Church Coaches & Reviewing the Pay-for-a-Mentor Model

September 17, 2009 by

Have you noticed what could be the latest trend in the church world? Coaching. Seems like all the big names have been drafted, including Kem Meyer, Tony Morgan, Greg Surratt and Shawn Wood, Carlos Whitaker, and now Mark Batterson.

The opportunity for one-on-one time with smart people comes at a price: $800 to $4,500 (and some prices aren’t listed online). You get a lot for your money including a chance to go way beyond what you can learn from blogs, books and conferences. With so many coaches joining the team, it’s kind of like job security for the church world. Or maybe peace of mind in a recession.

But as cool as having any of these big names as a coach would be, something made me a little uneasy. Mark Batterson kept talking about friends and mentors in the same breath as his pay-for-coaching. You can pay for a coach but you don’t pay for a friend or mentor. Perhaps it’s just semantics, but it looked like a foul.

So I shot Mark an e-mail to get his take (his response was edited for clarity and length):

I honestly hadn’t thought through the “language” until you emailed. Semantics is important. I think coaching might be a better term (though some of these relationships will likely result in friendships). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wrestle with this very thing. If this is viewed as “paying to be friends with someone” then it gets pretty ugly. Makes me cringe. I felt really convicted about using “mentor” and “friend” so I went back and edited my posts to take out that language and reflect what I think it is that is being offering: a coaching relationship. I feel comfortable with giving people the opportunity to be coached at a cost.

I mentor dozens of leaders and I’ve never been paid for my time. But this is only for those who want a more intensive coaching relationship. I just can’t offer that to everybody. If someone wants to pay for it that is great. I think it will be worth the investment. If not, that is fine. I would still meet with them, just not in the formalized coaching way.

We have always given our time and resources for free so this a little outside the box. We hope it helps some leaders go to the next level.

I think sometimes we devalue coaching or consulting in church circles. We pay a life coach or financial planner or trainer. Why not a leadership coach?

Why not? The same could be said for devaluing designers and other creative folks in the church. Expertise is worthy of its due payment. Good call. Thanks for the honesty and clarification, Mark.

If you need a good game day pep talk or someone to put you through the paces, check out the many new church coaches entering the game. Let’s just be sure to call them coaches and not mentors so we can save the cringing for the sports metaphors.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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11 Responses to “Church Coaches & Reviewing the Pay-for-a-Mentor Model”

  • Kevin Purcell
    September 17, 2009

    It’s time for ministries that are not churches to take a hard look at themselves. How much are they taking out of the church and how much are they putting into the church. As a pastor I face of massive amount of leaches trying to take funds out of the church and what they are putting in is of really little value. We are in a crisis in America. The church is in trouble and all hands need to be on deck to protect her. If a para church ministry cannot survive with out taking more out of the church than it puts into, it is not needed.

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    September 17, 2009

    I can understand your frustration, Kevin, but it’s worth pointing out that every coach example I mentioned works for a church. This is more the church helping the church than outside organizations leaching money away from the church. And it sounds like what each one of them is offering is pretty high value.

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  • Duncan Robinson
    September 17, 2009

    I would enjoy a coaching session with Kem Meyer, I think her marketing insights are awesome. Having said that I don’t think any friend is pay-per-talk, and no mentor should need a retainer for services.
    I think this should be kept to the realm of special coaching, which is really benefical…but they are not your friends.

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  • Jeremy Scheller
    September 17, 2009

    I think this is a great topic you bring up Kevin. It’s good to have clarity around the conversation. A good discussion of what you get for your money is always helpful.
    But, let’s face it, I don’t have a lot of friends, so I’m willing to pay for them too!

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  • Jonathan Brink
    September 18, 2009

    I think one thing that gets missed is that when we pay for coaching as opposed to free mentoring, we’re a lot more present, intentional and attentive. Money clarifies the apprentice in a way that free can’t. It creates an investment not just in the coach but in themselves.

