Coaching Leadership

What Is Christian Coaching and How To Do It

The best way to help someone reach his potential is through Christian coaching. Coaching is the art of working with another person to help that person reach his potential. This post is the beginning of a series of posts based on my research of the art of coaching both current and future Christian leaders.

picture of coach and players

Flickr Photo Credit: euthman

If done right, Christian coaching has the ability to help Christian leaders develop their potential to lead even if they are not in a formal position of leadership.


The research of coaching in ministry is interesting because very little exists. A search of the words “ministry coaching” and “church planting coaching” yielded no results in a college database.[ref]This is ironic considering most searches done in academic databases yield many more results than needed and often require extreme filtering of what was searched.[/ref]

Fortunately for Christians, one of the great instances of coaching occurred in the friendship and ministry partnership between Paul and Timothy in the New Testament. At certain points in a person’s life there are vulnerable times when a coach has the opportunity to pour into a leader and make a difference similar to the way Paul does for Timothy.

Alexander Whyte describes it this way, “There are a great many young men among ourselves exactly like Timothy. Like Timothy they are richly talented, well educated, religiously educated, and every way well brought up young men . . . Yet all the time they have not themselves taken the great step. And this goes on till one day their day of grace at last comes to them, as Timothy’s day of grace came to him.”[ref]Alexander Whyte, Bible Characters: The New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1952), 300.[/ref] The day of grace Whyte refers to is the beginning of a Christian coaching relationship when the grace of Paul came to Timothy.

There is a strong need for Christian leaders in the world, and coaching is the solution to this need. Christian coaching can strengthen the Christian community so that the body of Christ, churches, parachurches, and Christians everywhere can be relevant leaders. Christian Coaching is a way to fill the leadership pipeline[ref]Doug Riddle and Sharon Ting, “Leader Coaches: Principles and Issues for In-House Development,” Leadership in Action 26, no. 2 (May/June 2006), 13.[/ref] and a pipeline of strong Christian leaders is exactly what the Christian community needs. Coaching is about creating leaders by raising them up out of where they are. Many a potential leader lays dormant in small roles where their potential as a Christian leader goes untapped. Coaching has the unique ability to fill the leadership pipeline. It helps to train a coachee so that when the opportunity comes to lead, he is ready.


One definition of 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.[ref]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.[/ref]

Another definition of coaching is that “coaches help their clients experience accelerated learning and performance.”[ref]Rochelle Melander, “Holy Conversations: Coaching and Mentoring for Clergy,” The Clergy Journal (October 2004), 30.[/ref] 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.”[ref]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.[/ref]

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.[ref]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.[/ref]

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.


Since Christian coaching is about drawing skills and character qualities out of the coachee, the Christian coaching process starts with the potential of a coachee

The relationship between the Apostle Paul and Timothy in the New Testament is a model of one leader providing coaching to a young man who had leadership potential. Leadership expert and author, John C. Maxwell comments on this relationship in the Maxwell Leadership Bible writing, “Paul proactively identified a young leader he could develop. He had been to Lystra and seen Timothy. His antennas were up. He insisted his team go back to challenge and invite the young man to join them.”[ref]John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1497.[/ref] Paul saw something in Timothy which led Paul to believe that Timothy had potential.

While a coach might recognize a young person’s potential for leadership, the coachee does not always see this same potential in himself. The Bible is filled with people who ended their lives as great leaders but who did not initially believe they had potential for leadership.

(In my opinion, John MaCarthur’s book, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, is a perfect example of God choosing great people who had great potential which just needed to be drawn out of them.)

A few of those leaders who did not initially believe they had potential for leadership were:

  • Abraham (what a change in thinking to be infertile but God to tell you that you will lead a great and numerous nation).
  • Moses, who was so insecure in his leadership that he asked God to chose someone else.
  • David, a young shepherd whose potential for leadership was overlooked by his own father who did not invite him to the ceremony where the Prophet Samuel picked the new king.

