Servant Leadership: Practices
Conduct: Three Interactive Leadership Models
Coaching/Team Leadership” (SL#71)

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:3 – Charting Your Course
(See companion articles SL#70 and SL#72)


Model #2 Coaching/Team Leadership

Source: This model is abstracted from SkillTrack Vol. #3 – Coaching Leadership: Building a Winning Ministry Team by James D. Williams and Lloyd Elder, published by the Moench Center for Church Leadership, Belmont University, 1999, 2004.

Summary: Coaching Leadership presents and explores the fundamentals, steps, and skills applied to the practices and tasks of a winning ministry team in kingdom service. This model is reflected in 1 Cor. 3:9–“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”–1 Cor. 3:9


  • Ministry team: a company of Christ’s followers mutually committed
    • to Christ as sovereign Lord and Head of the church,
    • to the church as the servant people of God,
    • to each other, having knowledge and skills and,
    • to collaboration in achieving mutual kingdom goals.
  • Team leadership: Effective team leaders step outside their comfort zones and practices (see Daft, pp. 363-366):
    • learning to relax and admit their ignorance; take care of team members, communicate–pay attention to people, learn to truly share power, information, and responsibility;
    • recognizing the importance of shared purpose and values;
    • relying on interdependent skills and practices.
  • “The coaching approach”:
    • “will guide you in making the most of each employee’s special talents and harness your group’s combined energy to create a results-focused team” (see Holliday, Coaching, p. xii).
    • “with this role you support and affirm, motivate and encourage, inspire and get buy-in. A coach requires trust and that comes about through involvement, communication and clarity of goals.” (see Holliday, Coaching, p. 123)
  • [Masterful coaching] “involves challenging and supporting people in achieving higher levels of performance while allowing them to bring out the best in themselves and those around them. . . . [it] is a journey, not just a destination.” (Hargrove, Masterful Coaching, p. 15)

Coaching Step #1: Pay Attention to Fundamentals
What are the fundamentals of coaching a ministry team, the practices of Jesus as a player/coach, and your own performance as a coaching leader?

  1. Coaching leadership is an expression of the equipping ministry of Ephesians 4:7-12. Each believer is gifted as Christ has apportioned, and there is a diversity of gifts in the body of Christ–His ministry team. The twofold purpose of gifts and gifted leaders is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
    . . . “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . .” –Eph. 4:12
  2. Jesus as a player/coach is the pattern for those who would lead like Jesus, including:
  • learned from others (Luke 2:46);
  • determined His mission (Mt. 4:18-22);
  • recruited His team and delegated (Mk. 3:14-15);
  • instilled teamwork (Mk. 10:42-43);
  • invited others to learn (Mt. 11:28-30);
  • trusted His mission to others (Mt. 28:19-20);
  • coached His followers in tough assignments (Mk. 9:1-13);
  • promised ultimate victory (Rev. 11:15).

Coaching Step #2: Build a Team Spirit

  1. The church as a “kingdom team” is reflected in the church as a “company”–Acts 4:32. Other biblical metaphors complete the concept: body of Christ, household of faith, royal priesthood, holy nation, fellow citizens, people of the way.
  2. The church as “team,” or community, implies purpose, commitment, encouragement, diversity, partnership, and cooperation. Where is your ministry team in the process?
  3. Stages in developing a ministry team as a community of commitment include eight levels and processes. Those marked by an * are from Bruce W. Tuckman’s theory/model. (See Kinicki and Kreitner, pp. 204-05.)

    * Forming–a collection of individuals beginning the process of transition toward members of a group.
    * Storming–group members relying on their own ideas and resources and competing with one another as a normal process toward becoming a group.
    Conforming–some members become compliant, either to an authority or position, or to the group as a whole.
    De-forming–the group refuses to work as a team, or becomes dysfunctional, continuing in disunity and conflict.
    Informing–team members begin to open up in communication, talking and listening, moving toward one another.
    * Norming–mutual acceptance of each other as team members, developing a sense of common spirit, goal, and rules.
    * Performing–team members collaborate to focus on diverse contribution, analysis, options, decisions, actions, and results.
    Re-forming (*adjourning)–when the team’s function is completed there is adjournment and separation; or, transition around a restated vision.

  4. Building team commitment includes: using the process above with understanding, acceptance, empowerment, and a calm, purposeful presence.

