Five Habits of Effective Small Group Coaches

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By Dale Earley

Coaching can be boiled down to the word itself.

There are five essential habits practiced by effective coaches of group leaders. In order to remember them, I use an acrostic: C.O.A.C.H. and put it around a star in order to make them more easy to remember.

C - Care: Care about them, their families, jobs, health, their group, and their future.

We have all heard it before, "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care." The reason we have all heard it with such frequency is because it is true. Effective coaches care about the leaders they oversee.

 

Humanly speaking, I am in ministry today because a youth pastor took the time and trouble to build a relationship with me. He cared. He filled my tanks. He listened. Because he cared for me, I learned to care for others and about ministry.

 

Learn to give your potential leaders appropriate affection and care. It fills their tanks and enhances your relationship. Tell them. Show them. A timely phone call, a card with words of encouragement, an appropriate handshake, a pat on the back, or a hug will go along way in letting the important people you minister to know that you love them.

 

O - Observe: Visit their Group and observe its health, growth, life and multiplication.

When my boys were little they said three particular words more than any others. Do you know what they were? (If you thought, "He did it," you win. But there were three other words they said almost as often). They would climb up the slide and yell, "Look at me!" They would hang upside down from the monkey bars and shout, "Daddy, look at me." Or they would come out of my room wearing my 'big man' clothes on their 'little boy' bodies and scream in delight, "Daddy, look at me." People have a natural need to be recognized, noticed, observed.

 

Mike, one of our most effective coaches, has made a huge difference simply by visiting groups. He has seen that when a leader knows that he is coming to visit it encourages, validates, and motivates that leader. The group is energized as well. Too often group leaders feel like they are out there on the front lines all alone. The visit of a coach quickly changes that perception.

 

There is another old saying, "You get what you inspect, and not what you expect." Observation helps ensure quality control in the groups the coach oversees.

 

A - Appreciate: Recognize their efforts.

There are two words every leader yearns to hear from their coach. They are, "Good job." Verbally and publicly appreciate their progress. Praise the way they minister to their members, and they will continue to do it.

 

In the 1930's, a young YMCA teacher taught a popular class on getting along with people. He taught what he called, "the big secret in dealing with people." It was, "Be hearty in appreciation and lavish in your praise." Dale Carnegie later wrote his ideas in what became one of the best selling books in history, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It still sells well today.

 

People will go to great efforts when they feel appreciated. People are appreciating assets when they are appreciated assets. As William James noted, "The deepest principle in human nature is the desire to be appreciated."

 

C - Challenge. Help them see the vision and want to lead their groups to health, growth and multiplication.

The 2nd law of thermodynamics states that all living things constantly move from a state of organization and energy to a state of disorganization and lethargy. This is true of everything, including your group leaders. One way to combat the 2nd law of thermodynamics is to describe the dream. Remind them of the big picture and the great purpose. Let them know that you believe in them.

 

When I was getting ready to go to college, I was struggling to understand my future. My youth pastor allowed me to get close enough to him to catch his heart to make a difference in people's lives. Because he had made the effort to deepen his relationship with me, I was able to hear his prayers for people, see him minister to people, and watch him agonize over people. He had something I wanted, yet I did not think I had what it would take to succeed in ministry. When I sensed God speaking to me about going into ministry, he was the first person I sought out for confirmation. I will never forget when he said, "Dave, I believe that God will use you to make a difference for Him." I wonder if I would have become a pastor if it had not been for his encouragement. Everyone needs someone to believe in them.

 

Challenging coaches say things like:

I believe you can become a great leader.

I believe you can multiply this group.

I believe you can become a great coach.

 

H - Help: Teach, train, instruct, counsel, guide, aid, resource and supply what they need when they need it to help them succeed as a leader and to become a better leader and coach than you were/are.

Let me be very clear on this point. The goal of developing a disciple is to develop them to do something. The product of good coaching, the product of Caring, Observing, Appreciating, Challenging and Helping, is the development of leaders able to spearhead a growing, healthy group that is able to multiply. In other words, the goal is to develop effective leaders who will develop effective group leaders. Simply put, the goal is not to merely build a group; it is to build multiplying small group leaders.

 

Take advantage of all the weapons in your arsenal as a coach to help your leaders. Some of these weapons include: on the job training, one-on-one mentoring, classes offered by your church, seminars, books, tapes, magazines, and timely tips.

 

As you do so, do so wisely. Always remember "the advisory sandwich:" For every one negative you share with them, put it between a few positives.

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