The most visible example is that of the young minister, Timothy. Timothy, the young protégé of the apostle Paul, probably felt much like Moses felt when God told Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. Just as Moses felt inadequate for the task, Timothy probably did too.[ref]John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1502.[/ref] However, the good news is that

God doesn’t necessarily choose leaders based on their natural talent or ability. Neither does He always choose them based on their age and experience. As Paul tells Timothy, God chooses leaders based on their availability, not their ability; on their willingness to walk in obedience to Him, not their experience.[ref]John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1502.[/ref]

There were many other great leaders Paul could have chosen to coach and develop, but Paul chose Timothy because of his desire to walk in obedience with God. God does not always chose the most skilled, knowledgeable and experienced leader but rather the obedient person. And coaching is the element needed to develop the leader.


A cross study of coaching in sports reveals some interesting facts that knowledge, ability, skill, and experience are not always the deciding factors in the best sports players.

Interviews with the most successful soccer coaches shows that they believe “the distinctive factor in the development of a young soccer player is his ‘character’ and ‘attitude’ toward training and games. According to the coaches, a talented soccer player has a ‘drive to succeed’ and an attitude signaling ‘will and perseverance.’”[ref]Mette Krogh Christiansen, “An Eye for Talent: Talent Identifications and the ‘Practical Sense’ of Top-Level Soccer Coaches,” Sociology and Sport Journal 26 (2009), 376.[/ref] This shows that the individual a coach invests into does not have to be the one who shows the most skill, or who possesses the most experience. Instead Christian coaches should look for the individual who has potential to do great things because of the qualities he possess.

Again, the apostle Paul models this well for Christian leaders everywhere. In the Maxwell Leadership Bible, John C. Maxwell explains that Paul dedicated his life to activities that developed potential leaders who would impact the world for Christ, which included Timothy. The apostle Paul’s relationship to Timothy was unique because Paul took time to write specifically to Timothy (in contrast to his normal practice of writing to churches and regions of believers).

With this information there is good reason to believe that Paul—a man dedicated to making the greatest impact for Christ—believed Timothy was one of his companions who had great potential for helping positively impact God’s kingdom. The potential which Paul saw in Timothy was probably based on what he saw that Timothy already demonstrated a little of, but needed to be drawn out and developed more.

The Apostle Paul reveals in his writings that Timothy already had potential by writing, “I [Paul] remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you” (2 Timothy 1:5 NLT). Paul knew that for Timothy to be a leader in the Christian church, Timothy first needed a strong faith.

Paul knew about the qualities that Timothy ha and encouraged those qualities to come out. Paul was drawing that potential out of Timothy by building on what Timothy already possessed because “Timothy had a strong heritage before Paul came along; Paul simply played his role in the process.”[ref]John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1498.[/ref]

Paul was merely building on the qualities which Timothy already had and displaying what strong Christian leaders know: focus on people’s strengths because that is the key to developing people.[ref]John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1511.[/ref] Paul knew that with some companionship, teaching, and encouragement Timothy could successfully lead the church in Ephesus.

Thankfully, most potential leaders are able to learn, grow, and change if they work with a coach who has the correct set of expectations of them.[ref]Doug Riddle and Sharon Ting, “Leader Coaches: Principles and Issues for In-House Development,” Leadership in Action 26, no. 2 (May/June 2006), 14.[/ref] This is good news!

The Christian coaching process takes time and effort, but the payoff of a developed Christian leader makes the time and effort used to develop that coachee worthwhile. More times than not, you will be able to actively see the results of your coaching labor because most people do have the potential to grow.


Responsibility is a character quality every employer, parent, and friend wants a potential leader to have. In the context of coaching a leader, responsibility is one of the main elements necessary for a successful Christian coaching relationship.

Two scholars describe the responsibility of the coachee this way:

The coaching experience is, first and foremost, for and about the individuals being coached. They are responsible for driving the process and directing their own learning. They decide which goals to work on and how to go about this work. The coach’s role is to influence the agenda, not set it.[ref]Doug Riddle and Sharon Ting, “Leader Coaches: Principles and Issues for In-House Development,” Leadership in Action 26, no. 2 (May/June 2006), 14.[/ref]

Setting the agenda means the coachee comes to the coaching sessions ready with issues to be coached on and questions to talk through.

