How Christian Coaching Can Help You? By Dr. Gary R. Collins

After being a senior pastor for over twenty years and now being a full-time “Pastoral Life Coach” I’m often asked by people – “What is life coaching and how is it different from counseling?” I don’t think I’ve come across a better answer for this than that of *Gary R. Collins in Appendix C in his fantastic book Christian Coaching, published by NavPress, Colorado Springs: 2009. Gary Collins describes almost perfectly what I seek to do with those I coach:


 What is coaching?

The first time it was ever used, the word coach described a horse-drawn vehicle—a stagecoach that would get people from where they were to where they wanted to be. A modern bus does the same thing, and often these vehicles are called coaches. Most often today, coaches are people who help athletes and teams more from one place to another that is better and where they want to be. Even Tiger Woods has a coach to help his game of golf.

But coaches also help musicians, public speakers, and actors, who rely on coaching to improve their skills, overcome obstacles, remain focused, and get to be where they want to be. Coaching is very popular in business and corporate settings around the world where “executive coaches” help managers and other business leaders deal with change, develop new management styles, make wise decisions, become more effective, cope with their hyperactive lifestyles, and deal with stress.

Executive coaches work with people in business to help them move from where they are to levels where they are more competent, fulfilled, and self-confident than they would have been otherwise.

In summary, coaches guide people from where they are toward the greater competence and fulfillment they desire. Christian coaching is the art and practice of working with a person or group in the process of moving from where they are to where God wants them to be {My [DPC] own definition is similar, “Christian Coaching is taking a person from where they are to where God wants them to be in reflecting the image of Christ.”}.

Why would anybody want a coach?

 Coaching helps people who want to:

  • Get unstuck

  • Build their confidence

  • Expand their vision for the future

  • Fulfill their dreams

  • Unlock their potential

  • Increase their skills

  • Move through transitions

  • Take practical steps toward their goals

How does coaching differ from counseling? 

  • Unlike counseling or therapy, coaching is less threatening, less about problem solving, more about helping people reach their potential.

  • Coaching is not for people who need therapy to overcome painful influences from the past; coaches help people build vision and move toward the future.

  • Coaching is not about looking back; it’s about looking ahead.

  • Coaching is not about healing; it’s about growing.

  • Coaching focuses less on overcoming weaknesses and more on building skills and strengths.

  • Usually coaching is less formal than the counselor/counselee relationship; more often it is a partnership between two equals, one of whom has experiences, perspectives, skills, or knowledge that can be useful to the other.

What do coaches do to help others? 

Coaches stimulate better skills. Good coaching helps people anticipate what they could become, overcome self-defeating habits or insecurities, manage relationships, develop new competencies, and build effective ways to keep improving.

Coaches stimulate vision. Many individuals and churches have no clear vision. They keep doing what they have done for years, without much change and with little expectation that things will ever be different. Coaches work with individuals and organizations (including churches) as they think beyond the present, more clearly envision the future, and plan how to get there.

Coaches help people grow through life transitions. Whenever we encounter major changes in our lives—such as a new job, a promotion, a move, the death of a loved one, the launch of a new career, or retirement—we face uncertainty and the need to readjust. Experienced coaches better enable people to reassess their life goals, find new career options, change lifestyles, get training, reevaluate their finances, or find information so they can make wise decisions.

Coaches guide Christians in their spiritual journeys. Many believers understand the basics of the faith and aren’t looking to be discipled. But they need focused time with somebody who has been on the spiritual road longer, who models Christlikeness, can point out the barriers to growth, and can guide the journey.

Coaches speak the truth in love. Good coaches know that sometimes the best way to help is by refusing to ignore harmful behavior patterns. Instead, coaches nudge people to deal with attitudes and behavior that should be faced and changed.

What happens in coaching?

Coaching is a relationship that most often is client centered and goal directed. Every coaching situation is unique, but usually coaches will begin by exploring the issues that the person wants to change. In what areas does he or she want to grow? Sometimes the person wants to be a better leader, better self-manager, or someone with a clearer perspective about where to go in the future. Christians in coaching may seek to determine where God appears to be leading them to go.

There is also the need for better awareness of where the person is at present. What are his or her strengths, weaknesses, abilities, interests, passions, spiritual gifts, values, worldviews, and hopes? Often the coach will use assessment tools to enable people to learn more about themselves.