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  • Shawn Wood
    September 18, 2009

    Great question. I think its a good distinction to make and knowing Mark, I know that he never meant to imply a paid friendship. Mark and NCC are one of the most giving churches I know.
    As to Seacoast, I cannot even begin to count the number of relationships that Pastor Greg has with pastors. He loves Pastors and Church planters and meets with them often – that will not change. At Seacoast as assisting pastors we are an extension of that bar set by Pastor Greg and we are always willing to meet with Pastors.
    The difference with coaching for me is that with over 40 hours spent together in sessions with a lot of intentionality this will be more like a “Masters Degree” course than a friendship or even mentor relationship. No one has ever questioned paying for academic training. To me coaching is similar. Sometimes your professors become friends and mentors, sometimes they don’t. To me “coaching” may be one part of the new seminary of the future.
    And Jeremy – I will be your friend (of course for the continued payment of $9.99 a month).

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  • Mike Kim
    September 19, 2009

    Great topic to discuss. Over the summer I sent an email to one of the worship pastor coaches in this network (before this coaching program became available). I had asked for 30 minutes of his time at any point this year and was willing to fly out talk to him because I didn’t know any worship pastors (in what I felt was a true sense of that title). I felt like those 30 minutes would be worth the airfare and expenses alone because I already had some well thought-out questions. It was completely worth it.
    Granted I was surprised he agreed to meet me because we were total strangers, but it said alot to me about a guy who is a pretty well-known worship leader and runs the worship ministry at a pretty busy church (he met with me right before a major conference their church was hosting). We actually talked for almost an hour which I was very thankful for because I understood the value of his time.
    I did ask him if he’d be willing to continue staying in touch but I fully understood if we wouldn’t because of both the distance and the fact that we weren’t really friends (though we had several mutual friends). I’d love to sit under his coaching and leadership and considered this program, but it was really too expensive and would be difficult to fly out 3 times in 3 months cross-country.
    Sure there are many other resources available online, but I agree with some of what you guys said above–there is an element of relationship that I think people who sign up for this are looking for. The small size of the groups convey that in a way. I would most look forward to the possible relationships that could be formed, especially among worship pastors. “Worship pastor” entails different things to different churches. Just wish it was a bit more affordable or there was something available on the East Coast!

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  • Brandon Richards
    October 8, 2009

    Hey guys, check out Allan Kelsey has an incredible gift of bringing out how God has uniquely equipped each of us. Amazing really.
    He also helps you or a team realize and utilize each others strengths in the workplace / church.

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  • Allan Kelsey
    October 8, 2009

    I think the line between friendly advice and coaching is a hairy one and a source of great pain – if not clarified before the first meeting.
    It can truly be a place the devil uses to crush the heart of an aspiring leader, if the lines are not clearly drawn between friendly advice and paid coaching.
    To me, the definition of that line lies squarely in the “how”. As a friend I can mention what is working for me, but if you want the detail of the how, and you want my version… then perhaps there is where a formal coaching agreement begins.

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  • Scott Bent
    October 12, 2009

    I love the discussion! Many churches and ministries are in need of coaching, so I am glad to see there are some available.
    Historically these relationships happened without putting a title on it and a paycheck with it… I am glad to see that changing.

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  • Patrick Fore
    November 9, 2010

    I’m not sure I buy into any of this. Sure it’s good to network, learn and grow however this all seems to be more of a scam and a way to profit than to actually help and contribute. Even if it has good intentions, I don’t see this as a positive step in making the church better at what we do.

    To learn from “the leading people in the church communications world” to me is like learning from a tall midget. I’d much rather invest that money in a college class, books by industry professionals or conferences like 99%. You can learn more from magazines from Harvard Business Review than you can from anything that the church world puts out.

    I am an art director at a pretty substantial church. I think I have made pretty good progress since i’ve been here in the area of communications. I have learned that a lot of it is common sense. I ask my self, “Whats the best way that I myself engage with what is going on…” then I try to put into practice church wide methods that I respond to.

    It works.

    Aside from that, I am mentored by great leaders in the black and white pages of the bookstore. One on one coaching in the form of the written word. Nothing has prove more beneficial to my growth as well as the growth as the church.

    I guess what you’re paying for is for someone else to give you quick answers and quick fixes to very specific problems. I think it’s nothing more than a lack of drive a motivation to study what works and what doesn’t, all while really examining your specific cultural context and then developing methods and forms of communication from there.

    To those thinking of hiring for coaching, I would take that money and invest it in some marketing classes on the university level or atleast make a trip to Borders and visit the Business section then the biography section. You’ll learn more from a good book on John Adams than you can from a “Church Communication Coach”.

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