Two other scholars in the medical industry describe the necessity of the coachee taking responsibility in a slightly different but similar context by writing that a “coach does not set goals for patients or coerce. The patient sets his or her own goals, and the NP’s [Nurse Practioner’s] role is to support, encourage, cheer the patient, and celebrate success.”[ref]Eileen Hayes, Ph.D. and Karen A. Kalmakis, Ph.D., “Coaching as a nurse practitioner strategy for improving health outcomes,” Journal of the AmericanAcademy of Nurse Practitioners 19 (2007), 560.[/ref] Thus, coaching is initiated and driven by the coachee.

Since the coachee is the one who primarily benefits from the relationship, then she should be the one who drives the agenda and content of the meetings. It is important to note that “the direction for change comes from the client, the acknowledged expert about his or her own life situation.”[ref]Ibid., 558.[/ref] The coachee is the expert because she knows what is going on and what needs to change.

Often a coachee might know that a change needs to take place but not know how to make that change. The role of the coach is to help the coachee develop the character qualities and skills that will allow the coachee to make that change.  The person being coached is ultimately accountable for outcomes and results. She takes action in between coaching sessions. There might be times when the coachee is dependent on the coach to do something, but most of the time it is the coachee who is doing the work.

Another reason the coachee is the one primarily responsible for the success of the Christian coaching relationship is that the coachee “must be motivated by the hope of future reward for present faithful service.”[ref]D. Edmond Hiebert, “Pauline Images of a Christian Leader,” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September 1976), 219.[/ref] Coaching is a process, not an event. That process means the coachee sees a future reward such as people saved, people in need receiving services, or Christian information taught. All of these require time, and during that time the coachee will experience failure where the coach is there to encourage and teach.

A coach helps to assist the young leader to make the change she desires. This is especially true because more times than not, the coach is going to be someone from outside of the organization.[ref] At this point it is important to note that a coachee does not have to hold a professional job in order to be coached. Coaching a person in her skills as they related to professional skills and abilities is the focus on this paper, but it is not meant to be exclusive to only professional people who can be coached.[/ref] Since that person is from outside of the organization, she needs content to coach the coachee on.

If the coachee has no goals, issues, or problems to be coached on, then there is nothing for the coach to help with. Hence, the responsibility lies with the coachee to come to the coaching sessions prepared with those items ready to discuss and talk about. If the coach is someone from the same organization the coachee works at, then the coach has more than likely seen the coachee’s strengths and weaknesses and knows what areas she needs coaching in. Yet even with a coach who knows how the future leader needs to grow, the responsibility and effort towards change must come from the coachee.

The coach does not lead the change but walks alongside encouraging, instructing, and helping the coachee walk through the change she wants to make.


Paul’s letter to Timothy in the Christian Bible is an example of how Paul provided encouragement to Timothy as a companion would do. Paul knew what spiritual gifts Timothy had, and Paul gave encouragement and instruction. This is something we must practice if we are serious about effectively coaching future Christian leaders.

In Paul’s last days, he hoped to have Timothy’s companionship and help in ministry, as shown when he wrote, “Timothy, please come as soon as you can” (2 Timothy 4:9 NLT). When writing to the Roman Church (7 years before writing letters to Timothy), Paul mentioned Timothy in this manner: “Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings. . . .” (Romans 16:21).

Paul showed his partnership with Timothy by mentioning Timothy 13 times in his letters to other churches and individuals.[ref]Those references are 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 1:19; Philippians 1:1; 2:19,20; 2:22, Colossians 1:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 3:2; 3:5,6, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, Philemon 1:1, and Hebrews 13:23.[/ref] Paul mentioned Timothy so often in his writings because Timothy traveled with Paul on many missionary journeys and was one of Paul’s most trusted assistants. John C. Maxwell explains in his Maxwell Leadership Bible that the companionship between Paul and Timothy as a coaching relationship similar to “Elijah and Elisha . . . Paul invested in him for a long time, taking him on short-term mission trips, letting him preach, leaving him to pastor a young church, and writing instructional letters to him while apart.”[ref]John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1497.[/ref]

This type of companionship can also be described as friendship. Friendship is a sign of a good coaching relationship because “good coaching relationships include openness, candor, trust, and dialogue.”[ref]Doug Riddle and Sharon Ting, “Leader Coaches: Principles and Issues for In-House Development,” Leadership in Action 26, no. 2 (May/June 2006), 18.[/ref] Coaching relationships characterized by these traits provide a safe place for the coachee to share thoughts and ideas.