Coaching Step #3: Put Your Team Together

  1. Coaches accept the challenge of dealing with people. Though Jesus is our perfect leader, as followers we are imperfect. As such, we need to be devoted to Him and His example, to one another in fellowship, and to the church as a human workshop.
  2. Ministry coaches recruit volunteers and other coworkers to pursue the congregation’s mission, vision, goals, strategies, and action plans. The coach works with team members to:
  • Maintain accurate membership records and profiles.
  • Describe the task of each position or team member.
  • Consult with persons who work with adults, retirees, youth, students, military, etc.–for potential workers.
  • Observe those who demonstrate loyalty, spiritual earnestness, desire for service, and preparedness.
  • Create and expand “internships” or mentoring relationships.
  1. Recruitment and delegation are key functions for coaching as empowerment. Given the difference in coaching/ministry situations, empowering leadership may take any one of the four “power points” from directive to democratic; such as:

empowerment - Copy

[Graph adapted from Steven L. Schey and Walt Kallestead, Team Ministry
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), p. 67]

  • from a new, untrained volunteer or staff member to a seasoned, proven one;
  • from a volunteer in a new position to one in an ongoing assignment;
  • from a new position or process to an established way of doing things;
  • from an emergency situation to a stable working environment.

    Proven practices of delegation:

  • Develop mutual understanding about delegated objectives and tasks and why these are important to the mission.
  • Establish completion dates, resources.
  • Let team members do their own thinking; but establish limits.
  • When possible, delegate a whole task–not just part of it.
  • Delegate for personal growth: to those who need experiences or to test preparedness and performance.
  • Don’t delegate the same authority to two people, or responsibility without giving necessary authority, or just the “dirty work.”
  • Establish evaluation criteria and hold the team accountable for results; agree on a reporting system.
  • Once the task is delegated, don’t interfere except when correction is necessary. As supervisor, seek to be less controlling and more empowering.

    Skill development:
    –I explain, you listen
    –I do, you watch
    –I do, you help
    –You do, I help
    –You do, I observe
    –You do, I support
    –You train another

  1. Coaches train and develop team members for individual growth, teamwork, and for performance improvement. Approaches to in-service training includes:
  • self-directed/individual study
  • created mentor/intern relationships
  • church worker/leader conferences
  • team-building retreats, gatherings
  • media learning modules
  • taking conferences, computer-assisted instruction
  • telling the stories of the church and teams
  • skill and competence development

Coaching Step #4: Execute the Game Plan

  1. Execution starts with developing a game plan and counting the cost (Luke 14:28-30). Planning consists of stating your mission/vision, asking the right questions, getting the information, and charting a course toward your new future. Planning principles
    for coaching leaders includes participative decision-making, calling for the wisdom of the whole team, including challenging assignments for each team member and building clearly on the mission/vision. Such planning includes flexible time frames: daily actions, operational, priority, strategic, strong>“Prepare,
    prepare, prepare!”
  2. Strategic execution centers around matching the team’s capability to its opportunity; consider these components:
  • Communicate the game plan based on a well-defined mission; also, study and prepare for the “opposing force.”
  • Organize the implementation, and allocate resources.
  • Make clear team and individual tasks/assignments.
  • Collaborate as a team–trusting, supporting, empowering.
  • Each team member performs his/her assigned task.
  • Lead the team into action as a player/coach.

Coaching Step #5: Evaluate Team Performance

Evaluation should seek to answer the question: “To what level did we achieve what we set out to do?” Evaluation seeks not to attribute blame, but to take responsibility, affirm individual and team successes and improve performance.

  • Did we keep the mission in focus and act on it?
  • Did we accent results, not just activities?
  • Did we have necessary resources and use them well?
  • Were we prepared for the task?
  • Where did we succeed? Show acceptable performance? Indicate need for improvement for continued planning?

Coaching Step #6: Celebrate Team Victories
“Well done, good and faithful servant!” –Matthew 25:23

  • Establish the environment of joy and celebration in the congregation, within and among team members.
  • Build celebration into every entity and project.
  • Affirm individual team members; affirm small team effort.
  • Laugh together–humor is essential in teamwork.
  • Be specific in affirmation–one-minute recognition.
  • A simple thank you–as personal as possible.
  • Encourage one another.
  • Include celebration in worship and “on location.”
  • Plan for recognitions on many scheduled occasions.


Review the six coaching steps. Re-write them in your own words, applying each one to some area of your ministry. You will not want to overlook the majesty and joy of the after-game celebration:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.–Eph. 3:20-21

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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership