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Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders: A Practical Guide for Those Who Lead and Shepherd Small Group Leaders Paperback – March 28, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. Bill Donahue is the author of the bestselling Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, Building a Life-Changing Small Groups Ministy (with Russ Robinson), Coaching Life-Changing Leaders (with Greg Bowman), and the Equipping Life-Changing Small Groups DVD. SPANISH BIO: Bill Donahue es director del ministerio de grupos pequenos de Willow Creek Association. Previamente se desempeno como miembro del personal de Willow Creek Community Church colaborando en la planificacion e implementacion del ministerio mundial de grupos pequenos. Reside en West Dundee, Illinois, con su esposa Gail y sus dos hijos.

During the past three decades, Greg has served globally in building group ministries as a strategist, trainer, and consultant (most recently with the Willow Creek Association) and has served locally as Group Life Pastor for four churches. Greg and his wife Connie live in Elgin, Illinois, where he is on staff with West Ridge Community Church as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation. He is co-author of Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders and Equipping Life-Changing Leaders.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders Part One A Vision for Coaching What is coaching? Why is it so essential to have people in the church who are willing to guide and encourage leaders? What does it look like when someone takes on this role and invests in the life of a leader? In order to become and build effective coaches in the church, first we need to embrace a vision for the practice of coaching. It is often a misunderstood role, mistaken by some to mean 'boss' or 'fault-finder.' But that's not coaching, at least not when the spiritual growth of leaders and church members is at stake. It is different from mere oversight or supervision. Coaching is personal, developmental, and supportive. Coaches bring out the best in leaders. So let's take a few moments to get a clearer picture of what is means to coach leaders in the church. John Donahue, Bill's dad, was in his forties when he became the head swimming coach of George Washington High School in Philadelphia. For fifteen years, the teams he coached remained undefeated in league competition. Think about that for a moment --- fifteen undefeated seasons in a row. Obviously he had everything needed to establish such a winning tradition: years of swimming experience on a nationally ranked college team, the fastest swimmers in the league, and the greatest training facilities in the city of Philadelphia. With all of that, one would expect him to win. Except he didn't have all of these advantages --- actually, he had none of them. John was an unlikely swimming coach, and Washington High was an unlikely place for a swimming dynasty to take root. The team practiced only three days a week at a rented facility, because that was all the school budget allowed. The swim team also had the same challenge every scholastic sports program faced --- constant turnover. A successful tradition was hard to establish as experienced swimmers graduated and were replaced by a cohort of skinny, wideeyed freshmen who thought the 'backstroke' was a massage technique and the 'butterfly' a transformed caterpillar. New challengers also threatened the tradition of winning. The teams Washington defeated one year often hired new coaches the next, who were eager to make their mark. These former college swimmers came to coaching armed with the latest training techniques and filled with the energy Donahue had twenty years earlier. The competition had studied his poolside techniques and practice regimen for one purpose only --- to be the first team to defeat Washington High School in a dual meet. But for fifteen years, no one ever did. Standing 6' 2' and weighing 265 pounds, Donahue was hardly the prototype for a championship swimming coach. He was a heavyweight wrestler in college, and prior to that, he was in the US Navy, where he re-fitted airplane engines on the USS Hornet. Throughout his entire life, he never swam competitively. What generated this success in swimming and in other sports he coached? I believe there were several likely factors --- factors that apply to sports, business, ministry, or any endeavor that requires the development and support of people. Consistency: I believe that consistent coaching ensured the same discipline, values, winning attitude, and solid work ethic throughout those fifteen years. Donahue developed a rapport with swimmers and an enduring reputation of almost legendary stature. Students called him John 'the Duke' Donahue, after screen actor John 'the Duke' Wayne. New swimmers on the team gazed at him with awe and respect (as one might do to Penn State football icon Joe Paterno, or former Indiana basketball legend Bobby Knight). Love: Though he could be hard on swimmers in practice, demanding their best and pushing them to their limits, Donahue also had a tender side. The team knew from the stories that circulated around school that he would do anything for swimmers or their families in times of need. There were the cold, rainy winter nights that the Duke took stranded swimmers home from practice. Or the times when a few dollars for lunch money helped a struggling student make it through the week. He balanced a tough, courageous personality with a tender, loving heart. I think that is why his swimmers were willing to work so hard for him. He loved them, and they knew it. Courage: Years before working at Washington, Donahue coached at a troubled inner-city school in Philadelphia. A large, brawny student --- known fondly as the 'Caveman' --- jumped the Duke one day in the lunchroom, knocking him to the ground. Unfortunately, this colossal tyrant had no idea that the guy he just attacked had recently completed four years in the navy during World War II, followed by three years of wrestling in the heavyweight class at Temple University. In a few moments, the Caveman was tied up in knots, a pain-filled pile of twisted limbs in the arms of the Duke. Students would later speak of the incident with awe. When word of the event traveled to Donahue's new school, students asked, 'So whatever happened to the Caveman?' The Duke calmly replied, 'I put him back in his cave.' Though he kidded about the incident, it took courage to walk into that school each day. Crime ridden and drug infested, it was truly a dangerous place, even for big guys like John Donahue. Coaching was in John's blood; he was made for it. Though he appeared an unlikely swim coach at times, in reality he was exactly what a coach should be --- consistent and disciplined, a lover of those he coached, and courageous enough to do what was right and stay the course in the face of overwhelming odds or intense opposition. Today, at over eighty years of age, he is living in a retirement community made up mostly of people who are over sixty years old, and he is still coaching people. (He taught a woman to swim for the first time in her life --- in just three lessons!) He would never say that he was qualified to be a championship coach --- just that he was called. And he took that calling and learned all he could to be the best coach in the city. What will you do with the calling God has placed on you? The Underwhelmed Need Not Apply God doesn't usually call people to easy jobs. Try finding someone who ever felt competent for the service God demanded of him or her.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310251796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310251798
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.3 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
The practical ideas for leadership are great.
E. Crews
The insights are great and helpful to anyone who may be coaching or thinking about coaching small group leaders.
Bryon Harvey
It is as good as the 'Leading Small Groups' book reviewed close by.
A. Follower

