurring, the positive efforts already contributed.  Celebrate what the coachee sees as good. Call out character transformation and other progress already accomplished. Ask your coachees what they view as positive, then listen. Don’t skip this essential first step.

  • What’s not working?

What is the root issue about what’s not going well? What is within the coachee’s sphere of control to change? What is preferred instead? If the issue can be fixed and is now working well, what would that look like? What does your coachee see is the root problem?  What is God putting his finger on? Reframe what’s not working currently into what it will look like when improved.

  • What are you learning?

What new awareness does the coachee have from the trying?  Although work is still needed, what maturity is this process bringing? What does your coachee feel she needs to be resourced now to keep innovating? What resources does she already have? How can new learning be applied in a positive way moving forward?

  • What needs to change?

Here’s where specifics get important. What does the coachee want instead of what is currently happening? Capture these goals in specific, positive terms. Listen to new ideas the coachee has the passion to accomplish. Discuss together why these changes are important, and what it will mean when they are implemented. Clarify that the status quo is no longer the best choice. Offer support and challenge to take new awareness into specific action. The whys are essential here. Don’t skip this step.

  • What’s next?

Here’s where the conversation nears conclusion. Help the coachee create specific next steps or experiments that will move intention into action. Check together that these goals are beneficial and realistic. Get clarity on why, what, when, and who. How does the coachee want to set up accountability? How will he know when progress is made?  

Catalyze Multiplication

The coaching process engages the whole person and helps people executing new plans (calling), as well as transform as a disciple (character). Coachees are partnering with the Holy Spirit as they stretch into God’s calling, and the coach comes alongside. Coaching relationships reproduce as disciples who have been coached also help other disciples gain awareness and take action through coaching conversations. This is the work we see when a coaching ecosystem is flourishing.

Take Action

Rather than ask you to create your own “What’s Next?” for you after reading this article, (which of course is the best coaching prompt), will you allow me to offer a few challenges? 

Challenge 1:  

Right now, why not pause and commit The Five Questions to memory?  

Challenge 2:   

Today, choose a specific topic you want to work on around your efforts at equipping others. Think through The Five Questions for yourself.  What went well for you as you applied this framework to your situation?  What was a challenge?  Talk to a colleague about your experience.

Challenge 3:

This week, set up two different coaching conversations with people you are equipping.  Share The Five Questions with them before your conversations. Ask your coachees to choose a topic ahead of your conversation, reflect thoughtfully and capture their thoughts in response to The Five Questions. Meet and have the coaching conversations. How were these conversations similar? How were they different? What are you learning about a coaching mindset?

Challenge 4:  

Consider how you are currently weaving a coaching mindset and tools into your efforts to multiply disciple-makers and leaders. Run through The Five Questions with your team and explore possibilities. What needs to change?

Challenge 5:

What’s next?

I believe you can create coaching rhythms in your context that will enable disciple-makers to hear from God, take courage, and experiment. Learning will happen. Shifts will happen. New things will happen. Through repeated coaching cycles, awareness of God’s intentions, self-awareness, and awareness of others increases.  Fresh insights will emerge, and energy will be generated toward forward movement. Coaching incorporates an appreciative approach, grounded in what’s right, what’s working, what’s wanted, and what’s needed to get there. This is good news.

As you consider catalyzing coaching for your microchurches and networks, my invitation is to practice The Five Questions. Then, practice some more. Start small. Think simple and reproducible. Model a coaching mindset in your conversations. Make it your goal to equip and release your leaders to invest themselves in partnering with the Holy Spirit through the practice of coaching. 

Let’s think about your city again.

What will it take to see your city filled with the light of a thousand coaching conversations? I suggest it will take a commitment to equipping people to disciple with a coaching mindset and skills. Then it will take a commitment to release these people to equip more coaches who will equip more coaches who will equip more coaches. Jesus tells us how this will happen. In the Kingdom economy, we go with the mustard seed. We go with one coaching  conversation at a time.

Keep catalyzing multiplication by equipping people to develop their own coaching partnerships. You have the light, use it to catalyze more lights to the second, third, and fourth generations. Believe that the investment you make in developing coaching ecosystems is the right choice. As you equip people to help others find out what God wants them to do and then accomplish it, you will light up your city. 

Wendy McWherter

Wendy McWherter

Wendy serves as Catalyst for Flourish Communities, www.flourishonmission.org. She is also a credentialed Executive Coach with the International Coach Federation and owner of McWherter Coaching Group.  Wendy offers personalized, individual coaching, customized team coaching, and curriculum development. She is married to Larry, her college sweetheart, and enjoys her three amazing kids, their wonderful spouses, and nine inspirational grandchildren. Wendy loves traveling to new cities, being a part of The Ohio State Buckeye Nation, and experiencing chocolate in all its forms. Her passion is supporting and challenging Jesus followers as they answer his call.  She is fueled by partnering in coaching relationships with creative and called people who love Jesus, live like him, and are helping others do the same. Curious about how to integrate coaching into your disciple-making ecosystems? Reach out to Wendy at wmcwherter@outlook.com or www.mcwhertercoaching.com for a conversation.
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