Every Preacher I Know Needs a Coach

Every preacher I know needs a coach. There are a few exceptions, I suppose, but right now I cannot think of a single one. Every preacher I know needs a coach.

I wouldn’t dare tell my friends they need a coach, though. Their reaction would be some version of, “Well, who died and made you pulpit pope?”

Which is a good question, considering that for most—if not all—of my own ministerial career I have been the most un-coachable preacher ever to open the Bible and announce a text. Like many young men who aspired to succeed Billy Graham, I had the charisma, the character, the skills, and the intelligence—or so I assumed.

But I needed a coach. I needed somebody to ask questions; such as:

Where did that text come from?
Who exactly were you preaching for today?
Are you angry or did it just seem that way?
Do you know the rule for “you and me” and “you and I”?
Who were you pointing at so much during that sermon?
What exactly did you want the people to do?
Who taught you to pronounce “news” that way?

I can think of a thousand things I pronounced in the name of God that were of more questionable origin. I grimace at recalling the mannerisms, the interpretations, the jokes, the stunts, the gestures that have accompanied my forty years of gospel work. How people tolerated it for so long can only be chalked up to the mercy of God.

But, of course, there were no coaches in those days. We were on our own.

Things may be changing, though.

Lots of other people now have coaches: life coaches, they call themselves, or career coaches. Google “life coach” and 48 million sites will come up. I have a friend who was trying to move from a college vice-presidency to her own presidency; she hired a coach.

More than one and a half million sites are listed when I punched in “preaching coach.” That is not nearly enough; and I am willing to bet very few if any of them are in my part of the world.

Like I said: every preacher I know, or hear, needs a coach; every preacher I hear could be fifty percent better as a communicator if he or she would stand in from of a video monitor and, with a coach, watch themselves preach a sermon or two. Few things would delight the people in the pew more than such pastoral openness to being coached.

I once thought about becoming a coach myself. It wouldn’t work, I am sure. I am too blunt, totally lacking in tack, without the patience for the inductive method of coaching—that strategy that would ask such questions as:

What did you see there that might interfere with your power to persuade?
How could you make that transition cleaner?
What scripture would have been perfect there?
How could you have connected with what happened in your community this week?
What did you think was funny about that comment?
Is that theme really important to your people?

Churches should budget for preaching coaches. It could be part of the pastoral package, like convention costs, mileage reimbursement, and health care coverage. It wouldn’t cost much and would return enormous dividends. Like I said: every preacher I know needs a coach—especially me!


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