Can you take a coach approach to preaching? Preaching seems like the epitome of telling. The preacher is the expert who hopes to influence the listener to take a prescribed action. The preacher is letting the listener in on God’s commands, hopes, thoughts and plans. Is this even the right time to take a coach approach?
I go back to the wise words of Arden Adamson: Coaching influences everything. It does not replace anything.
Taking these words to heart, I would define preaching as taking the listener from where they are to where God wants them to go. Additionally, I would be reminded that God Himself has never forced a listener to obey. Obedience comes from the transforming of one’s own mind.
Let’s apply a few coaching competencies to preaching.
Making an Agreement
In coaching, we make lots of agreements. Setting aside the logistical agreements about time, money, and location, we make agreements with the client about expectations – what the client can expect from the coach and what the coach can expect from the client.
In preaching, I often make agreements. In one sermon I remember starting out by telling the congregation I had some hard things to say that they might find difficult to hear. However, I asked if they would agree to let me speak freely and say what was on my heart.
One of my preaching goals is to always make the listener think. In coaching, I often make an upfront agreement about helping the client to take their thinking beyond where it has been. Preachers can do the same. I might say, “I’m not sure if I’ll convince you of my conclusions by the end of today’s sermon, but rather than you deciding to accept or reject my conclusions, I’d like you to commit to giving my arguments some deep thought.”
Agreements can turn the listener into a partner rather than someone who gets to judge what you say.
Asking Powerful Questions
Powerful questions help the client to open up their thinking. The questions are not leading but instead are created to cause the client to see other dimensions to the issue. Near the beginning of a sermon, ask a powerful question that opens up the listener’s mind.
Recently, I was preaching from Genesis 2:18, where it says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” I asked the gathered listeners, “What are the problems with being alone?” Then I paused to give them a moment to think. I do not want them in download mode. I want them thinking alongside me.
At the end of a sermon, I would rather leave the listener with a powerful question than a powerful statement. If you end with a powerful statement, the listener might file the statement away and start thinking about something else. If the sermon ends with a powerful question, the listener will ponder the question right through lunch. They may think about it all week.
A good coach is good at making direct statements that are true, concise, and cause the client to think differently. Sermons should have a lot of powerful concise statements that cause the listener to stop and ponder.
Again, in Genesis 2:18, after God says it is not good for the man to be alone, He says, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” By the end of the sermon, I made this statement: “We were created to be suitable helpers.” That was a concise statement. We humans tend to think of ourselves at the center of our universe. To hear we were created to be suitable helpers cuts against the grain. The listener has to reevaluate their whole human paradigm.
These are not the only competencies that can be applied to sermons. I may write another blog about how a preacher can use Active Listening, Designing a Plan, and Accountability. If we really want the listener to move from where they are to where God wants them to go, then it makes a lot of sense to use some coaching competencies in your sermon.
Let me ask you this final question: Which one competency would be the most helpful addition to a preacher’s skillset? Let me know!