By Chris Backert; Ecclesia Director & Organizational Architect
Within established church associations, the trans-local leadership has historically been viewed as experts in their particular areas of ministry. Whether it was music, Christian education, or family ministry, those who ended up in denominational (i.e. network) work were staff that had excelled in their area of ministry at the local church level and were“promoted” to coach and support other churches and leaders in those areas.
In the network philosophy and organizational pattern, should churches desire ongoing coaching for their overall congregation and for their mission in a particular area, the post-denominational network will facilitate this relationship between the desiring church and a church or leader who is successful in the area in which they are seeking guidance. As with church planters, these relationships will largely be between functioning leaders in other congregations. In this manner, coaching most ideally comes from the vantage point of a fellow practitioner on the ministry journey. In the rapidly changing world that new churches exist within, this co-laboring philosophy is crucial to dealing with the ground level realities of ministry. Converge Worldwide is one of the best examples of this collaborative coaching at work within a church planting network.2 However, few have moved this coaching beyond church planting
In addition to coordinating these relationships, the network could also establish a database of qualified and approved coaches and list the various topics and specialties that those individuals have. They could also sponsor training and equipping events for coaches and potential coaches so that they may improve and hone their skills.
Within Ecclesia, over the last two years we have made continual efforts to strengthen this aspect of our life and work together. For the last two years we have equipped a handful of coaches with the needed skills to provide coaching to other people. Some have even taken these skills and have turned them into a bi-vocational job opportunity. We have continued to match interested individuals on the church planting journey with coaches to guide them in their early days. We are continuing to move in this direction even more fully now, with a requirement that all churches started connected to Ecclesia will having an ongoing coaching relationship when they are in the foundational stages of cultivating a new community. We are also aligning the expectations of those coaching others within Ecclesia so that there is a base norm and fairness across the network.
In the future, our hope is that more organic coaches “circles” and relationships will continue to develop in an ongoing manner for all congregations and leaders part of Ecclesia. While we believe that coaching for new congregation be best done in a “one-one” context, we believe that these peer coaching circles will help our pastors and leaders be refreshed, challenged, and supported along the journey as they are actually “co-laboring” in this way with each other.