What Coaching Is

April 17, 2013

After my strong advocacy yesterday for the need of Christian coaching it is important that a clear definition of coaching be made. Below I have listed several different definitions of coaching in order to orient us to the topic of coaching and what it means for leaders.

pic of coaching

Flickr Photo Credit: USDAgov

One definition of Christian coaching is,

An ongoing partnership between a coach and a client that is focused on the client taking action toward the realization of their visions, goals and desires. . . . Coaching is a partnership. . . . It is not a matter of one who has expertise leading someone who lacks expertise, or ‘teacher to student’ or ‘mentor to apprentice.’ Coaches walk alongside people to help them determine what God has called them to. Coaching is about taking action. 1

Another definition of coaching is that “coaches help their clients experience accelerated learning and performance.” 2 Yet another definition is, “Coaching is the art and science of facilitating self-directed change. It is a collaborative process designed to alter an individual’s perceptions and behavioral patterns in a way that increases their effectiveness and personal fulfillment.” 3

And the final definition of coaching is,

Coach-leaders provide feedback and encouragement as they help employees identify the unique strengths and weaknesses they bring to their work, establish goals, and develop plans for reaching them (Goleman, 2000; Witherspoond, 2000). The coach leader focuses on the development of the person within the business, assisting him or her to improve performance and succeed, in contrast to other leadership styles that focus only on the function of the team or the vision of the company. 4

But, how is coaching different from mentoring or discipleship?

In mentoring the mentor pours out the knowledge and information that he knows into the person being mentored. While in coaching, the coach leads the coachee in a way that character qualities and skills are drawn out of the coachee. Coaching is different than discipleship because discipleship focuses on the spiritual disciplines and the overall identity of someone attempting to live like Christ.

Coaching focuses more on character qualities, work related skills, and specific techniques that someone might not have, but is attempting to develop.

Question: What is your definition of coaching? 


  1. Christopher McCluskey, “A Christian Therapist-Turned-Coach Discusses his Journey and the Field of Life Coaching,” Journal of Psychology and Christianity 26, no. 3 (2008), 266-267.
  2. Rochelle Melander, “Holy Conversations: Coaching and Mentoring for Clergy,” The Clergy Journal (October 2004), 30.
  3. Robert Hicks, Ph.D. and John McCracken, Ph.D., “Three Hats of a Leader: Coaching, Mentoring, and Teaching,” The Physician Executive Journal (November-December 2010), 68.
  4. Eileen Hayes, Ph.D. and Karen A. Kalmakis, Ph.D., “Coaching as a nurse practitioner strategy for improving health outcomes,” Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners 19 (2007), 556-567.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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3 responses to What Coaching Is

  1. Great definitions of a coach. I think a combination of coaching and mentorship can be valuable when it comes to how a leader trains and equips the people around them. Good post Chris!

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Dan.

      I agree that a combination of both mentoring and coaching can be good. For the past five years I have been mentored and coached by a man. Depending on what situations I am working through, he either coachs or mentors me.