Coaching leaders is one of the things about ministry that I love most. Great coaching is a truly transformational process and contributes significantly toward greater Kingdom impact.
For me, the relationships themselves are personally gratifying. It’s rewarding to have coaching and mentoring relationships also become friendships, and I love seeing my friends succeed.
For context, there is a slight difference between coaching and mentoring, and of course they overlap.
Coaching tends to be more of a week to week or month to month ongoing process, focused on more immediate results, with someone who is a regular part of your life. Investment from a great mentor may only take place once or twice a year, can be from a distance and usually focuses in on the bigger picture and long term.
Great coaches (and mentors) ask great questions.
The questions are often unique and focused on the individual. But good coaches also have favorite “go to” questions that are helpful every time. I’ve been using one that focuses on two words for at least twenty-five years.
Here it is: Fruit and Joy.
You can frame it up in a number of ways. For example:
• “How would you describe the level of fruit and joy in your ministry life?”
• “Which is greater for you right now, fruit or joy and why?”
• “Tell me about the fruit and joy in your life.”
Here’s how it works.
Over a cup of coffee, I write those two words on a napkin, slide it across the table and say something like, “How would you describe the level of fruit and joy in your life?”
It always produces a fantastic conversation, because every time one or the other (fruit or joy) is not quite up to par.
Let me unpack this tool for you as a coach to your leaders.
I like the word fruit because it carries biblical weight from John 15:1–8. The reference is to results or production (bearing or producing fruit). The idea is one of measurable eternal outcomes. Success always includes results.
Success is not a secular term that should be rejected by the church. Joshua 1 is one of many biblical examples where God refers directly or indirectly to success. (God promised prosperity and success for obedience, strength and courage.)
Acts 2 is another. (Believers were filled with the Spirit, many were saved and baptized and the church grew by about 3,000 people.)
Kingdom results are spiritual in nature, but that does not make them fuzzy or unclear.
In the same way, spiritual outcomes are not subjective merely because they involve people.
• One person saying yes to Jesus is measurable.
• Recruiting one small group leader is quantifiable.
• A rocky marriage restored to health is clear for all to see.
These examples represent the fruit of someone’s leadership.
This is also a specific word choice with biblical context from Galatians 5:22–23. Joy is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.
Joy is deeper than “happiness.” There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a surface-level happiness, but it’s not wise to measure long-term healthy leadership against something so temporary.
Over the long haul, there are many days in ministry leadership that are not easy. In fact, some days and even extended seasons, are very difficult.
But even in those tough times you can still experience a deep and abiding joy.
God brings a peace and grace even in the midst of great stress, tension or discouragement.
These difficulties are not always directly connected to your work. Sometimes it’s personal and about a problem at home. And it’s simply impossible to separate your personal life at home and your leadership in the church.
God’s love and joy is with you and those you coach.
3. You must have both.
This is the primary insight for the coaching tool. You must have fruit and joy.
If you have one without the other for any length of time, your leadership experience begins to suffer. Over a long enough period of time, your life starts to break down.
Fruit without joy is drudgery.
Results without joy is too heavy a burden for anyone to carry. Every leader needs to cultivate a sense of inner joy.
Joy is cultivated by loving the people you work with, loving your job and loving God. Gratitude and a positive attitude also play a big part.
Joy without fruit is barren.
Joy without results is a fun party, but in terms of your leadership efforts, it is essentially a waste of time.
God designed us to be productive as leaders, and productivity (fruit) is enhanced by growing as a leader, in combination with focused and consistent hard work.
You can’t go the distance without both fruit and joy.
If you want to truly help those you coach, help them grow in both fruit and joy!