In “Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching,” Tom Camacho offers a guidebook to his leadership development theory, a theory that integrates key life coaching skills and scripturally informed leadership practices and perspectives. He writes, “We must get a new lens on leadership. We need to develop the skills of Coaching Leadership.” His book is as much about leadership development as it is about discerning one’s call to develop leaders using his methodology. God’s commitment to refining leaders like a goldsmith refines gold (Malachi 3:3) compels Camacho in his work. “Thriving kingdom leaders are like pure gold. They are very valuable and they are quite scarce. Loving, fruitful and multiplying leaders are works of art, masterpieces fashioned by the hands of God himself.” The metaphor of refining gold runs throughout his book.
Classified as a manual on leadership development, Camacho’s book falls under the larger umbrella of social sciences and more specifically under the category of social psychology. He outlines his book in his introduction, giving the reader a clear roadmap for the themes he will be developing. Camacho then divides his book into two parts: God’s mining process—discovering gold and God’s refining process—six principles that lead to thriving. His leadership development theory rests on four key concepts:
- “Gold is everywhere. Potential leaders are all around you…We need to see leadership development from an abundance mentality.”
- “Open your eyes to see it…pray…To identify the true potential God has placed in leaders, we need to see them through the eyes of the Spirit.”
- “Learn the skills to draw it out. The skills…are practical and learnable…put in the hard work to learn the skills of Coaching Leadership.”
- “Develop others continuously…We need intentionality and focus to continuously develop the leaders around us. Thriving kingdom leaders are not a coincidence.”
These four concepts are then operationalized through six principles that guide the practice of leadership coaching:
- “The Holy Spirit does the work of refining…learn to work in dynamic cooperation with [the Holy Spirit].”
- “Our true identity is the foundation of thriving. We are beloved [children] of a perfect Father and King.”
- “We thrive when we cooperate with our God-given design. Something powerful happens when we align our time and efforts with how God wired us.”
- “Each of us has a sweet spot—a place where we naturally bear the most fruit.”
- “The cross is God’s great refining tool. There is no escaping this painful reality.”
- “All true thriving in relational. There is nothing more central than to love God and love others well.”
Camacho then closes his book with an epilogue overflowing with suggested next steps for thriving developed around the above six principals. He also includes actions steps for further developing one’s Coaching Leadership skills at a personal and church level. This section, combined with the deeper-level questions and potential action steps at the conclusion of each chapter transform this book into a coaching experience.
I do wish he had included an index as well as notes that document the sources that have been influential in the development of his leadership theory. He does give credit in his acknowledgement to some key people, including Bob Logan, a professional leadership coach who has also been instrumental in my growth as a leader, along with one of Bob’s early associates, the Rev. Jeannette Buller Slater. Camacho also shares many different experiences throughout his book that have been significant to shaping this approach in his heart, mind, and spirit.
Many of the themes in “Mining for Gold” resonate with themes that have emerged in our previous readings. They include:
- The idea of being refined and the role of the cross/suffering in this work of developing tempered resilience. This calls to mind Tod Bolsinger’s “Tempered Resilience.”
- Camacho notes the central role that boundaries play in nourishing thriving relationships as well as addressing what Friedman would call, the dangers of empathy.
- The coaching work of accompanying a leader as they discover and develop their “sweet spot” brought to mind the research and insights of Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey described in “An Everyone Culture.”
The piece that I am most sitting with from “Mining for Gold” is Camacho’s quote: “Great Coaching Leadership is marked by asking great questions.” It called to mind the coaching skills training I received from Rev. Dr. Laurie Ferguson from 2007 – 2009. She wrote in her workshop outline: “Questions – powerful questions – are the number tool in the coach’s toolkit.” Her influence in my leadership development rooted these practices in my way of showing up in conversations and relationships:
- Curiosity is key and is a muscle that can be developed. Curiosity creates exploration space.
- Have a beginner’s mind—be willing not to know. This models learning as a life posture.
- What and how questions offer another person more options (and the chance to break out of binary thinking), broadens thinking, invites deeper reflection, invites imagining or allowing other perspectives, cultivates creativity and flexibility.
- “I’m curious…” and “I wonder…” statements also encourage the above.
I experienced this again over the past week and a half as I hosted and facilitated a visiting US-based seminary team to Lebanon. This group came to meet with local partners in Lebanon who are responding to moral injury and its resulting trauma. As the team encountered a whole spectrum of ministry paradigms utilized by the partners I have come to know, the team ran smack into the reality of difference and the tension that difference creates. This seminary also utilizes the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) that the DLGP program offered to us in preparation for our time in South Africa last term. It was so much fun to watch the ‘ahas’ percolate as I asked the team what tools for working with difference from the IDI did they find themselves utilizing as a frame for unpacking their encounters with partners? This syntopical reflection and integration work opened up a new way for them engage their own learning from this trip and its impact on their leadership and ministry posture upon returning to their home contexts and the challenges they face there. What Camacho has added to my coaching skills is his biblical framework for approaching listening and mining for the gold in the person or group before me. It is a bit different from the biblical framework utilized by Ferguson. Widening the biblical texts and metaphors I access in my work is a gift I am grateful to receive.
Camacho’s approach to discussing coaching skills in the context of leadership development is to offer the reader an experience of coaching and the power of sitting with the questions he asks at the end of each chapter. His approach to nuts and bolts comes across as more implicit in nature. Ferguson’s approach to teaching coaching skills was to explicitly delve into the nuts and bolts of both the biblical framework supporting coaching in the context of ministry/church/mission settings and the praxis framework for the skills themselves. We also engaged case studies, experienced coaching under Ferguson, and practiced coaching skills with one another. Since I experienced one through a book and the other live, it will be interesting and helpful to meet Camacho during our zoom call to experience even more of the nuance and texture he brings to this work.
 Camacho, Tom. 2019. Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching. First published. Nottingham: IVP, 19.
 Ibid., 1.
 Ibid., 5-6.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 144ff.
 Bolsinger, Tod E. 2020. Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Friedman, Edwin H., Margaret M. Treadwell, and Edward W. Beal. 2017. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th anniversary revised edition. New York: Church Publishing.
 Camacho, 160-164.
 Ibid., 133ff.
 Kegan, Robert, and Lisa Laskow Lahey. 2016. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press.
 Camacho., 27.
 Polanyi, Michael, and Amartya Sen. 1966. The Tacit Dimension. Chicago ; London: University of Chicago Press.