December 2008

It happened a few nights ago. I had just finished a group coaching session with a dozen new ladies in what turned out to be one of the most gratifying and powerful coaching experiences I have had. As I drove home, replaying the evening, I debriefed myself, and looked for chinks in the way I had presented the coaching opportunity. I noted the areas I needed to improve and congratulated myself for staying out of the way when I really wanted to fill the silence with my own voice. I won’t lie; I was flying pretty high on the residual energy from that room full of women.

As soon as I got home, I checked my email and found a message from a woman in Oregon who I have never met. She had found my website and felt compelled to write me. Her opening words were such an encouragement – almost giddy with the realization that she had found a kindred spirit in me, a fellow follower of Jesus who desires to make a difference in the lives of women of faith. Seriously, she even cut a pasted my own words, remarking about the hope she was feeling, the promise of connection around the things of God. After a few short paragraphs of this, she said something that took my breath away.

I read them in stunned silence, alternating between sadness, anger and self-defense. Her words? “Dear Barbara, why are you selling God’s truth, which is free for the asking? You are just like the money changers that Jesus drove out of the temple!”


I’ll leave the rest of that story for another time. My journey as a Christian Coach has taken me down a gnarly path our non-Christian counterparts don’t travel.  They don’t face the criticism from God’s own people that want to put a pricing freeze on the services of their brethren. I could go on, but the real point I want to make is this: I have had to make peace with myself and my own intentions regarding the career path I’ve chosen and made available to God’s people. I have to acknowledge that my brothers and sisters who criticize me have no knowledge of the soul searching and divine inquiry I’ve made around the one thing that they wouldn’t think twice about: “Is it permissible to make a living at what God has gifted me to do?”

I find great relief in the fact that God has designed us with strengths and passions to carry out His work, and often times combines that work with His Fatherly intentions to clothe us, shelter us, feed us and give us good things. I choose to believe that again and again.



As coaches, we’ve all learned the value in asking those open-ended questions. You know…. the ones that are meant to promote discovery… to expand the conversation rather than to shut it off. We try to avoid those yes/no questions lest the “coachee” answer with a simple yes or no.

That has always seemed a good enough reason to avoid those types of questions – making sure we don’t stifle the conversation.

Lately, however, I’ve become increasingly aware of another – maybe even a more beneficial – reason for avoiding the closed-end yes/no question.


It seems to me that yes/no questions can have the effect of dampening hope, while those open-ended questions are great opportunities to instill hope.

In a coaching conversation several months ago, my coach asked me a question that sounded something like this:

“Well Bill, is there anyone who could help you with that?”

I don’t remember my response, but I remember wondering to myself IF there was anyone… and I quickly dismissed it in my mind….convinced that I didn’t have any options there.

Then a few minutes later, he asked another question:

“Bill, who would be the best person to help you with that?”

The subtle difference in that question made all the difference in the world to me. I began thinking about who I might enlist to help me with the project and came up with a list of four people I could ask.

He asked essentially the same question both times… but the slight difference in HOW he asked the question was significant to me. The first question allowed me to believe there was no help out there for me. The second one created an expectation that SOMEONE out there COULD help. It gave me hope!

After reflecting on that conversation, I was sold on the idea that yes/no questions dampened hope, while open-ended questions instilled hope. I’ve incorporated that principle into my coaching and have seen the power it brings to those conversations.

How are you using open-ended questions?

What other ways are you bringing hope into the lives of those you are coaching?

What examples to you have of times when you’ve been given hope in a coaching conversation?

What will you do next?

I’m sitting at home this evening – during commercials of House – thinking about a couple of conversations I had today. I spoke with two new coaching clients who have in recent weeks completed their first coach training classes and are looking forward to experiencing and learning more about coaching.

I have these same conversations every time I begin a new coaching relationship – particularly with those who are interested in learning about coaching while being coached. And it happens every time…..

In my years as a coach and coach trainer I sometimes think I’ve seen/heard it all…. no, not in terms of the issues raised or the questions asked….but in the way others see coaching and how it might play out in their context.  And every time I start thinking that there is nothing new under the sun in terms of how coaching can be used in ministry settings, I get my socks knocked off!

That happened again today… twice.

Both new clients from earlier today are currently serving in ministry settings….albeit VERY different settings.

One is back in the US after a number of years on the mission field and is now serving God by training others to go. The other pastors a local church in a fairly traditional setting. Both have served God and the church for many years. Neither is satisfied with the status quo.

As we talked today, each shared their dreams about how coaching might play a part in their future ministry efforts. Each saw coaching as a useful and valuable tool for equipping others to do the work God is calling them to do. And each of them encouraged me yet again by their passion for finding new ways to tell an old, old story.

It happens every time!