Coaching vs. Discipling?

by Karl Bastian Discipleship, Questions Add comments

Karl_picJust curious what you think – I hear a lot about “Spiritual Life Coaching” in the Church today.

How is that different from discipleship? Jesus said to “Go and make disciples” not “go and coach people spiritually.” I’m not saying spiritual coaching is ‘bad’ – just wondering where it fits in with discipleship?


Is spiritual coaching just a new “hip” word for disciple-making? In other words, are they actually the same thing, just a word our sports-crazy culture can understand? or…

Is spiritual coaching something that is a PART of disciple-making? Is it just that part where the discipler is giving tips or advice or a pep talk or teaching some life ‘plays’ from the ‘Play Book,’ the Bible? or…

Is spiritual coaching something completely separate from disciple-making?

Did Jesus coach?

What do YOU think?

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5 Responses to “Coaching vs. Discipling?”

  1. The Journey Says:

    To me, coaching is with a specific focus. Our church is very active in coaching other church plants. We advise, listen, rehash, kick rear & cheer them on with the specific goal of planting churches.

    Spiritual Coaching would imply that this person is focusing solely on the spiritual education of a person.

    Personally, I find that extremely difficult without taking the holistic discipleship approach. How can one really coach one spirituality without taking into account the entire being of the person as discipleship does?

  2. Greg Baird Says:

    Karl I would say that there needs to be a difference between coaching and disciple making. While there are many similarities, I view coaching as more a professional development, whereas discipling should be personal spiritual development. Some would mingle the two, and I think often that happens naturally, but really I think there should be a clear definition of what the goal is when the process begins.

  3. Gary Kniseley Says:

    Karl, Everything could be called discipleship as we are all growing to maturity in Christ. The term coaching is never found in Scripture but neither are many other words that are critical to our doctrinal statements. I am personally asking each year to have a man I respect within in our church to serve as a mentor to me. I certainly have blind-spots and can use the coaching. Or, should I say discipleship? I believe the ultimate goal is the same–that I grow in the image of Christ. I would agree with Greg that society (and our churches) likes this term and is using it. There could be some distinctions at time. I do believe that at times we seek counsel for specific issues and we may ask for advice. In essence, I believe we are being coached. Proverbs speaks highly of seeking out wisdom. However, being discipled should never be deemed as a mark of spiritual immaturity regardless of our age/walk with Christ. I would suggest that while we seek counsel, we are often being coached by someone. Does it grow us into stronger disciples? Probably, if it is good and Godly counsel. Just some thoughts…..

  4. Glen Woods Says:

    Coaching in the style credentialed by the International Coach Federation is founded on the principle of asking good questions and listening actively. It is a framework in which the coachees are guided to their own conclusions based on their unique skills, backgrounds and aspirations. The agenda, in the Christian coaching matrix, is what is God doing in the life of the coachee, rather than what content and goals does the coach have for the coachee.

    Stated differently, coaching helps coachees resolve hurdles to their goals by clarifying their objectives, identifying resources at their disposal, and opportunities they wish to explore, and setting goals to achieve the larger aim. The coach need not have expertise in the discipline of the coachee. She simply needs to know how to guide the coachee through good questions and holding the coachee accountable to commitments.

    So no, coaching is not discipleship in the strictest sense.

    However, discipleship can incorporate some of the principles and tools of coaching. Jesus was a master of asking good questions and challenging people to think at a far deeper level. Look at his interactions with the disciples, the crowds, the pharisees and other religious leaders throughout the gospels. Often he asked penetrating questions which cut to the heart of the matter. Was this coaching or discipleship, or something else altogether?

    There are forms of coaching being deployed in the marketplace which explore spirituality. However, I would not equate them with Christian discipleship.

    I do think, however, that discipleship can benefit from the attitude of respect and active listening which is promoted by the professional coaching world. Far too much of discipleship tends to have a negative slant toward the disciple. Jesus reminds us by his own example what a difference it makes when we actually do life with those we disciple. Loving them. Inviting them into our daily routines. Being real. Expecting the best from them. Most importantly, having a relationship with them, just as we should have a trust relationship with Jesus. And isn’t that the point of discipleship, anyway?

  5. Jaemin Frazer Says:

    Hi Karl,

    I think a lot of Christians are wary about adding anything to the gospel, and are especially fearful of things that sound like works based salvation.
    However, It is my experience that there is no spiritual formation without personal formation. I think too often our hope for change is placed on God miraculously zapping us and dealing with all our stuff, but I reckon He is a better father than that. He wants us to participate in the journey and exercise choice and responsibility.
    I think the life coaching skill set helps us to exchange blame and excuse for responsibility and choice. It helps us to see what is really going on in our life so that we can actually deal with it.
    I’ve just written a book called “12 coaching conversations every disciple must have” on the subject if you are interested.

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