Church Leadership Myth – The Coach

kinnon —  July 18, 2005 — Leave a comment

I’m sitting on my deck at the cottage. It’s 6:20pm with the temperature hovering around 92. A strong wind is blowing from the south – the leaves rustle loudly – but not as loudly as the kids next door. Cottage life on Lake Simcoe. Life is hard!

I’ve been thinking about church leadership myths today. Three in particular. The Coach, the CEO and the Servant. In this post I want to address the first; the Coach.

A few months ago I sat in a meeting where a church leader described his role as that of a coach. Although nothing like this particular leader, the coach that came to mind for me was Phil Jackson – a man who was able to take incredible individual talent and form those individuals into a championship team – the Chicago Bulls. Even characters like Dennis Rodman worked on Phil’s team. Jackson was able to take all the talent and use it effectively. Lesser coaches would have struggled to build a cohesive team and would have gotten rid of the mavericks.

Every single player on Jackson’s team played the game better than Jackson ever would. Many are superstars still – although not as effective as they were under Phil’s leadership. So what’s the Leadership Myth in the Coach.

Most leaders who refer to themselves as coaches are nothing of the sort. In fact, though they may use the language of a coach, they really see themselves as the star forwards. The purpose of the rest of the team being to support them – to make them look good. They make the plays – they accept the accolades, and yes, occasionally they attempt to spur their followers, sorry, team on to greater heights – those heights indicated by the “star forward” looking even better.

The role of a great coach is to build a team that exceeds the sum of it’s parts. To encourage, to challenge, to correct and to have great expectations for every member of the team. Great coaches take joy in the achievements of the team and the individual team members. The next time a church leader refers to himself (or herself) as a coach ask yourself these questions:
    a) Is the church more important than the leader – is it about building a great team.
    b) Is the leader on the sidelines spurring the team on to greater heights – or is he/she always on the court, hogging the ball and constantly attempting field goals.
    c) Is the leader intimately involved in the day to day lives of his team, both on and off the court (in both work and play time)
    d) Is the leader raising up other coaches who can fill his (or her) shoes at a moment’s notice.

Don’t mistake star forwards for coaches – and don’t expect long term success of any team led by a star forward who thinks he’s a coach.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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