Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Coaching and Pastoring… Is there a difference?

Written by: on January 20, 2023

What’s the difference between pastoring and coaching? I have to admit that I have held a negative view of coaching born from life-coaches who have taken advantage of and given horrible advice to my sister-in-law. Tom Camacho’s Mining for Gold gave me a new perspective on coaching. At its core, Camacho states that “mining for gold” in people involves seeing “them with the eyes of the Spirit. To draw out someone’s true potential, we need to cooperate with the Spirit of God.”[1] As I read through his book, I felt like I was reading a discipleship guide for pastors. That is how I approached Mining for Gold, not as a coaching book per se, but a book on how to be a better pastor.

“Coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry and then cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become a reality.”[2] This quote gives me the most assurance that coaching, as Camacho presents it, is really how every pastor strives (or maybe should strive) for. What more could a pastor hope for than to have the people who they come in contact with to live life to the fullest by discovering what God’s agenda might be for their life?

People are held captive by a variety of self-doubts, anxieties, and obstacles that prevent them from living life to the fullest. It seems, at times, that pastors also simply become burdened with the need to keep ministries or programs running the way they always have and are held captive to the machinery of church. I recently have been hosting a book club with some of the young professionals in the church. Something Esau McCaulley says in his book, Reading While Black, resonated with one of the attendees. “In that story God acted to free a people from slavery, not as an end of itself, but so that the newly liberated people might testify to a different way of being human. God gave Israel freedom and a vocation.[3] Who we are, in all of our experiences, with all of our personalities, offers something unique that points to the glory of God. I’m reminded that my role as a pastor is to help people discover that. I’m appreciative that Camacho makes it clear how he thinks we are to do that.

Camacho proposes we can mine for gold in 4 ways: deep listening, asking great questions, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, and determining the right next steps.[4]  What I appreciate about Camacho is that he also makes clear that mining for gold doesn’t just happen in discipleship classes, coaching sessions, or planned meetings, he says those who mine for gold “invest their best and take risks to help others. It is a mindset and a lifestyle of love”[5]  It’s a way of life, not a method of approaching certain things. The practice of deep listening, asking great questions, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, and wisdom to determine next steps must be embedded in who we are and permeate all our actions and interactions with others.

[1] Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching (La Vergne: IVP, 2019), 17.

[2] Ibid, 29

[3] Esau McCaulley, Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation As an Exercise in Hope (Boston: IVP, 2020), 88

[4] Camacho, Mining for Gold, 42

[5] Ibid, 57

About the Author

Caleb Lu

6 responses to “Coaching and Pastoring… Is there a difference?”

  1. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Caleb, Thank you so much for your post! I appreciated that your pointed out that you have had some skepticism around coaching in the past. It seems like such a large responsibility and that the coach could easily and inadvertently impose their own agenda on the people they are coaching. Camacho seems to acknowledge this and I appreciate how you highlighted his four steps to good coaching and the fact that this approach is actually a “mindset and a lifestyle of love.”

    This does make me think about the great responsibility that pastors, coaches, and leaders have and it makes me wonder if there are things we can do, beyond Camacho’s suggestions, to stay aligned with God’s Spirit and focused on the good of others. Can you think of anything beyond Camacho’s ideas?

    Thanks, Caleb!

  2. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Caleb,

    I am glad this book spoke to you and helped you connect the role of pastoring with coaching. The quote you referenced, “Coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry and then cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become a reality,” makes me think of the way Eugene Peterson pastored people in his congregation.

    My question for you is this: How is this book shaping how you pastor people in your current context?

  3. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Hi Caleb
    Thank you for sharing your experience with coaching. In your perspective, how do we balance coaching and investing in people with the “machinery of the church”? While these are not mutually exclusive, they can compete for the pastor’s time and focus.

  4. Tonette Kellett says:


    I always so enjoy your posts and how you bring what we are reading to what you are doing as a pastor. Excellent quote about mining for gold being a lifestyle of love. That’s it exactly. Thank you as always!

  5. Caleb – As a coach, myself, I appreciate your skepticism based on your sister-in-law’s experience. Unfortunately, like any other profession, a bad experience can taint our perceptions. That’s why I love that Camacho focuses on what God is calling the person to do rather than what the coach thinks they should do. A good faith-centered coach will always keep God at the center of the conversation and help the person they are coaching to hear God speaking in their life.

  6. Caleb,
    I appreciate you so much and reading your posts. I am thankful to see the posture of your heart and seeing a new possibility or positive affects coaching can have in ones life. I have come to find, the longer we spend in ministry, the more grace, mercy, and leading of the Holy Spirit is necessary to look past the evil, sin, and immaturity.

    I believe Jesus modeled this so well, especially with Peter.

    Peace be with you!

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