The person:

The person refers to the planter as a complete person in relationship with others. The primary relationships are: personal health, marriage and family, core group, church community and community outside the church.

The planter’s relationship to personal health:

It is intimated that there are four primary spheres that comprise a person. For example, Jesus’ development is described as follows, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” [Luke 2:52]. The first sphere is wisdom. This refers to intellect or mind. It has been frequently observed that leaders are learners. How is the planter feeding his mind? Perhaps encourage a planter to read a book every month or two. Topics such as spiritual leadership, church history, biographies of great leaders (in the church or outside), church planting and Christian living would all be appropriate and a good coach should be prepared to recommend books, articles, websites or other resources to grow in wisdom.

The second sphere is stature. This refers to the body or physical health. How is the planter doing physically? Does he sleep well? Does he get regular or at least occasional exercise? The early years of a church plant can often require bi-vocational ministry. There are unique challenges of planting a church and working in the marketplace [e.g. tent-making]. What toll is there upon the planter’s heath?

The third sphere is favor with God. This refers to spiritual health. How is the planter’s prayer life? How has God been speaking to the planter from the Scriptures apart from sermon preparation? Does the planter take time to journal or some form of reflection? How has the planter’s faith been challenged; and how has the planter been responding to those challenges? What evidence is there of good spiritual health; and what warning signs are there that something is amiss?

The fourth sphere is favor with man. This refers to relationships with others. Relationships with others relates to emotional health. Some leaders are more extroverted and others introverted. Nevertheless, relationships with peers, especially other CC pastors are important to healthy church planters. How often does the planter engage other pastors to be equipped and encouraged?

As you coach a leader look to assess the leader’s personal health and identify strengths and affirm the planter. Also help to identify any areas that may be unhealthy that may need to be monitored. In subsequent meetings, a coach will help to identify plans to grow towards health and will celebrate progress and establish accountability.

…a coach will help to identify plans to grow towards health and will celebrate progress and establish accountability.

The planter’s relationship to marriage and family:

The next most priority is the marriage and family. Too many families are destroyed by the seductive mistress – ministry. How does the planter feel his marriage is doing? Do they have regular “date nights”? Does the planter have a sense of how his wife is coping with the challenges of being a planter’s wife? When they are alone do they seem to constantly be talking about the church?

How is the planter’s relationship with his children? How are the kids doing? How does the planter affirm the kids and spend quality and quantity time with them? Does the planter create family time and guard that time from intrusion by the constant needs of the church community?

A wise coach creates opportunities to speak with the planter’s wife [or if the coach’s wife is qualified for her to do so]. It is good to have her perspective on his holistic health, as well the status of the marriage and family. Also, it is helpful to remind them both that she is not the assistant pastor, but she is the planter’s wife; and just because she is his wife doesn’t mean that God called her to lead the women’s ministry or be the children’s ministry director.

The planter’s relationship to core group:

Jesus had a relationship with three; Peter, James and John, that was distinct from his relationship with the other apostles [the twelve], that was different from his relationship with the 70 disciples who were sent out on mission. These inner circles were also different from the multitudes of followers. Consider the image of a target. The inner circle is the three, the next ring is the twelve, and the next is the seventy, and then the multitudes.

In a similar way, church planters have a distinct relationship with their core group. So to speak, the three and twelve rings. The core group will include people who have joined with the planter perhaps prior to the inception of the plant, and others who have caught the vision and joined the team pre-launch. In addition, more gifted leaders will be brought to the team and given leadership roles as the church is in the very early stages of development.

This is an exciting but challenging time in regard to relational dynamics. The planter has a sense of comfort and loyalty to familiar friends that are now part of his core team. Yet, the planter will undoubtedly discover that some of them are not as spiritually mature as he hoped, nor as motivated, or as gifted, etc. The tension between expectations (whether reasonable or unreasonable) and performance can lead to conflict. Similarly, as new mature, capable and motivated people catch the vision and join the team, it tends to displace other core team members. In essence, someone who was in the group of three is displaced into the circle representing the group of twelve, and someone in the twelve group moves into the three circle. As the church develops, inevitably new people enter the inner circles, and those who occupied those positions move further from the core (ultimately leaving the group and the church).

This dynamic is often particularly challenging for new church planters. The deep emotional connection that is created during the early formation of a church plant causes a host of issues when these changes occur. Feelings of betrayal, abandonment, resentment, desperation, inadequacy, doubt and discouragement are all too common. So, good coaches need to be sensitive to inquire about the planter’s relationship with the core team. How is the core team doing? What are some of the challenges among the core team? How are transitions among the team working out? What issues are arising, and what are you doing about them? What do you plan to do differently in the future and why? What is God teaching you about yourself, ministry and God from these experiences?

…good coaches need to be sensitive to inquire about the planter’s relationship with the core team.

The planter’s relationship to church community:

As the plant starts to grow beyond the initial core group and becomes a larger church community, it presents a new challenge for the planter. Planters are called to shepherd the flock of God. So, they tend to want to be the “uber-pastor” who cares for every conceivable need that arises among the flock. The problem is compounded because the small size of the fledgling work attracts people who are spiritually and emotionally unhealthy, who have an inordinate dependence upon the pastor. The growing perceived needs, requests or demands for attention, and the planter’s desire to care for everyone is unhealthy for the planter and the church community. The planter may fear if he doesn’t care for the needs then the people will leave. He may have assumed it was his job to care for all the needs. Perhaps the planter believes no one else is capable or available to minister to the needs, or that he doesn’t have the time or the people to train to care for the needs.

…the planter may fear if he doesn’t care for the needs then the people will leave.

Here again, a good coach helps to orient the planter towards healthy boundaries. Inquire about the relationship to the church community. What needs has the planter been taking on? Who is helping to care for needs? How has the planter been developing other leaders to care for needs? How often has the planter said “no” to a request for help and what happened? How has the planter protected marriage and family time from requests for help from the church community? What issues are arising, and what are you doing about them? What do you plan to do differently in the future and why? What are you learning about yourself, ministry and God from these experiences?

The planter’s relationship to the culture:

The planter is called to engage the unsaved and unchurched people in the community where the church is planted [missional redemptive engagement]. The planter must develop relationships and engage the lost in his community. The planter will be the paradigm for how the church engages the culture. How does the planter engage people? How often does he connect with neighbors, people in the community at large who are unsaved or unchurched? How does the planter develop relationships? Does the planter participate in service [servant evangelism] as a means of creating bridges to develop relationships and to share the gospel? What have been some of the results [i.e. the triumphs and tragedies]? How does the planter share those stories with the church community? How does the planter involve or encourage others from the church community to engage the culture around them?

Some planters have an affinity for connecting with unbelievers and the unchurched. Some are simply gifted evangelists and can share the gospel effectively in seemingly any context. Many planters will find it challenging to say the least. Yet, all planters are called to do the work of an evangelist [2 Tim. 4:5]. So, the coach needs to create accountability, assess and align in this area to ensure the health of the planter and the new church and the place they are planted.

Summary: The primary purpose of coaching is to provide intentional relational support to create accountability, assist, assess, and align God’s people with His plan. In regard to the person, the coach is focused on the planter as a complete person in relationship with others. The primary relationships are: personal health, marriage and family, core group, church community, and community outside the church.

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