Then comes vision. Coaches might assist people, organizations, or churches in formulating life-vision or life-mission statements. Coaches might ask, for example, “Considering your gifts, abilities, driving passions, and unique God-given personality, what is your life mission?” It takes time to answer a question like that, but without a clear vision, people, churches, organizations, and even governments tend to drift with no direction.

At some time, coaches will help people set goals and plan ways to reach these goals.

When obstacles get in the way, coaches challenge, encourage, and give accountability so the person can get past the obstacles and experience success. A coach can help you remove the blinders, allowing you to see what you may not recognize and give support as you move forward. A Christian coach is there for you, prayerfully listening to your concerns and asking questions that will give you clarity on your situation, get you past your own blocks, realize your God-given potential, and challenge you to be your best.

{DPC I’d like to add my two cents about the coaching I do – I love coaching it allows me to focus on the specific needs of individuals and organizations and intentionally help them become Christ focused and thus more strategic and effective in that which truly satisfies and will last forever. The primary means I use to help people in coaching is by helping individuals develop what I call a ‘Vertical Life Plan.” A VLP is a personalized goal plan to integrate all of life holistically centered in and around Jesus as your Leader, and you as a devoted follower of Him as your Savior and Lord.  If you are interested in personal or organizational life coaching I’d love to hear how I can serve you – Dr. David P Craig – I can best be reached at:}

*Gary R. Collins is a licensed clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Purdue University. He is the author of numerous articles and over 50 books, including Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, The Biblical Basis of Christian Counseling, and Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality. Gary was general editor of the thirty-volume Resources for Christian Counseling series of professional counseling books mostly published in the 1980s, the Word Christian Counseling Library of cassette tapes, and the twelve-volume Contemporary Christian Counseling series of books that appeared in the early 1990’s.

In December 2001 NavPress published Gary’s book Christian Coaching, a book that has been revised, expanded, updated, and published in 2009. The third edition of Christian Counseling (revised, expanded and completely updated) was published by Thomas Nelson publishers in 2007, followed by an accompanying Casebook of Christian Counseling, also published by Nelson.

Gary Collins grew up in Canada and graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and the University of Toronto before taking a year of study at the University of London. His first teaching occurred during that year as he taught courses for the University of Maryland in Germany and England. Gary spent several years in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve before moving to the United States to study clinical psychology at Purdue University. He took his clinical psychology internship at the University of Oregon Medical School Hospitals (now University of Oregon Health Sciences University) in Portland and subsequently enrolled at Western Seminary for a year of theological study.

At Western he met his wife Julie. They were married in 1964 and moved to Minnesota where Gary taught psychology at Bethel College in St. Paul. Their two daughters, Lynn and Jan were born in Minnesota. After a year on the faculty of Conwell School of Theology in Philadelphia, the Collins family moved to Illinois where Gary taught psychology and counseling at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. For much of that time he was department chairman.

In 1991, Gary assumed responsibility for co-leading the fledgling American Association of Christian Counselors. In the seven years that followed, Gary was AACC Executive Director and later the organization’s first President. During that time AACC grew from about 700 paid members to more than 15,000. In addition to these duties, Gary founded Christian Counseling Today, the official AACC magazine which he edited for several years. In October, 1998 Gary Collins resigned from his responsibilities with AACC so he could devote more time to developing Christian counseling and Christian coaching worldwide. In addition to his other responsibilities, he currently holds a position as Distinguished Professor of Coaching and Leadership at Richmont Graduate University (formerly Psychological Studies Institute) in Atlanta and Chattanooga. In addition he is Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Psychology and Counseling at Regent University in Virginia where he consults with the faculty and annually teaches an accredited on-line doctoral course in coaching.

Gary has accepted invitations to speak in more than fifty countries and he continues to travel overseas and within North America to give lectures and lead workshops on Christian counseling, leadership, and Christian coaching. Gary also has a small coaching practice, writes the weekly Gary R. Collins Newsletter, and mentors a number of young, emergent leaders. He is active in a local fitness center, is blessed with boundless energy and good health, and has no plans to retire. Gary and Julie Collins live in northern Illinois, not far from their two daughters, their son-in-law, and their grandson Colin Angus McAlister.

