Coaching and Sunday School

Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” They told Him, saying, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.” And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Mark 8:27-29b NIV


            If we as teachers are to move to a learning model instead of a teaching model, it would be helpful to understand the power of coaching. (I am a trained ICF coach.) I am not talking about athletic coaching, but life coaching. Coaching, according to the International Coach Federation, honors the other person as the expert in his/her life and work, and believes that the person is creative and resourceful. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:

  • Discover,      clarify, and align with what the person wants to achieve
  • Encourage      the person in his/her discovery process
  • Elicit      solutions and strategies from the person


From a Christian perspective, coaching is the ability to partner with others as you rely on Christ’s teachings and presence, focusing on what the person wants to address in his/her life, encouraging intentional action and reviewing to reach clear agreements about the actions.

            So how do we use coaching skills in Sunday School? Here is an abbreviated acronym used in life coaching:

Listen: As you ask application questions in your curriculum, actively listen to where people are and where they want to be. People often share where the challenges are in their lives. We simply need to develop the skill of listening.

Encourage: Encourage people by providing a safe environment to share where they are. Encourage people to know that God is in their midst and will mold them (Think of Jeremiah 18 and the Potter’s House) to become more like Christ.

Awareness: Allow the classroom to be a place of awareness:

Free of self critical voice

Non-judgmental awareness

Acceptance of current reality, “the way things are”


            Respond: Ask powerful questions for persons to process where they are, where they want to be and to help them get “unstuck”. Jesus was a master of asking powerful questions. Some Powerful Questions to consider as part of application in the lesson:  

When a person realizes where they want to be:

What have you done thus far?

What are you thinking about as the next step?

What consequences might there be?

What other options are you considering?

What resources will you need to accomplish the task?

Who can you talk to about this?


Negotiating action:

What are you willing to do?

When will you do it?


Mission statement type questions:

What do you want your legacy to be?

What difference do you want to make?

What do you want to be remembered for?


Challenging thoughts:

Are you willing to try a new behavior?

What if your perspective is holding you back?


Finally find ways to Negotiate Action Plans. Have persons write down the next step for them. If you have set up prayer partners in the class, encourage them to get with their partner sometime during the week to talk about their action plans.


If you want to learn more about coach training and how it can benefit you, contact Ken Kessler at the Virginia Baptist Mission Board at 1-800-255-2428.  

About tonystopic

Seeker and connector to the abundant life as a husband (to Katrina), father (to Tara & Joseph) and Field Strategist/Sunday School Specialist for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.
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