Part of the companionship element of the coaching relationship is the simple idea of knowing each other well. The coach should allow the coachee to get to know him so the coachee can imitate his good behaviors and practices.

Paul’s message to Timothy showed the ability of Timothy to teach and lead because Timothy “knew” Paul. Paul showed this to be true when he wrote to Timothy,

But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it (2 Timothy 3:30-11).

The reason Timothy could teach others as Paul taught was that they were companions who spent years traveling and doing ministry together.

Regardless of if the coaching relationship takes place within or outside of an organization, companionship is important to the success of the coachee. With no companionship, there is no room for the necessary types of ministries to happen.


The best way to coach someone in leadership is to be a model for that coachee. Leadership is an area where more is caught than taught, thus it is important that leaders who coach young potential leaders are great leaders.

A recent article in Coaches PLAN magazine stated that “one of the best communication tools remains the image.”[ref]Christian Hrab, ChPC, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” Coaches PLAN, Spring 2011, 6.[/ref] The best way to communicate, teach, and coach is the image that a coach displays to others. When a young impressionable person opens himself up to be coached, the message the coach communicates is the image he displays to that person by living a holy life.

The principle of living a holy life first starts at home before it shows fruits in the coaching relationship. This means a coach must have adequately taken care of his priorities and home life. If a coach fails to take care of the priorities of home life, then the effectiveness of the coach is drastically reduced. This happens because the coachee, whether he realizes it or not, begins to ask himself, “If you cannot get your personal life to work the way it should, why should I think that what you are teaching me is going to work?”

Again, many students may not think this consciously, and they probably will not say it publicly, but a coach’s personal life troubles and failures will negatively affect his coaching ability. One coach shared that he “found that maintaining a fairly active health life, faith life, and family life are pillars that help me to become a better leader.”[ref]Sim B. Sitkin and J. Richard Hackman, “Developing Team Leadership: An Interview with Coach Mike Krzyzewski,” Academy of Management Learning & Education 10, No. 3 (2011), 500.[/ref]

The responsibility and authority to take care of life at home starts and rests with the coach. “It is the responsibility of the leader coach to exhibit the leadership and emotional competencies. . . that the coachee is trying to develop.”[ref]Doug Riddle and Sharon Ting, “Leader Coaches: Principles and Issues for In-House Development,” Leadership in Action 26, no. 2 (May/June 2006), 14.[/ref]

Fortunately for Bible students, the New Testament provides several examples of living a holy life as a key part of the coaching process.

Throughout the New Testament it becomes clear that the apostle Paul knew that his image communicated what he was hoping to teach. Paul writes to the people of Philippi, “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow your example” (Philippians 3:17). The apostle Paul knew that “the essence of good leadership was to provide an example that mirrored Christ’s own example.”[ref]Tyndale House Publishers, New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2008), 2067.[/ref] However, Paul was not perfect in the work that he did. He admitted that he struggled with sin, but he did live a holy life committed to following Jesus. Paul’s philosophy of teaching his young followers based on his life continued from his letter to the Philippians to his relationship with Titus, Timothy, and others.

When commenting on Paul’s relationship with and mentoring of Timothy, Alexander Whyte, author of the book Bible Characters: New Testament, describes Paul’s philosophy this way:

Take heed to thy doctrine indeed, but, first and last, take most heed to thyself. Fix thy very best and thy very closest attention on thyself. This is thy main duty as a pastor. Not to set thyself forward as a pattern to thy people. Only, make thyself a perfect pattern to them. For that minister who constantly and increasingly takes heed to himself in his walk and conversation; in preaching better every returning Sabbath; in discharging all the endless duties of his pastorate in season and out of season; in holding his peace in controversy; and in a life of secret faith and secret prayer; God himself will see to it that such an apostic minister will be imitated and celebrated, both as a pattern minister and a pattern man; both before his people, and before all his fellow-ministers.[ref]Alexander Whyte, Bible Characters: The New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1952), 307-308.[/ref]

Paul writes, “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2). At this point in time, Timothy has traveled with Paul on many journeys and they have done much ministry together.

