Important Steps: A Coaches Perspective

By Dr. Neil Tibbott, Executive Director of LeadershipOnRamp

One of the most famous coaching references you may have heard is the story about legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, who spoke to his team at the beginning of a season about the basics. At the first practice, he lifted a football for the entire team to see and said, “Gentleman, this is a football.”

In training for ministry, we sometimes skip important steps that help facilitate growth. If we miss those basic steps, then churches struggle to gain a foothold in the very communities they hope to serve.

Dr. Neil Tibbott

Dr. Neil Tibbott

When I went to the First Twelve training early this year, I was immediately impressed by its practicality. The ministry skills were directly related to very doable assignments that built on each other. The intended outcome is the development of a team of leaders who share ministry together.

The pastors in my training cohort have varying levels of mastery with these basic ministry skills and widely different responsibilities. These differences, however, strengthen our training model. In our cohort, we learn from each other and grow as we talk about real-life experiences we encounter while practicing the skills.

One of the pastors told a story of making a pastoral visit – and knocking on the wrong door! The person she met by “accident” expressed interest in visiting their church. Instead of being thrown off by encountering a stranger, she used the occasion to introduce herself as the pastor of a nearby church and to invite them to visit.

Another pastor related a struggle with connecting with people visiting a neighborhood library for quiet activities. That barrier continued until she realized that she could connect with the library staff and build trust with them. She now has open doors to serve that community in more significant ways – beginning with the librarians!

firsttwelve_logo_blue-scaleAs a coach, it my responsibility to bring together the cohort to review the activities of the previous month and refine the insights shared by the pastors. Then we preview the ministry skill for the next month and discuss how to apply it in each of our settings.

Training assignments are rarely comfortable. They stretch us in ways that often require an adjustment in our schedules or activities. When we talk about assignments, we also discuss the challenges we face and the new patterns we’ll need to master.

In the First Twelve cohort training model, we seek to establish a learning community that encourages pastors to review ministry skills that have been forgotten or underused. Like a weakened muscle, those skills can be built up to become useful again. The fruit of our training helps to reach communities and raise up new leaders to use their gifts for ministry, both inside and outside the church.


Dr. Neil Tibbott is the Executive Director of LeadershipOnRamp, an organization dedicated to mobilizing more leaders for more places. He frequently coaches leaders starting new ministries and trains churches to see the opportunities for ministry outside the walls of their buildings.

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