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How Can You Be a Better Pastor? Get a Coach.

Justin Juntunen

Justin Juntunen

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You’ve heard it here before, and you’ll hear it again. Getting a coach is a great way to be more effective in your ministry and in your life in general. Have you tried Multiply Vineyard’s free coaching for church planters yet? If not, maybe your only conceptual framework for coaching is your junior high gym teacher. In that case, read on—this story of real-life coaching at work is for you.

John and Arleta Aureli were sent out from the Sugarland Vineyard to church plant in San Antonio in 2011. They began by working with another existing small group, meeting in an affluent neighborhood, but eventually realized that the area they were really passionate about was the Broadway area of San Antonio—much more of a downtown, museum district. So they moved there and continued to meet as a small group, planning to have a public launch nine months later.

Meanwhile, though, Multiply Vineyard had just sent a mailing out announcing that free coaching was now available to any church planter who wanted it for up to two years. John immediately knew that was something he wanted to take advantage of, so he applied to be matched with a coach right away.

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From the first Skype conversation they had, John hit it off with his Multiply Vineyard coach, Paul Watson. One of the first results of the coaching relationship was that Paul helped John realize that there was no need to wait 9 months to publicly launch the church plant. So the Aurelis went for it and started making their gatherings public.

From there, John says,

There were so many more ways that Paul helped: he would give advice and recommend helpful reading, but he also took time to draw solutions out of me by asking good questions. Paul challenged me to set goals I would never have dared to set on my own, and helped keep me accountable in pursuing those goals. Amazingly, at the end of two years, I realized that I hit all the goals we set. The church grew from 37 people to 100. Giving increased so that I could receive a salary and we could start to think about having a facility. We also raised up some key leaders, including a worship leader and children’s ministry leaders and teachers.

When I spoke with John, I asked if coaching was what he expected it to be. He said,

Before coaching began, I had the image of a basketball coach—someone who would yell at you on the phone, but then maybe later bring you into a huddle to give you the strategy. It wasn’t like that at all. Instead, Paul helped me to reach solutions on my own.

After the first few sessions, John and Paul got into a routine. A couple key questions became the focus of their conversations each month:

  • What’s the hottest topic for you right now?
  • What’s the biggest win you can celebrate this month?
  • What issue are you trying to solve?

It was really helpful to have to ask myself what big problem or issue I was dealing with each month. There was always something. And I knew I could bring it to the session to come up with solutions and create goals. One of the major values of the coaching sessions was the fact that Paul helped me identify my own issues and come up with my own solutions. That helped me gain leadership confidence that would never have earned if Paul had just handed me the solutions.

It was also so helpful to have someone on my side whose only investment in me and the church was to help us succeed and flourish. I felt supported by my sending church, too, but it was wonderful to have someone whose only interest was as my coach—not as a sending church, a financial supporter, or a church member.

So, church planters, if you haven’t applied to have a coach yet, what’s stopping you? The Multiply Vineyard team would love to match you with someone to help you come up with meaningful solutions for your unique situation as a church planter. Just email [email protected] to learn more information.

Or, take it from John Aureli: I would say to other church planters, that you can never have too many safe people in your life who are on your side. A coach is a really safe person whose only interest in your situation is to help you and your church succeed and flourish.

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you—do you have experience with MV coaching? How was it helpful (or not)? Do you have questions? Share in the comments below.

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