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jim Danielson on February 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've read a "bunch" of leadership books during my 30 years as an Associate Pastor-Education in churches ranging from 300 to 3,000 in weekend attendance.

I would rate the workbook,Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders, in the top 10%.

It's an "easy read" with many practical ideas for not only coaching small group leaders, but for coaching people in both church and secular settings.

Try it! You'll like it! (and you leaders will be glad!)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Follower on March 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
One could choose to 'learn by doing'. Very tiring and stressful. Coaching small group leaders is, not surprisingly, as essential to success as coaching any athletic team. No coach? Enjoy the chaos. There will be blood on the field very soon. It's self-destructive to avoid this resource if a church is hoping to employ small groups. It is as good as the 'Leading Small Groups' book reviewed close by. Forms to use, goals toward which to strive, step-by-step pathways to follow, meeting agendas to fill in... what will you address with your leaders? What are the goals specific to each leader? How does the leader monitor the life of his or her group? What are the personal goals of the leader for 5G development (Growth, Gifts, Good stewardship...)? What are your goals as Coach? Where do you even find a list of possible goals? This is organized, educationally sound, Biblical, realistic. Thank you, Willow.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gail C. Britt on February 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
The essential relationship of small group coaches as those who embrace, develop and nurture church leaders "over time" rings true in "Coaching Life Changing Small Group Leaders". With relationship building as the foremost attribute of coaches and small group leaders, authors Donahue and Bowman accentuate authentic interaction as the first step to intentionally shepherd leaders.
The authors attest that leaders want to be "fed" by their coaches, to be cared for, loved, to establish a mutual trust and open communication . Coaches are advised to listen deeply to their small group leaders, actively engage in their story, ask for clarification, keep the focus on the leaders and fight the temptation to move too quickly to solutions. In fact, Donahue and Bowman also indicate that coaches should not intervene with small group leaders, or sit in on their meetings, until a meaningful relationship is established with each leader. "As trust develops, coaches are enabled to help leaders gain an accurate picture of their gifts and abilities."
In an easy to follow workbook format, the authors take the reader through the various coaching elements; to be visionary, to guide and encourage, to be personal, developmental and supportive, and to effectively bring out the best in the leaders. In essence, coaches have a heart for leaders, with an avid responsibility to equip them in key skills to become effective in meeting the needs of group members. Donahue and Bowman also advocate that the coach and small group leader "dream together" about the effect on group members, the church as a whole and the community.
Specific key equipping skills include modeling and envisioning. Through modeling, coaches and leaders share what God is doing in their lives.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bryon Harvey on January 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The insights are great and helpful to anyone who may be coaching or thinking about coaching small group leaders. There are specific guidelines and tips that will help coaches be more effective in their ministry.

The one negative that I see to what Donahue and Bowman have written is that there is too much here. The average coach working a full-time job will not be able to fulfill all of the expectations in this book, even at the 1:5 ratio that the authors recommend.

With that said, every small group coach that is looking for help in understanding what their job is and how to do it should read this book. Just don't expect to do everything that the book recommends
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chad Oberholtzer on August 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
I am part of a team of folks leading the small group ministry at our church, consisting of about 40 groups. I have read all of Bill Donahue's small group books, and I appreciate much of what I have learned from his writing over the years. As expected, "Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders" is well-written and offers many tips for those of us who want to make sure that our small group leaders are well-supported and equipped for their vital ministry role.

My critique of the book is that Donahue and Bowman seem to present a model that is utterly impractical and unsustainable. Specifically, the frequency that they expect their coaches to meet and communicate with their leaders is extremely intense. It is so intense that they assume that their coaches will step down from leading groups, which seems counterproductive in a ministry context when we're all clamoring to find capable group leaders. Though I think that what Donahue and Bowman describe sounds great, I just don't see how we can execute it. Maybe it can be achieved from the outset, but I definitely don't see how it can be retrofitted onto an existing small group ministry.

One other critique is the rather repetitive nature of the book. It is probably best utilized as a reference guide, rather than reading it from front to back as I did. If you were to simply hop around from section and section, as needed, by utilizing the very comprehensive table of contents, it would probably be less redundant.

To their credit, the authors do not assume that folks reading this coaching manual will adopt their model in its entirety. In fact, they explicitly give permission to pick and choose the parts that seem helpful, to contextualize their model for any other small group ministry.
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