Paul has already written Timothy a letter about what to teach and given Timothy encouragement to teach it. Now Paul takes a different approach. He tells Timothy to “do what I have done.”


While walking through elements of a coaching relationship the last few weeks on my blog I believe it is also important to note that teaching is an element of coaching. Why?

Teaching is an element of coaching because there are circumstances when being an encouraging role model will not suffice so the coach must also teach. A coach may do so through questions, direct instructions, apprenticeship, etc.

One observable way Paul instructs Timothy is by telling him what to do and what not to do. In the two New Testament letters to Timothy, Paul teaches Timothy what to do 24 times[ref]1 Timothy 1:3, 1:18-2:4, 4:4, 4:7-10, 4:11-13, 4:15-16, 5:1-7, 5:17-18, 5:20-21, 6:2-3, 6:11-14, 6:17-18, 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:1-8, 2:14-15, 2:22-25, 3:14, 4:1-2, 4:5, 4:9, 4:13, 4:19, 4:21.[/ref] while only saying what not to do 10 times[ref]1 Timothy 1:4, 4:4, 4:7, 4:14, 5:11, 5:19, 5:22-23; 2 Timothy 1:8, 2:16-17, 4:5.[/ref]. Contained within 2 Timothy is found one of the best and most well known verses about teaching and coaching others. Writing to Timothy, Paul states, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Timothy 2:2). After the necessary time of teaching Timothy and coaching him, Paul tells Timothy that it is Timothy’s turn to go and teach others.

One scholar gives great insight about this verse and its literary connection to the topic of teaching,

Though the noun “teacher” does not appear in this verse, the contents of the verse as well as the infinitive διδάξι (to teach) unmistakably establish the fact that Paul has the image of a teacher in mind. The fact that this image stands first in Paul’s series indicates his recognition of the importance of the teaching function in furtherance of the Christian faith. It was part of his own apostolic work in relation to the gospel (2 Tim. 1:11). In both of his epistles to Timothy, Paul stipulated that the Christian worker must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24).[ref]D. Edmond Hiebert, “Pauline Images of a Christian Leader,” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September 1976), 214[/ref]

Paul certainly lived this out as a Pharisee who was extremely devoted to the teachings and adherence of the Mosaic law. This topic of teaching is woven throughout the fabric of Paul’s ministry.

Paul displays the need not just to teach and encourage the coachee, but the need of the coachee to begin teaching and encouraging others. Paul writes to Timothy, “Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them” (1 Timothy 6:2). Teach and encourage that is precisely what Paul is doing to Timothy, teaching and encouraging him to teach and encourage others. Not only did the apostle Paul say this with his words, he also lived it out by sending Timothy on special assignments to several different churches over a period of fifteen years.

Teaching a coachee might look slightly different for every coachee based on her individual needs and situations. However, the biblical example of teaching as part of the coaching process is one which must be done in order to raise up Christian leaders through Christian coaching.


In any coaching, mentoring, or discipling relationship there comes a point when the person who has been on the receiving end of the relationship needs to take the step to be the giver. After several years of being discipled, that disciple then goes on and disciples someone else. After several years of being mentored, that person takes initiative to mentor someone else. The same is also true with coaching. After a significant amount of time being coached, there comes a point in time when the coachee must begin to coach others.

One of the most revealing statements about the coaching relationship which Paul and Timothy share is shown when Paul encourages Timothy, “Teach these things [things about having a strong faith, women being modest, elders having a Godly home, etc.] and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them” (1 Timothy 4:11-13).

Paul, an elder man who was a powerful and knowledgeable Pharisee before being converted to a Christ follower, was encouraging Timothy to coach others in the correct way of a Christian life. In other words, he was offering Christian coaching. Despite what the people might think because of Timothy’s age, it was important that Paul have Timothy coach other leaders. In the Jewish culture, much emphasis was placed on “age,” and that made a big difference in the social status of the people who attempted leadership.

