A Coaching Course for Clergy?

What is coaching, and how does it help faith leaders?


Hello from outstate Minnesota—where the church is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s about to be something better.

I am a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as well as a Coach. I am working this year on my credentialing as a professional certified coach (PCC). I am also the ELCA Southwestern Minnesota Synod Coaching Coordinator, and want to invite you to consider becoming a coach.

I fell into coaching because the synod I was serving at the time (shout out to New England!) had partnered with the UCC and Episcopalians to train a bunch of clergy to coach. Five years ago in New England, we were experiencing what is now happening in Minnesota: congregations with smaller worship attendance, congregations hungry for new ways of being church, and individual clergy seeking a better way to discern their calls in this (sometimes unforgiving) church.

So I became a coach. Since then I have had the pleasure and honor of coaching both congregational teams as well as individual clergy. We have gotten creative and curious together about what it means to be church and how they might go about doing just that in their own contexts.

Coaching is an opportunity to live out one of our big ELCA values—to “walk with.” The coach asks good questions, listens deeply, and waits in silence when necessary. The coach is not an advice-giver, but a curious partner in the client’s journey. Whether the work is one on one or with a group, coaching has been an opportunity to empower people the way I have always dreamed I would as a pastor. Clients comes with their goals, and I can help them get unstuck and to focus on what is most important to them.

If you have relied on your listening skills and are eager to ask good questions, you have the foundation to be a coach. There is so little in our profession as clergy in which we see immediate results. But when I put on my coaching hat, I can see something move, something shift for the person with whom I am talking. I can see the Holy Spirit inspiring a tiny transformation right in front of me. And I can be satisfied that the help I am providing is actually helpful. 

If you are interested in becoming a coach, check out what Luther Seminary has to offer

Here in the Southwestern Minnesota Synod we are spreading viral hope by Coaching for Positive Change. One congregation said this, “Coaching moved us from negativity to hope and that hope has spread easily and widely in our congregation.” We would love to connect with coaches and those who are seeking a coach. There are so many reasons. To… 

  • Bring teams together
  • Clarify ministry goals
  • Prioritize
  • Uncover unseen motivations
  • Grow in vitality
  • Connect with one’s ministry context and neighborhood 
  • Develop leadership skills and direction
  • Gain pastoral clarity
  • Discern partnerships between ministry sites
  • Discern calls and personal direction
  • Increase cooperation of ministry site partnerships
  • Anticipate conflict
  • Manage differences
  • Phase out a ministry

Reach out to learn more about coaching.  

Hey church, we are all just doing our best right now. Maybe we can encourage each other along the way. And maybe, just maybe, we can even see God spring something anew.

  • Kirsten Nelson Roenfeldt

    Kirsten Nelson Roenfeldt is the pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, MN. Kirsten became a coach through the excellent training of Claire Bamberg at Potentials Coaching in Vermont through the Together We Thrive initiative.

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