missional community

Coaching Missional Communities – Who Coaches?

I am in a series of posts on coaching, specifically as it applies to missional communities. The posts in this series are:


Who Coaches?

In order to provide quality coaching that is effective for missional community leaders, it is critically important that a coach has two primary qualifications:

  1. A working knowledge of the Missional Community DNA and practices at The Austin Stone
  2. Practical experience leading a healthy missional community in the past

The first is a pretty obvious qualification – you want someone coaching who has the same vision and speaks the same language.  The second is a key quality for us because we want folks who coach using their own stories as examples.  It’s one thing to know an idea, it’s an entirely different thing to tell a story of how that idea played out.

Within our current structure, our coaches consist of three sets of people:

  1. Campus Leadership Team – These individuals (Campus Pastor, Leadership Director, and Connections Director) are responsible for the oversight of ~100 missional communities per campus. They are coaching missional communities themselves, as well as overseeing other coaches within their campus network.
  2. Campus Deacons – These men and women are helping coach in the region through the oversight of up to ~5 missional communities.  They are typically volunteer leaders who have led healthy missional communities, and are continuing to engage the mission of God in their own lives with a community.
  3. Coaches – This men and women, although not yet tested and qualified for the deaconate, are capable leaders who have multiplied healthy missional communities and are typically overseeing networks they themselves have started.

There are others who coach missional communities, but these three groups of people carry the largest load of coaching within our church.

In my experience, it’s hard to coach well more than about 6 missional communities, and I strongly recommend that coaches gather leaders in groups, rather than just individually, to foster peer to peer learning and to create a relational network of leaders.

If you would like to know more about the practices of healthy missional communities, please consult the “Practices of Missional Communities” series and the “Missional Communities Roadmap”.

missional community

Coaching Missional Communities – Coaching Questions

I am in a series of posts on coaching, specifically as it applies to missional communities. The posts in this series are:


Basic Coaching Questions

In addition to providing a grid to interpret and counsel, we also have a standard conversation template we have found to be very helpful for coaching.

How are you doing?

Beginning with this question sets a tone of relationship and care, rather than simply getting down to business. The answer to this question also helps you to know what tenor to take in the conversation.  If someone is discouraged, then you can focus on encouraging them in the gospel.  If someone is neutral, use it as an opportunity to inspire them.  If someone is really doing well, then use the conversation to challenge them provide some new direction.

What are you celebrating?

Listening to the answer to this question helps you understand two things.  First, it helps you identify and encourage the leader in what things are currently going well.  Secondly, what people celebrate tends to indicate what they value.  If an individual consistently talks through the excellency of relationships within the group, but rarely celebrates outsiders participating in community, they likely value intimate relationships above mission.

What challenges are you facing?

This question also gives two perspectives on the individual and the group.  First, where sinners gather, there are always challenges.  If there isn’t a response to this, or they are consistently shallow challenges, it is likely the group isn’t pursuing the vision for missional community particularly well.  Second, this question is also indicative to where there are misplaced values within the community.  If “dealing with children” is consistently a challenge, it’s likely that there is an overemphasis on the meeting and a lack of valuing demonstration of a missional community to children.

What are you doing about those challenges?

This question is vital because you first want the leader to address the challenges on their own and present creative solutions before the coach chimes in.  Ownership in leadership is expressed through problem solving…resist the temptation to solve problems for a leader!

How can I help you?

This questions helps you respond in a constructive way and meet any needs of the leader or the community.  It is also an opportunity to listen for both the strengths and weaknesses of the leader.  If they are consistently requesting articles or books, it’s likely they are a learner and predominantly lead through teaching, for example.

How can I pray for you? 

Finally, you can care best for a leader by committing to and following up with prayer.  Additionally, this question helps identify particular areas of concern that the leader has which may not be skill-based issues.  Often here is where a leader will reveal a deep issue that is plaguing their community or express concern for an issue that needs to be addressed by an elder or pastor.


This conversation pattern has been tremendously helpful for me in coaching missional communities, leading ministry teams, and in many circumstances where I’m just getting to know someone.  They aren’t foolproof, but it’s a really helpful template to follow!

missional community

Coaching Missional Communities – The Gospel Foundation

I am in a series of posts on coaching, specifically as it applies to missional communities. The posts in this series are:


The Gospel and Coaching

Practically speaking, we utilize two primary tools to guide our coaching time, but we are always driving towards the gospel and obedience to Jesus.

The first tool we equip our coaches with is the “Missional Community Roadmap”.

We remind them that issues of obedience are most often ultimately rooted much deeper in the heart, and therefore we need to understand how to approach those issues.  A problem with the implementation of our practices could be as simple as a failure of communication or lack of experience, but more often than not, those shortcomings contain a depth of complexity.

Therefore, when coaches here of problems within missional communities, we help them work through a process of identifying the problem in obedience, then asking questions about values, which flow from motivations, which are produced by the work of God through the gospel.

MC Roadmap

The chart above is the visual process that we provide for our coaches to help them understand how to go from a practical issue in missional community life back to the gospel foundation.

For example, if a leader is having trouble getting a group to practice a Third Place regularly, it’s likely that they do not value the declaration of the gospel, and are lacking motivation to love those outside the community of faith.

Rather than simply saying “try harder to engage Third Place”, we are able to help a leader or community repent of their lack of love for the lost, and rejoice in the good news of Jesus’ perfect work on their behalf.

Effective coaching keeps skills in view, but diagnoses problems and provides tangible steps that are sourced in the gospel.

missional community

Coaching Missional Communities – Philosophy

I am beginning a series of posts on coaching, specifically as it applies to missional communities. Primarily, I will be discussing:


Philosophy of Coaching

In order to understand our philosophy of coaching at The Austin Stone, I need to zoom out and provide some understanding of our view on equipping and discipleship.  In order to equip the whole person, we believe that you must instruct with knowledge, shepherd the heart, and provide tangible direction regarding application and skills.

We typically frame this idea around “head, heart, hands” – to faithfully equip someone for ministry you must teach the head, connect with the heart, and provide tangible steps for the hands. 

I summarize how these different aspects of equipping play out in the chart below:

  Head Heart Hands
Faculties of Discipleship Intellect Emotion/Desire Will/Action
Functions of Discipleship Teaching Shepherding Coaching
Content of Discipleship Doctrine Character Skill
Systems of Discipleship Training Relational Care Assessment

As we develop missional communities, our philosophy of coaching is focused primarily on coaching skills or the application of knowledge and desire. We have found that the primary need for many of our leaders is practical and situational advice on leadership and implementation.

We still pastor and shepherd the heart, and are always instructing in proper doctrine, but primarily what we are utilizing the coaching structure for is reinforcing the practices of missional community and skills in leadership. 

One critical piece of coaching, however, is understanding how our struggles in applying things practically is real a “gospel” issue.  I will work through that conviction in the next post.

In your experience, what is critical in helping people pursue missional communities?