Twelve Steps Toward Balance by Carson Pue


(Adapted from *Carson Pue, Mentoring Leaders, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005, p. 227)

(1) Set boundaries…If you don’t set boundaries, other people will set them for you. Establish ones that are healthy for you and your family without taking advantage of the ministry God has called you to do.

(2) Watch, ask, and listen…Observe other leaders and talk with a mentor about managing the demands of ministry, marriage, and family life.

(3) Work smarter, not harder…Often people default to do what is easiest first, rather than those things that are most important.

(4) Make appointments…Entries in our day planner should reflect what’s important to us, such as family, reading times, time for neighbors and friends, etc. Write them in!

(5) Begin small…Give yourself the gift of a couple of hours of freedom. Then expand it to a half-day block of time.

(6) Leave work at the office…Or it can ruin your days off, cause feelings of guilt, consume emotional energy; turn off your cell phone, BlackBerry, etc.

(7) Teach yourself to grow into your leisure time…It takes practice, but it’s fun. Develop a healthy theology of leisure.

(8) Find other ways to get all the work done…Keep chipping away at the tasks and delegate.

(9) Let people know when you are “off”…Keep staff informed and set boundaries.

(10) Find ways to clear your mind after work…Take an hour every Friday to organize your next week; it helps to unclutter your mind for the weekend.

(11) Create more space around activities…Resist packing more into each day, and instead build a little margin into your activities.

(12) Learn to not over schedule errands…Avoid pushing all your personal errands onto your days off.

Carson is today the Executive Director at First Baptist Church right smack in the heart of downtown Vancouver, Canada. He describes the church this way, “Congregating in this historic stone building in the very heart of the downtown is a community. We are young, old and in-between, rich, poor, employed and re-training, multicultural, families and singles, Bible scholars, seekers. All share a heart for the city.”
For fourteen years Carson served as CEO of Arrow Leadership a ministry recognized as a global leader in Christian leadership development. Arrow develops leaders worldwide “to be led more by Jesus, lead more like Jesus, and to lead more to Jesus.” They have been highly successful in transforming and enriching the lives and  leadership of men and women who are now deployed around the world.

Recognized as a leader of leaders Carson has an ability to identify leaders and invest wisdom into their development through mentoring, teaching and spiritual guidance.He is also best-selling author: “Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling and Competency” by Baker Books and his new  Mentoring Wisdom: Living and leading well. Carson is known through his speaking at conferences, published articles, national radio programs and commentaries. Through referrals over 50,000 leaders benefit from his monthly leadership emails “To the Point” “Mentoring Questions” and magazine columns.

With his encouraging style, creative ideas, engaging humor and ministry experience, people find Carson well fitted for his role. In a straightforward manner Carson shares both from success and failure in ministry, believing that leaders learn from both. He is a popular keynote speaker on themes around leadership, spiritual development and the realities of being a pastor today.Carson extends his leadership by serving on the board of directors for World Vision,  Crossroad Communications and CTS Television Network. In addition he is an advisor for the boards of The Billy Graham CenterTruefaced, and the Entrepreneurial Leaders Organization.  He is a trusted advisor to Christian leaders across Canada and the USA and connects globally with The Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance.

When not traveling the world encouraging leaders, he loves sailing with his BFF and first mateBrenda whom he has been married to since 1976. He loves time with his three sons, two daughters by marriage and three grandsons. He is also restored by laughter, sailing, Ireland, writing and spiritual retreats.

Book Review: When Work and Family Collide by Andy Stanley

Helping You Balance God’s Priorities for Your Life

 One of the most difficult things I’ve experienced in life (as a pastor with five kids) is balancing work/ministry and family. Whether you are a dad, mom, single parent, in full time ministry or have a full time job – or no matter how you slice it – it’s hard to balance work and family.

In this book Andy Stanley articulates the modern realities that face us in the market place and in our homes. He does not minimize, rationalize, or make excuses for the break down of families. What he does very well is to show how we can be excellent in the marketplace and serve our families needs in a balanced and biblical manner.

Andy Stanley gives a myriad of practical examples of how we can prioritize our lives biblically and bring glory to God in the workplace and in our homes. I highly recommend this book is a very practical guide and help for you in seeking to be a balanced Christian that prioritizes life in a manner that contributes mightily to what is most pleasing to our Awesome God – for His ultimate glory.