Spiritually-Based Coaching: An Interview with Bob Logan

Bob Logan founded CoachNet in 1999 and currently serves out of Logan Leadership. He has spent 30 years working as a coach, consultant, pastor and church planter. Bob holds a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary.


How do you define and describe coaching?

Coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or a team to help them sort through what God could be asking them to do and to help clarify a plan of action to be able to get there. You’re sort of serving as a “Barnabas” to someone’s Paul. It’s helping people think through, “Where am I, where does God want me to go, and what are the next steps for me to get there?”

How is it different from other kinds of interactions? What does coaching offer and what does it not?

"A mentor is somebody who has gone before and pours in, and a coach is someone that comes alongside and draws out."

Coaching is not telling somebody what to do. We sometimes get the wrong picture of a head coach yelling at people or giving direction. It’s much more like an assistant coach, or a voice coach or drama coach: somebody helping to draw out of the person the things that are already within them. It is helping people to discover for themselves the path they need to take and the steps to move there. Coaching is different from counseling as well in that counseling is focused largely on healing, often looking backwards. It’s helping people get back to a place of health. Coaching is much more looking forward, trying to help people look at where they are and figure out how to navigate their ways forward in whatever they’re trying to tackle.

Coaching is also different than consulting. The consultant is the expert that comes in, does a diagnosis, then shares that and gives a prescription and the steps to follow to solve that. Consulting is very good in terms of helping get a breakthrough; I find in my consulting work that it often has a prophetic component to it, helping people move through something that has been holding them back. But coaching is much better at helping with the follow-through. The consulting work that I do now often comes with a follow-up coaching package to help start the implementation.

Coaching is also different from mentoring. When somebody wants a mentor, if you ask them, “What are you looking for in a mentor?” they often describe somebody that has experience in the area where they are trying to go and who will really speak into their lives. As my friend Tom Wymore says, a mentor is somebody who has gone before and pours in, and a coach is somebody is someone that comes alongside and draws out.

Now, it’s not that the coach never gives input, but the rule of thumb of a good coach is to draw out the person to the maximum degree possible and to reach the limit of the person’s own resources before contributing anything of their own to the equation.

That’s how coaching differs from some other related things. It also differs from being a spiritual director. Spiritual direction helps people to see how they’re experiencing God in the midst of whatever they’re going through. But it’s not necessarily goal-oriented; it’s mostly looking at how they’re encountering God in the midst of what they’re dealing with.

In contrast, coaching is definitely goal-oriented, to help people move forward to accomplish what God is asking them to do. It’s also a way of cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see whatever God wants to happen, happen! Again, it’s a discovery process of drawing things out of the person.

So, would you say that a coach might, at times, cross over a bit into one of those other areas? Should the coach’s role should be part of a larger interconnected web of a person’s health and spiritual goals?

Sometimes when I’m coaching somebody, some issue or issues come up where counseling might be a more appropriate tool to use. I don’t switch over into counseling mode, but I do say, “Who do you know that could help you with that?” or maybe help them get connected to an appropriate counselor. It’s not a good idea to try and mix coaching and counseling together. Rather, you tend to be more efficient by trying to connect them to other resources they need to help them on that area.

On occasion, with permission, you can ask, “Can I share my perspective?” or “Would it be okay if I put my mentor hat on at the moment?” Be very clear about when you are shifting gears so the person knows what you’re doing. For the most part, it’s best to stay in the coaching motif, to be listening actively and to ask good questions to help them unpack what they’re doing.

All that said, what are the key elements for coaching to be successful and actually effective?

There are numerous things you should be thinking of as a coach. Most important is to establish a trusting relationship. The person being coached has to believe that the coach can be trusted. Without it, the person is not going to open up, and if they don’t open up they’re not going to be able to get down to the issues of values and other things that need to be addressed to be able to move forward.

The second key is to be very clear on the goal that you’re trying to accomplish. You are forming a relationship with purpose, so it’s very important for the coach and the person being coached to have a shared understanding of what is going to be accomplished through the coaching relationship, the desired outcome or goals that they are seeking to work on in order to accomplish what they believe God wants them to do. That’s really critical in the establishment of a relationship. Having a clear understanding of how you are going to work together is also important.

One critical thing I’ve discovered is to commit to preparation before having the coaching conversation. I’ve found that the effectiveness of coaching is directly proportional to the preparation that goes in before you have the conversation or meeting. I do that through an online support program called MyCoachLog.

I ask my clients a series of questions to help them think through what wins they are celebrating, what obstacles they are facing, what they are learning and what they want to focus on during that coaching conversation. I also ask how can I be praying for them so I can come alongside them well. If the person faithfully completes these questions ahead of time and sends them to me in advance, I can prayerfully prepare. Then when we come to the actual conversation, we’ll get traction a lot more quickly.

As a good coach, I want to take about 15 minutes before the appointment begins to review where the person is in their goal process. I also pray for them, pray for myself and ask the Holy Spirit for clarity in the midst of the conversation. Then, when we connect, I’m 100 percent focused. The conversation typically goes for an hour, and I spend a few minutes afterward to debrief and finish up whatever needs to be finished up, notes and the like, so that I’m set for our next conversation. That way I make sure I’m giving my best to the person and to our relationship.

What are some of the keys to receiving coaching well? You suggested to spend some time preparing; do you have anything else in particular you would say to the person receiving coaching in order to get the most out of it?

Ask yourself, “What are the fewest number of things I need to do to get the result I want?”

The number one rule of coaching is that the client does the work. The number two rule of coaching is that the client does the work. You can imagine what the number three rule of coaching is! The client does the work.

