Ben Friesen registered for LEAD Coaching to set himself up for success as he began his pastoring journey. The lead pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Topeka, Kansas, says he needed a coach to help him improve both his skills and his mindset.
Through working with LEAD coach Ed Boschman, Friesen gained tools for ministry and an ally in his corner to provide encouragement.
“One of my specific goals was to grow my discernment ability, especially in relation to a vision for my church family,” Friesen says. “I feel significantly more equipped, and the coaching relationship helped me to trust my instincts while also giving me the tools to be more discerning.”
LEAD Coaching, a USMB initiative pertaining to the core commitment of leadership development, offers a year-long partnership with a trained USMB coach to help people move from where they are to where they want to be through accountability and support.
Coaches experience benefits of training
LEAD Coaching began in 2009 or 2010 as a result of conversations between Ed Boschman, then-USMB executive director, and Don Morris, director of Mission USA at the time.
“I was convinced that we needed to offer coaching as part of serving our pastors (and) leaders,” Morris says. “After reading several books about coaching, the program and principles revealed by Building Champions director Daniel Harkavy in his book Becoming a Coaching Leader made a lot of sense. Plus, they were a coaching network based on Christian principles.”
Tasked with developing a coaching program to encourage and resource church staff, Morris traveled to the Building Champions office in Portland, Ore., to learn more about the leadership development and executive coaching services firm’s strategy and materials.
“We eventually teamed up with the Christian segment of Building Champions, Ministry Coaching International (MCI), for use of their training, systems and materials,” Morris says. “MCI ceased to exist later on, and we petitioned them to be able to continue to use their products and principles, which they agreed to allow.”
A group of seven or eight USMB leaders, including Boschman, Morris and several district ministers, completed initial coaching and training through MCI and received certificates as trained coaches.
“I remember way back when we were launching this thing, I was a little dubious, a little skeptical,” Boschman says. “But clearly the experience, the systems, what I personally learned in that process, made me a better leader, a wiser coach and provided some resources that I didn’t have before.”
Morris, who has participated in two, one-year coaching programs through MCI, also benefitted.
“Delving into life and family issues, creating a ministry vision, time management—all of those segments were extremely valuable,” Morris says. “I simply don’t understand why more of our pastors (and) leaders don’t take advantage of this tremendous coaching program provided by our own USMB family.”
When Boschman retired as USMB executive director in 2014, he became the LEAD Coaching head coach. In addition to Boschman and Morris, LEAD Coaches are: Chandelle Claassen, Terry Hunt, Aaron Hernandez and Rick Eshbaugh.
Coaching through the gap
LEAD Coaching provides resources and accountability to help people identify their current reality, describe a preferred future and then take steps to get there.
“The big goal of coaching is, ‘Let’s take a realistic look at where are we right now and where do we want to go?’” Boschman says. “What do we need to change? Is there passion or is there pain? How will we get there? We call it ‘Coaching through the gap.’”
Coachees fill out a Growth Guide, which includes four sections Building Champions calls the “Core Four:” Life Plan, Ministry Vision, Ministry Plan and Priority Management.
These four sections provide the focus for the one-year coaching partnership. The material is one benefit highlighted by coach Chandelle Claassen. “The resources that are available through this coaching program really are amazing,” Claassen says. “It’s not just meeting one-on-one with somebody.”
The Life Plan includes two comprehensive inventories—completed by coachees on a personal retreat—which offer a foundational picture of an individual’s personality and behavioral style, as well as emotional intelligence, self-awareness, awareness of others, decision-making and stress management.
The inventories help a person understand why they might feel a drain on their energy.
“If you’re a staffer in a church, it reads whether your team, or, even larger, the church family, is pressing you to be different from your natural self,” Boschman says. “Then we get to a place where we measure the differential between what you’re wired to do and what you’re doing, and what you’re thinking other people want you to be doing.”
A coachee will also review his or her faith account, current priorities, health, family, friends, finances and service.
“Those seven are outlined in the growth guide with specific scripture references and questions probing into those areas,” Boschman says.
Working together with their coach, a person will identify three foci for the year.
“It helps create balance,” Claassen says. “We don’t want to be stagnant in certain areas of life while we’re moving forward in other areas.”
A coach’s goal is to be more inquisitive and less directive.
“When people buy in to their own ideas, they’re going to have action on it completely in a different way than if they’re told, ‘You should do XYZ to get to this point,’” Claassen says.
Coachees record their insights and goals in an action plan on a Life Map spreadsheet, which is updated and shared with the coach prior to each coaching call.
For pastoral staff, coaching provides an opportunity to implement lessons learned with their team.
“That’s encouraged, obviously, because they can lock that into their ministry systems right away,” Boschman says. “In a way, what they’re doing is they’re coaching their team with similar principles to what they’re picking up along the way.”
While LEAD Coaching grew out of a need for pastoral support, Boschman says coaching is for everyone, including business people, parents and church staff.
“It works for anybody and for everybody,” he says, adding later: “LEAD coaching is not just for leaders.”
Commitment to growth
Coaching requires a commitment of time and resources. Coaches talk with coachees on the phone twice a month and assign books to read, podcasts to listen to and homework to complete.
The coaching investment is $1,800 plus $150 for the two inventories, but Boschman says expense should not be a limiting factor as there may be opportunities for partnerships on the national, district and local church level to split the cost. Because coaching sessions happen over the phone, no travel expenses are required.
“The accountability is worth the price of admission,” Boschman says. “We do what Building Champions does for a fraction of the cost, and we offer scholarships to anybody who can’t afford it.”
Since its inception, 25 people have participated in LEAD Coaching.
“We have great trained coaches, (and) it makes a significant personal difference as well as enhances pastoral effectiveness,” Morris says. “A church investing a nominal amount for their pastor to receive coaching is an investment that sees immediate results. I wish more churches would provide this for their pastors and ministry leaders.”
For Friesen, LEAD Coaching has birthed a journey toward more confidence in who God has called him to be, as well as provided a system for practical administrative tasks.
“If you want to improve your skills and have someone encourage you along the way, sign up for coaching,” he says. “It is helpful, you have access to wonderful godly people, and they can help you pursue ministry (and life) at a higher level.”
To learn more, visit www.usmb.org/lead-coaching.
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.