I love being a coach. Granted, I’ve never actually been one full-time, but I’ve always thought being a school athletics coach was a career that was very much like a that of a youth pastor. Coaches tend to move around a good bit, their success is judged by tangible metrics, they can be heavily involved in teenager drama, they have to navigate parental expectations, and they play an impactful role in the lives of young people through mentorship. While I have never been a coach, I’ve often found a certain level of camaraderie with coaches I’ve known throughout the years.
Kicker Coach Trueblood
I think it is fair to mention that during my time as a youth pastor in Virginia, I also served as a kicker coach for one of our local high school football teams. I wanted to serve the team any way I could. One day, the head coach called me into his office. He thought it would positively impact his players if I was able to serve as chaplain under the guise of kicker coach.
I explained that I was never a kicker, nor have I ever kicked in a football environment. (I played offensive line in high school.) The coach dismissed my gentle pushback by handing me a Dallas Cowboys kicking instructional video from the early 90’s. His instructions to me were: “Watch the video and then coach the players.” Got it. I can do that.
Somehow I managed to get through two seasons with the team without ever kicking a football—a feat that I am quite proud of, especially as some of the players began to talk about how “good of a kicker Coach Trueblood was.” (Shhh, don’t tell anyone the reality of the situation. It can be our secret.)
I learned a lot from being on the sidelines during that season.
The Coaching Deficit
There are very few of us in ministry who have someone we can refer to as “coach”. Intentionally seeking out a coach is becoming less of a practice for people—to our own detriment. But it’s been proven that having a coach is essential to the learning process if you truly want to maximize your potential. Robert Pool and Anders Ericsson make this point in Peak, as does Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. Take a moment and think about the coaches you’ve had in your own life. Do you have one now? If I had to guess the answer, it is probably “no.”
A true coach is someone who:
- Has consistent and scheduled time with you
- Brings more experience to the table than you do
- Has access to see you in your work
- Is trustworthy
- Allows you the freedom and safety of vulnerability
I can’t stress the element of vulnerability enough. It is only when we are vulnerable that a coach can help us surgically remove the things that are holding us back.
Think of it this way: when you are learning to kick a football, you have to be willing to kick in front of your coach. In that moment, there’s nothing to hide. You are fully vulnerable when your form is on display for evaluation. In that vulnerability, your coach is able to identify specific areas of improvement. Without this, the coaching process is cheapened.
Being coached maximizes your potential
Being coached gives you access to three pieces of valuable feedback that propel you forward into maximizing your leadership potential and overall health.
A good coach will teach you the skills necessary to continue growing through modeling needed skills, answering questions from a place of expertise, and by offering practical and actionable insight into areas that need improvement.
When you’re heading in the right direction, a coach will take notice. Repetition of positive leadership behavior is key to continued effectiveness. In the flow and busyness of ministry, it’s easy to miss the little things that are going well. A good coach will affirm and build up.
Coaches will also correct behaviors that need to be removed from your life. The difference between a coach and a critic is motivation. A good coach will not use correction to tear you down, rather, to help you move forward, and will sit with you long enough to help you piece together a plan to get it right next time.
Find what you need
Can you learn on your own? Yes. But without someone to coach you, the process will be slower, and the lid to your leadership potential will be much lower. At LifeWay Students, this is part of the problem we hope to correct through Youth Ministry Booster. Every member of Booster is part of a small and focused Mastermind group of six to eight youth pastors who are paired with a host who will walk through the coaching process with you.
As you evaluate what you need in the next season of ministry, I hope you take steps to begin meeting with someone in your area, or through Youth Ministry Booster.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of LifeWay Students. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find more encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.