That’s an important key. If you are receiving coaching you must be able to take responsibility for your own development. The second key is that character does matter. A person will need to face his or her inner self. So you must have openness to process with a coach and humility to be transparent.

You must also have a willingness to work long and hard. That’s an important piece. Another ingredient is to reflect on who God has made you to be. The main thing is not just about getting tasks done. God wants to grow us as we move forward. He wants us to take time to reflect on ourselves, on our strengths and growth points, which are all important for development. And of course, preparing in advance is important, as I mentioned.

Another key thing to remember is to not get too diffused in your focus. Focus on one core thing. Don’t think about everything you could possibly do to grow...you’d get too scattered. Instead, ask yourself, “What are the fewest number of things I need to do to get the result I want?” That’s quite important. Sometimes we try to have a grocery list to our development, and that’s a great way to get nothing done well.

Another thing to remember is to be aware of the seasons, so to speak. As Ecclesiastes says, “There’s a time for everything.” Your family situation changes. Your health changes. Who you need to take care of changes; you might be taking care of an elderly parent or a child. There are times you just need to go with the flow and other times you need to go against the stream.

Probably one of the biggest things, though, is to take the journey with others. Walk with people. Team up with them. One of the questions I ask frequently is, “Who can help you with this?” Helping people recognize that they don’t have to go it alone is a very powerful part of the process.

I find as I’ve reflected on those people that have really benefited from coaching relationships, the more they have these things characterizing their lives, the more traction they truly get.

Coaching can be effective in a secular setting, but it does seem there are some unique aspects to Christians coaching each other. Could you speak a bit about that?

Gary Reinecke and I did an international research project about what good Christian coaching looks like, under the direction of Dr. Charles Ridley. We went through the long, tedious process of determining what the coaching outcomes were and the competencies and micro-skills necessary to accomplish the coaching outcomes. Then we compared what we found with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) standards.

The competencies, although we worded them differently, were essentially the same. But the one big difference was that we had God in the equation: sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, abiding in Christ, the ability to hear the Spirit’s promptings and voice in the midst of it all.

If my father was correct, his definition of success was to find out what God wants you to do and do it. I think that God is the most important piece of the equation here. If you’re coming alongside a person, you must believe and assume the Holy Spirit resides in them, that they have the capacity to hear from the Spirit, and that they are the ones that must respond to God and his leading in their life. The coach is just a person that helps facilitate their thinking and processing to be able to hear the promptings and voice of the Spirit in the midst of the journey. I find it’s incredibly crucial to be plugged in in the spiritual realm and, in particular, to be open to the promptings of the Spirit as you go on the journey.

That really resonates in the Vineyard setting. It’s something we are already thinking about.

It’s a natural fit, and it’s the best posture if you’re really going to help people develop, because one of the dangers of a group that has openness to the Spirit is when the leader assumes that he or she is the only one that can hear from the Spirit and starts essentially telling other people what to do. A servant role would instead operate under the assumption that the Holy Spirit is resident in all the people they are working with around them who are also believers. Then they can be much more of a facilitator of the process of the others hearing directly from and responding to the Spirit. People tend to embrace an idea far more fully if they thought of it and if they are doing it in response to what they sense is God’s calling.

In ministry settings, there’s a range of formal to much less formal coaching relationships. My sense as you’re talking is that coaching is something that could happen at one end of the spectrum or the other. Is one better than the other? What could be accomplished in a more or less formalized setting?

One leader who participated in our coach training said he is amazed at how frequently he utilizes coaching processes, even informally. He said there isn’t a day that goes by where he doesn’t apply some aspect of coaching in his ministry or personal life.

For instance, when someone asks you a question, you could simply say, “Well, what do you think?” Then listen to them, summarize what they’re trying to say and ask them to tell you more. By simply repeating that process, 70 percent of the questions people have they can actually answer themselves. And you do nothing more than simply give them the gift of listening. You’re essentially eavesdropping on their thinking process and then helping them to unpack their thoughts in an informal way. That can be a very powerful way to develop people.

If you tell people what to do or give them the answers, you’re actually creating a dependency. But if you take the time to create a coaching posture, even in informal conversation, you’re helping people learn how to think and process. And they are able to grow.

But I do find that making the coaching relationship intentional with some people is a very powerful way to accelerate their development in their journey. Sometimes the bigger challenges people need to face will require a series of more structured conversations to help them as they begin to move forward.

Could you talk about a few of the coaching resources you’ve developed over the years, whether online or in print? And is there any sort of “clearinghouse” for people to find coaches?

A starting point would be Coaching 101, which I co-authored with Sherilyn Carlton. That’s a great introductory book, an easy read. Vineyard people would appreciate the Holy Spirit emphasis in the equation. But to get a little bit deeper, you can look at the Coaching 101 Handbook I developed with Gary Reinecke. It outlines the “5 R competencies” of what needs to be accomplished through a coaching relationship, and it has a lot of great questions and worksheets that help you think through the coaching process.

A third resource would be mycoachlog.com, which will go live in January. That’s a tool that will help people to actually track what they’re doing in a coaching relationship and help them with good questions for preparation. It gives people a place to record notes, keep action items and organize it all in one place. It doesn’t replace the face-to-face or phone conversation, but it does allow you to track and manage your coaching relationships. I find that if you are using a simple tool like that to help people move into a simple cycle of preparing, engaging and acting, using a tool like MyCoachLog will actually double or triple your coaching effectiveness.

Currently there isn’t a database of coaches that I’m aware of, but there are more and more coaches being raised up inside the Vineyard. Over time, I believe there will be more of a coaching culture that will emerge, and that coaching culture is going to powerfully impact the kingdom work the Vineyard is doing.

For more information on Bob Logan, visit www.loganleadership.com.

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