Football may be a useful analogy that offers insight in how to achieve greater congregational and community impact.
No one would argue that football is a team sport. It depends on both offensive and defensive players to win the game. But successful teams require a decisive and skillful quarterback to move the ball across the goal. The QB's job is to connect with and lead the team. The QB loves the game and understands the playing field, the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team, calls the plays, and is actively engaged in leading the action. The pastor, and pastoral team, is like that of a quarterback in football.
To move the congregation's mission forward and achieve the mission, or goal, the pastor must understand the ministry context of both the congregation and the community. The congregation's strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats to achieving the mission, must be addressed by a skilled pastor/quarterback. Working with other gifted leaders, the pastor offers tactical skills such as building relationships, preaching, teaching, counseling, listening and leading, admonishing and encouraging, and then modeling a love for the game and respect for all those involved.
An effective transformational leader's tactical skills can be improved when paired to the strategic gifts offered by a mission coach.
In football, the coach (and coaching staff) remains on the sidelines, never touches the ball, and is not on the team. The coach offers the strategic insight that the best quarterback could never achieve on their own, and without it would likely never achieve the mission.
The coach's view provides a comprehensive insight that's broader than a single game. While the pastor/quarterback plays in each game, it is the coach that provides the strategic understanding of how past game performance, current experience, and the scheduled games ahead all fit together into mission success. The coach's relationship with the quarterback, and an unrestricted view of the game from the sidelines provides the strategic understanding to build a competent team that plays well and wins games.
The coach's job is to assess the players and the opponents they will face ahead. The coach is not only a resource to the quarterback during the game, it is the coach between games who develops the quarterback's performance through practice, training, and professional development.
In a congregation, one individual will rarely possess the required tactical and strategic ministry competences. You likely won't find an effective quarterback who is not paired with an equally effective coach. The same is true in a healthy church.
A pastoral leader will only be as effective as the coaching they receive. Coaches help leaders be honest with themselves and their context. The unique gifts the leader brings are awesome, but when not aligned with the congregatin's mission or community context, gifts can be wasted. Since everyone has distinctive learning styles, an effective coach will help a leader not only lead well, but learn well, too. Everyone has the capacity to be coached.
Small membership and large membership both benefit when their pastoral leaders are paired with an effective coach. Strategic benefits are highest when a ministry coach is external to the church context, as services that are often provided by the regional association.
In regional, multi-congregational ministry (as you'd find in a presbytery), the coaching role corollary can be fulfilled by the presbytery leader. Positional titles include executive, general, or teaching presbyter, or associate presbyter. Transitional and interim presbytery leaders can often have strategic and missional functions like that of a coach, too. As a coach to the pastors, pastoral teams, and by offering guidance to other leaders (the session in Presbyterian congregations), the presbytery leader provides access to needed resources that are employed to achieve the congregation's mission.
The Association of Mid Council Leaders (AMCL), in partnership with the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), takes presbytery leader coaching seriously. For almost a decade, new presbytery leaders are not only trained in their work, but are provided with coaches that resource their learning and practice in the field. Colleagial partnerships are nurtured and skills are improved.
The role of a mission coach, by whatever title, becomes a partner to pastors that improves the leaders's competencies and increases the congregation's impact on the community.
Who helps you improve your game? Every great quarterback deserves a great coach.