In an age when technology and specialization are the norms for our society, the idea of continual learning and growth is increasingly becoming non-negotiable. The question that this book addresses is, “How do we learn best?” At the outset, Keith E. Webb, a professional certified coach, states that his book is “about learning—with the help of a coach” (p. 15). According to Webb, coaches empower people to do three things: (1) think more deeply, (2) tap into the broad resources that surround them, and (3) make their own informed decisions (p. 15).
Webb shares his experience of giving advice to others and makes observations about that approach, in contrast with encouraging others to learn for themselves. He suggests that coaching involves four main aspects: (1) listening to others, (2) asking questions, (3) allowing others to find their own solutions, and (4) allowing others to feel empowered to take action (p. 19). This allows for self discovery and resonates with adult learning literature that suggests that adults learn best in precisely this way.
The author’s definition of coaching includes and builds on many of the definitions suggested by others: “Coaching is an ongoing intentional conversation that empowers a person or group to fully live out god’s calling” (p. 28). His approach to coaching differs from others when he suggests that “the coach and coachee must pay attention to god’s larger purposes” (p. 30) rather than simply their own. While coaching literature largely reflects a secular approach to coaching, this author puts it in a context of reliance upon a higher power.
While there are several acronyms used to describe the process of coaching, Webb uses the word COACH itself as descriptive (p. 43):
Connect: descriptive of relating to building trust and rapport
Outcome: referring to intended outcomes
Awareness: relating to reflective dialogue
Course: helping the coachee create action steps
Highlights: reviewing and reinforcing insights
Notice how Webb hangs his concepts on the framework of COACH. The “connect” phase of the coaching process builds trust and rapport by providing support and encouragement rather than control (p. 47). It tends to respect the other person and treats her as a capable adult rather than an approach from a position of authority. In the “Outcome” phase, Webb also references that “adult learning theory tells us that people are more engaged in learning if they have a choice in the topic and can apply it right away” (p. 57). Questions raise “Awareness” and can be powerful tools in the coaching process. the questions create an environment of self-discovery and the exploration of the choices to be explored. “Course” relates to action steps a coachee desires to take. The author utilizes SMART goals (p. 110) in determining plans of action. Web refers to “neuroplasticity” (p. 124) to demonstrate the importance of the “highlights” (reviewing) in strengthening the growth of the adult brain.
In summary, Webb presents a compelling and relevant model that emerges out of the secular coaching environment, adding the christian component of reliance upon a higher power in the process. His rejection of totally relying on self as the ultimate source of dependence is a refreshing notion and challenges us to consider “christian coaching” as an important alternative to an already existing modality. In addition, learning theory confirms much of the philosophy undergirding the coaching discipline and on which this “COACH” model is based.
I recommend this volume to those who would wish to further understand the concept of coaching or to grow in their practice of coaching in the context of ministry.
PASTOR BARRY TAYLOR is a Doctor of Ministry student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and serves as the Ministerial Director for the Montana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.