For example, some people believe that one of the reasons Jesus waited until he was 30 years old to begin his ministry was because the Jewish culture would be more likely to accept his teaching at that age.[ref]A conversation, Jeffrey Harrington, D.Min., August 11, 2011.[/ref] Throughout all of Paul’s coaching of Timothy, he strongly encourages Timothy to coach others. He urges Timothy that despite his young age, Timothy must develop the church and coach a new group of church leaders in an effort to strengthen the church of Ephesus. In fact,

Timothy’s diligence as a student qualified him to be a teacher of new workers. The things he learned, Paul wrote, ‘these entrust to faithful men.’ The word [Greek] (‘these’; literally, ‘these things’) stressed that he was to teach others the message he himself had been taught. His duty was not to develop a new and different teaching but faithfully to transmit the message received.[ref]D. Edmond Hiebert, “Pauline Images of a Christian Leader,” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September 1976), 215.[/ref]

Timothy’s heart for Jesus and his diligence as a coachee of the apostle Paul positioned him well for the task of coaching others. Since the essential element of a potential leader and coachee is that, “those taught must be ‘able to teach others also.’ The essential task of Timothy was the multiplication of gospel workers. The very nature of Christianity demands that it be propagated, and this demands trained workers who, having been entrusted with the divine message, are able and willing to pass it on to others.”[ref]Ibid., 215.[/ref]

Since there is a responsibility for coachees to eventually be coaches, the good news is that the mere act of being coached often helps a coachee be ready to coach. Many of the strategies that a coach uses are easily caught by simply being on the receiving end of the coaching. The elements of coaching such as looking for potential in the coachee, providing encouragement, being an example of a holy life, placing ownership on the coachee to drive the agenda of the meetings, and companionship are all things which the coachee probably notices happening in the relationship he is currently in with his coach. Therefore, this makes it easy for the coachee to do those same things for someone else if he begins to coach another.


As a coaching relationship takes time to develop and continues, there comes a time when the coach simply needs to get out of the way. Legendary men’s basketball coach at Duke University and winner 3 NCAA National Championships, Mike Krzyzewski (Mike is also known as simply “Coach K.”), tells a great story about the need for a coach to get out of the way at key points in the growth of a coachee.

Coach K told the following story when he was asked, “How do you help them [his players] see what they have to offer?”

One of the best leaders by far of all time is Shane Battier, who now plays for Memphis. In the first practice of his senior year, the team had finished stretching, and I’m getting ready to talk to them to give them a bit of motivation—just a little 1-minute talk. Before I start, Shane gets them together and he says some things to the team. I said, “That’s pretty good. I don’t think I can top that.” I told Shane after the workout, “That was good. If you want to do that every day, you can.” He said, “I’ll do it every day.” I never again spoke to the team before practice for the rest of that year.[ref]Sim B. Sitkin and J. Richard Hackman, “Developing Team Leadership: An Interview with Coach Mike Krzyzewski,” Academy of Management Learning & Education 10, No. 3 (2011), 495.[/ref]

Two important parts of this story serve as great examples of when a coach needs to get out of the way of a coachee.

  1. It was Shane’s senior year. Since it was Shane’s senior year at Duke it means coach K had been Shane’s coach for three years. (Coach K might have even coached Shane for four years up to this point if Shane “red-shirted” his freshman year.) Shane had been well coached and was probably ready to take on more responsibility and leadership as a player.
  2. Shane was good at what he took initiative to do. If Shane had tried to give a motivational talk and the talk was not good, Coach K would not have allowed Shane to give more motivational talks. Once a coachee has been coached for a significant time and finds something he is good at, then that is the time when the coach steps back and lets the coachee go, which is what Coach K did.

Coach K’s story illustrates the lifetime of work which the Apostle Paul performed, perhaps most eloquently done in the life of Timothy. There came a point in time when Timothy had his chance to lead, to do good and make a difference. When that chance came when the church of Ephesus needed him, he was ready due to the coaching of Paul.

The hope of current Christian leaders is to do ministry much the same way—coaching potential leaders to develop their character and skills as leaders—thus allowing the word of Christ to be honored and spread around the world.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at