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Discipler, Mentor, or Coach?

October 25, 2016
Discipler, Mentor, or Coach? October 25, 2016

by Ken Jones

I love coffee, especially in the morning. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into some local coffee haunt for my morning ‘fix,’ and noticed a group of men or women sitting at some corner table, bibles open, as they are obviously having a ‘group’ discussion around the word of God. Invariably, when I notice such a group, an unavoidable question pops into my head: “I wonder if the leader is discipling, or mentoring, or…coaching?

One of the most important elements of CMDA’s ministry on medical and dental school campuses is the interaction that takes place regularly between students and their CMDA ministry leaders. Most of the time, there is some element of ‘discipling’ or ‘mentoring’ that takes place in the course of those relationships. When a leader disciples someone, the leader is the ‘expert’ on Christian growth and maturity. There is an important ‘telling’ or teaching element in the interactions between individuals when discipleship is happening. And, if a leader is operating in a ‘mentor’ role, the impact in the life of another is generally because that leader has been ‘down the road’ of life and learning. Perhaps he or she is older, more experienced, or ‘expert’ in an area of life or the practice of medicine or dentistry. Mentors bring insights and observations about what they’ve seen, what they’ve done, or where they’ve been. Again, there is often much ‘telling’ in a mentoring role. Offering sage advice is a huge part of mentoring.

Of course, discipling and mentoring skills are invaluable tools for effective ministry to others. But coaching — a much different methodology than either discipling or mentoring — can also be a powerful tool for impacting the lives of students and colleagues within the sphere of our influence. In coming issues, we’ll use this “Coaching Corner” column to feature what coaching is and how to develop a ‘coaching mindset’ as part of the tool kit necessary for effective campus ministry.  But for now, three brief distinctions between coaching and the other methods of interaction:

  1. Coaches do not assume a ‘telling’ posture in a coaching relationship, but rather an ‘asking’ posture. Coaches ask open-ended questions to promote discovery and understanding in the person being coached.
  2. Coaches are not the ‘experts’ in a coaching conversation. They do not assume that they know the answers to another person’s life challenges. Rather, they trust that truth, direction, and action steps will be the result of the PBC (person being coached) coming to new insights and discoveries through the coaching process.
  3. Coaches assume that the individual they are coaching is the expert on his or her life. Coaches are not advisors, or consultants. They are ‘listeners’ who approach every coaching conversation as if the PBC is the expert on their life. (They just may not know they are the expert, at any given time.)

We’re just getting started with our blog, and in coming weeks, there will be lots of inspiration, teaching, encouragement and information we’ll be posting! And … if you’ve got questions about how coaching works, visit our CMDA Coaching page, or drop me a personal email at: kjspens@gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to respond.

Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

About Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

The Christian Medical & Dental Associations® (CMDA) is made up of the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and the Christian Dental Association (CDA). CMDA provides resources, networking opportunities, education and a public voice for Christian healthcare professionals and students.

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