Does Your CEO or Pastor Need a Coach?

By John Pearson

Social media lit up yesterday with the sad news of a top ministry leader being terminated. According to the official announcement from the board, “historical patterns of sin” prompted the decision.

It was a wake-up call for one pastor/blogger who suggested that maybe all pastors should have a back-up plan (another job in mind to support their families) in case they lose their livelihood from their clergy careers.

My suggestion: find a coach.

It’s ironic that superstar athletes all have coaches—but few ministry leaders think it necessary. For some, it’s almost a sign of weakness.

Yet pro golfers have niche coaches (swing coach, putting coach, etc.). Amazingly, Kobe Bryant scored 60 points to punctuate his last NBA game with the Lakers this week. He played in the NBA All-Stars game 18 of 20 seasons. Hmmmm. Kobe’s had a coach since junior high basketball.

So why do boards wait until crisis time to bring in outside help? What if—as part of a normal, healthy, biblically-functioning church or ministry—boards invested in their CEOs and pastors and helped them grow now? Helped them leverage their God-given spiritual gifts, strengths and passions?

Bill McCartney, former head football coach of the University of Colorado, and founder and chairman emeritus of Promise Keepers, has a great coaching definition:


“Coaching is taking a player

where he can’t take himself.”

I’ve talked about blind spots before. But sometimes board members miss the golden opportunity—right in front of them: this month encourage your CEO to find a coach. (And this reminder from last month: board members need coaching too!)

My gut: every CEO and pastor I know would benefit immensely by engaging an experienced, God-honoring coach.
Tenures would be extended.
Encouragement would be enhanced.
Spiritual sensitivity and Christ-like character would be enriched.
Vision would sky-rocket.

The old Fram oil filter line is applicable:

“You can pay me now
or pay me later


Pay Me Now: Boards can invest time and resources up front—and grow their leaders.

Or Pay Me Later: Boards can wait for the crisis, the verbal fist fights, the closed door meetings, the Hatfields and the McCoys side-taking, the late night phone calls, the messy termination, the drop in morale and money, and worse.
Steve Brown, president of Arrow Leadership, says “leading me” is a Christian leader’s most important assignment. Your decision! Does your CEO or senior pastor need a coach?

QUESTION: Is there a former athlete in your organization or donor circle who has benefitted from a coach—and could share with your board and CEO why coaching might be the next step in leadership development?


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.