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How Coaching can make you a better leader

Justin Juntunen

Justin interviews Paul Watson from Vineyard USA on how the coaching process benefits the coach as well as the person receiving the coaching.

Paul is the pastor of the Downtown Vineyard in Grand Junction, CO. He and his wife started attending the Vineyard in Denver as a young married couple (he was 19, she was 17). They hadn’t been following Jesus for long, and thought they had too much baggage to be leaders. But their leaders recruited them to help with the youth group anyway, telling them that,”in the Vineyard, everyone gets to play!” Volunteering led to a staff position, and in all, they served as leaders there for many years. Then, 7 years ago, they left to plant the Downtown Vineyard. Now Paul is also a coach with Multiply Vineyard USA. We spoke with him shortly after he finished a 2-year stint of coaching with church planter John Aureli.

MV: Can you give some background history on how you became a coach?

PW: Two and a half years ago when Michael Gatlin started talking about coaching for church planters, Jay Pathak pointed me to it. I had been informally coaching a few guys for a while, and I was in the first group that went through the formal training to be a coach for Multiply Vineyard.

Because of our desire to help people play—because of our experience with how the Vineyard let us play, and because of our experience with planting this church—I thought it would be a great opportunity to help.

MV: You’ve said that the coaching process was helpful to you, as the coach, too. What was the valuable about it for you?

PW: As a pastor there can be this idea that “when I’m done church planting I’ll be able to do this or this or this,” but the truth is that we’re always church planting. And we all have staff issues. A church planter like John has staff issues because he’s trying to figure out when he should hire his first youth pastor or worship leader. So as a coach I got to help walk him through his problems, struggles, and difficulties, and in turn, I got to hear John’s answers, which sometimes actually brought a solution to what I was dealing with, too. Sometimes we actually had the same problems. Hearing John walk through *his* solutions sometimes left me thinking, “Holy Smokes, Paul Watson, you’ve come up with a plan for how to find a youth pastor!” or whatever I happened to be dealing with at the time.

MV: It’s like when you take someone else through discipleship material, you become a better disciple, too.

PW: Yeah. I think that coaching makes you a better pastor, a better leader—whatever your role is, it makes you better at that. During my two-year period of coaching with John, we almost lost our church. It was an unbelievably difficult period. We were renting a building from the city, and they decided to remodel it, so we lost our home. John didn’t know that, because I wasn’t coaching him through my problems. But listening to what someone else is going through and his difficulties makes you realize that, “Hey, we all have difficulties!” As I helped John find his process, I watched him grow so much that I realized I wanted to have that experience, too. So I turned around and got a coach of my own.

Church planting is so stinkin’ vulnerable. I was a staff pastor for years, and I thought I had all the tools for the game, but church planting just about wrecked me. You think that if you plant in your hometown that your friends and family are going to come to your church, but they don’t. That’s weird for them. So you live in your home town, but every relationship is new. You might as well have moved to another community. Plus, you’ve gone from being in a large church to being in a small church, and you have no resources, no money.

If you don’t have somebody to walk the road with you, it’s easy to just go back and be a staff pastor somewhere else. But if you have a coach, it really helps you stay in the game.

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