Coaching New Leaders

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Steward Perry describes a simple process of on-the-job coaching to help new deacons get familiar with the ministry of visitation.


Getting new people involved in leadership often requires intentional effort by the pastor or others. In my ministry, I focus less on “leadership training,” and emphasize on-the-job coaching instead.

Spiritual maturity is essential. I would much rather see a spiritually mature “non-leader” in a key role than a so-called “leader” who is spiritually immature. So I begin with efforts to nurture and challenge people spiritually. Once a person is evidencing spiritual growth, I invite them into leadership. And rather than “training” these new leaders, I help them learn on the job through ongoing conversation, debriefings, and strategizing.

In one church I served, this approach proved very effective in getting new deacons involved in visiting shut-ins, which was their primary job. When two new members were elected as deacons, I set aside two hours each month to work with them during the first four months of service in their new leadership role.

The first month, I took each new deacon to see the person they were to visit. On this first visit, they were there just to be introduced. I did most of the talking. The second month, I still initiated the contact, but the new deacon joined in the conversation fully. The third month, the new deacon booked the appointment and led the conversation. I joined in only occasionally. By the fourth month, the deacons did everything. I just accompanied them and smiled a lot.

Each month, I took another hour after the visit to debrief with the new deacon over lunch. By the end of the four months, they knew how to do a really good home or hospital visit. And they knew how to teach others. The following year, I did not have to do it at all. I had two coaches among the deacons themselves.


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About Author

Stewart Perry is Senior Pastor of New Life Community Church in Burlingame, California. Previously, he was pastor of the International Church of Bangkok and he has served Baptist churches in Washington, DC, and Alexandria, Virginia.


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