Are you a Mentor or a Coach?

Mentoring is Relationship:

Mentoring can be found in example of Barnabus.  More than an encourager, the effect of Barnabus on the life of the apostle Paul (Acts 9) reached well beyond Paul’s own life and ministry. Howard Hendricks, in his book Iron Sharpening Iron, makes the Biblical case for mentoring as a Ministry of Multiplication.  Barnabus equipped Paul for ministry through mentoring him.  Paul, through his mentoring of Priscilla and Aquila, Timothy, and Titus, to name a just a few, extended the fruit of Barnabas’ mentoring well beyond the one relationship he had with Paul.

Mentoring is not so much a formal role as much as it is a relationship.  It usually lasts for a specific time and encompasses the growth of the whole person being mentored.  The relationship is characterized by the mentor’s commitment and spiritual growth towards effectiveness in ministry.

According to Hendricks, there are several ways in which the mentor facilitates the growth:

  • He provides wisdom through advice and counsel
  • He promotes specific skills and behaviors that are essential in ministry
  • He provides feedback, both positive and negative
  • He coaches in areas where he is competent (see next section on Coaching)
  • He is a sounding board, providing the protégé the opportunity to test ideas
  • He is a counselor in times of deep personal need
  • He helps to devise plans by offering practical and objective advice
  • He nurtures curiosity by identifying opportunities

In Mentoring for Ministry, Biblical Ministries Worldwide, we define various stages of ministry that Jesus modeled and suggest there are three aspects to the total development:

  • Head: Public learning, or What I Must Know
  • Hands: Practical learning, or What I Must Do
  • Heart: Private learning, or What I Must Be

Not every mentor fulfills all of these roles. Often, the mentor will see a need in the person he is mentoring and realizes that he is not the best person for this particular need.  In this case, he would secure another person to interact with the person while still holding responsibility for the whole person’s growth and mentoring relationship.

Coaching is Action

One of the activities that a mentor can play is that of a coach.  In fact, real change in ministry ability, will be most effective only when the person is effectively coached.

Bill Hull, in The Disciple-Making Pastor, suggests that the Biblical model as demonstrated by Jesus Christ in building his team is very similar to the modern day athtletic coach.   He does know what excellence in a particular skill or ability looks like. When the player is on the team, they are committed to excellence in execution because they know the effectiveness of the team depends upon it.  Hard practice, discipline, and corrective feedback is the norm for a person desiring to be effective, and it is the coach that makes this happen.

Hull describes six steps derived from the teachings of Jesus on the coaching process used in mentoring a disciple for spiritual growth:

  1. Tell them what
  2. Tell them how
  3. Show them how
  4. Do it with them
  5. Let them do it
  6. Deploy them

Let’s focus on Step 5.  Implied is the need for observation and feedback.  The best coaches don’t shut their eyes during the game and hope for the best when their player’s are on the field!  Nor do they yell at the players when they do something bad.  The best coaches observe what happened and, based upon their experience and knowledge of what excellence looks like, provide concrete feedback on how to do it better.  If you have ever taken lessons on game of golf, sailing, riding a motorcycle, or music lessons, to name a few, what do you remember that really helped you be better?  When you were told what to change (“try it this way….”), not what NOT to do (“Don’t do that!”).

Coaches are specialized in their fields.  Just as there are defensive and offensive coaches in athletics (because the skills are so different), there are coaches who have a passion for specific aspects of ministry.  Your role as an evangelist is primarily to be a mentor and  coach on the topic of evangelism (Ephesians 4:11-12).

The role of the mentor, then, is to identify which skills the disciple needs and, if the mentor is not the best to coach this skill, find another.

Am I A Mentor or Coach?

The answer is…yes.  In your ministry, you have the privilege of being a mentor to those that God brings your way and working with them over a multiple year basis to bring about real change in equipping them for the ministry.  That, by itself, provides deep personal satisfaction as the Biblical mandate to reproduce oneself is fulfilled.  When you step up the plate to take on a specific coaching role to build competence in your disciple and be able to see it the fruit of your efforts in your eyes, you have embarked on road to for an identified skill area, you will have truly started on the road of Ministry Multiplication.


Written by Clark Macaulay

Image: digitalart /

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