There is a way to use the coach approach biblically. Here’s the key: the biblical coaching value is personal responsibility, not complete individual liberty. We don’t coach people to achieve complete freedom to do whatever they want, but to take responsibility for their own lives and their actions. We make room for our clients to choose, not because all choices are equally good or worthy, but because they alone bear the eternal right and responsibility to make choices for their own life.
So with biblical coaching I will influence my clients toward the best, while at the same time allowing them real freedom to make their own choices. I will introduce them to the idea of living toward heaven, push them to grapple with whether it is more blessed to give than to receive and challenge them to be all they were made to be in Christ. I want to give them every opportunity to find the best. But it is also my responsibility to stop short of applying pressure and to allow them full responsibility to choose, whatever their decision is. The dance with biblical coaching is to tell the truth, but do it in a way that leaves them in charge.
And isn’t that how God deals with us? He allows us to be fully responsible for our choices, and he has set up the world so that his presence isn’t so overwhelming that we are forced to choose him. But at the same time he is actively wooing and drawing us to leave the good (and the bad!) to get the best. There is a significant difference between the cultural idea of coaching a person to their own values, whatever they are, and the biblical idea of coaching the person to take responsibility for their lives. As Christian coaches, utilizing biblical coaching we model our approach on how God works with us.
How to Take Their Choice Away
Here are five techniques that take the client’s choice away and violate the principle of personal responsibility:
1. Give Only One Good Option: “Well, you could apologize.”
2. Force Disagreement with the Coach: “I think you should apologize.”
3. Play the God Card: “God would want you to apologize.”
4. Shame: “I’m disappointed that you didn’t respond better to the challenge.”
5. Religious Guilt: “The Christian thing to do would be to take up your cross, humble yourself and ask for forgiveness.”
Tony Stoltzfus is a master coach, author and coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. A presentation of a thorough, practical toolkit for coaching Christian leaders to discover their identity can be found in his book the Christian Life Coaching Handbook.