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

To Coach or Not to Coach?

Written by: on January 19, 2023

To be coached or not to be coached? If someone is sitting on the fence asking that question, Mining for Gold by Tom Camacho is the go-to apologetic to help answer the question for the fence straddler.

Camacho uses GOLD as an acrostic to define his “coaching style of leadership”[1] and unpacks this style with 6 principles to guide individuals to thriving leadership.[2] Mining for Gold offers an over abundance of scriptural exegesis for a Biblical context for leadership in general and coaching specifically.  Camacho frames his proposition for coaching style of leadership with a plethora of personal life stories and learnings. He also utilizes an overwhelming number of metaphors and analogies to facilitate an easy access for the reader.

There were several ideas in Mining for Gold that raised questions or perhaps resistance with in me.  In chapter 3 Camacho encourages the leader to come alive by submitting to the Spirit. He places this in the context of his own brokenness due to lack of engagement with the Spirit.[3] He says, “You can only give what you have and you can only lead others where you have been.”[4]What does this look like?  I do believe one can lead where no path has been made. If he means someone cannot lead unless one has walked the darkness that is something different. And what about the emotional or psychological dynamics that are in play in those broken places? If a person is well-differentiated can they actually lead in place they never have explored?

Chapter 8 and 9 Camacho touches on two interrelated themes of love and freedom.  His theological exegesis is remedial, meaning Camocho addresses these from a basic theological understanding without intertwining other aspects of our humanity (i.e. psychology) into the conversation. Camacho says, “Leaders need to grow and understand the depths of God’s love as revelation, not just information.”[5]This statement is said so matter-of-fact, but how does one experience God’s love not just understand it? He goes on to say

Knowing God as the perfect loving Father is the doorway to thriving. If we don’t see him correctly, our hearts will forever struggle with lies that tell us we are less than, and undeserving of, his love. When we see him as he is, we will see ourselves as we truly are: beloved sons and daughters.[6]

It is hard to compartmentalize this idea when it comes to actually living in faith communities. So often the church is not a healthy reflection of God’s love. The community hurts/batters humans. Having revelations of God’s love then becomes an individual event instead of something in community.  Most people in the church do not really believe or have experienced being loved by God. Fear and anxiety is so prevalent in people of faith.

I do appreciate his theological grounding that freedom is found with God when we understand we are loved.[7] The U.S. is “founded” on freedom, but our history has mutated what God given freedom is. The notion of freedom in this country is self-serving and we tend to define others by our human standards of freedom. Freedom in God is not only about being freed to be who God has created us to be but using that to free those who are still in prison. Instead, humans create shame for those who are not embracing the freedom identity when it looks different.

Although Mining for Gold is targeted for the individual leader, there was merit for application with the Session of the church I serve.  In particular, the discussion of the “sweet spot” in chapter 10.  Camacho touches on the intentional focus and practice a leader must take to move to the sweet spot.  It requires the leader to discern what to say “yes or no” to in deciding what tasks to take on.[8] The questions he poses here along with the questions to ask in discerning passion[9] could be so helpful if utilized with the Mural exercises Razzetti suggests for working on purpose and identity.[10] This would be an interesting process to go through with the session especially as we think about the energy crisis (shrinking membership leads to fewer people to do the work) we face in the church.  In addition, Camacho taps into a Friedman, Taleb, and Bolsingers’ subject around the value of pain in shaping the leader.[11] It is important for the Session to understand the “why” of the community’s pain and how it can liberate and frame discussions of purpose and identity.

Mining for Gold did not add much to my leadership journey of discovery.  However, for those who are new faith leaders Camacho’s apologetic could be just the book to get them off the fence embrace the idea to coach and to be a coach. For the Lord knows riding fences for long is painful.


[1]Camacho, Tom. Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching. Nottingham: IVP UK, 2019. Page 14. Kindle.

[2] Ibid. Page 16. Kindle. These 6 principles are 1. The Holy Spirit does the work of refining, 2. Our true identity is the foundation of thriving, 3. We thrive when we cooperate with our God-given design, 4. Each of us has a sweet spot – a place where we naturally bear the most fruit. 5. The cross is God’s great refining tool. 6. All true thriving is relational.

[3] Ibid. Page 49-50.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid. Page 116. Kindle.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid. Page 126.

[8] Ibid.  Page 143.

[9] Ibid. Page 140

[10] Ibid Page 18,  54, 99.

[11] Ibid. Pages 149-151.

About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

13 responses to “To Coach or Not to Coach?”

  1. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Hi Nicole! I appreciate your pushback on this book. I think you bring up some important questions. I like the past readings you tied into your discussion. I am curious, have you looked at “The Other 80%: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Participants,” by Scott Thurmma? Thinking about Camacho’s encouragement to work in tandem with the Spirit to extract treasure in others, what ways have you implemented to reveal the treasure within your Session?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Thank you Denise. No I have not read that book.

      Not sure that I have extracted any treasure perse. The heart of the work right now is discerning purpose. I have been moving them slowly through “games” to work on fine tuning,

  2. mm Mary Kamau says:

    Hi Nicole, I loved it that you brought out the issues that you do not agree with Camacho. You however also highlighted areas that could be applicable to your session in church, in particular, the discussion of the “sweet spot” in chapter 10. You have said that Camacho touches on the intentional focus and practice a leader must take to move to the sweet spot. How do you particularly see this being applicable in your session and what are some of the things that the people in your session would have to say no to, and the tasks they would take on?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Thank you Mary.

      This congregation has never learned to say no. So the discerning we are doing is leading them to see that they need to say no. But before they can decide what to say no to, we must work on what is the Spirit led purpose. It is a journey.

  3. mm Andy Hale says:

    Nicole, you wrote, “Most people in the church do not really believe or have experienced being loved by God. Fear and anxiety are so prevalent in people of faith.”

    In many regards, those taking a coach approach can fall prey to the temptation of manipulating people to get to the answer you want them to say. So instead, how might a pastoral coach utilize this style to instill love and belonging?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Andy, I believe this comes down to making space for people to be heard and then communicating I appreciate them even when they have a different opinion. I also think it is important to challenge them to ponder deeply what it would look like in their own life if they really believed they are loved and what it looks like when they experience it….encouraging them to see if what they know in their heads has been connected to what they feel in their spirit…that head and heart connection.

  4. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Nicole, wow, I appreciate your critiques of this week’s reading. The depth of your theological heart shows through in this. Also, I like how you have often pointed to the church as community rather than a collection of individuals (those are my words – feel free to correct them). You correctly point out that the church often wounds people. What one dynamic that pastors can bring to their church community would begin to bring more healing than hurt? It’s a complex issue, but if you came into a hurtful church, where would you start to change that detrimental characteristic?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Roy thank you.
      One thing? HHHMMMM….facilitate transparency…..in the context of a safe space…..which requires that everyone starts from the heartset that says “I am going to give the benefit of doubt that everyone is behaving/engaging without malice.” This was something Razzetti said that was needed in remote engagement, but I think it is just an imperative for community relating.

      • Kayli Hillebrand says:

        Nicole: In reading your post and through the comments, I’m wondering if the challenging and painful experiences you’ve had at previous congregations that you’ve shared with our cohort lacked an element of coaching or the transparency you speak of as you reflect on them?

  5. mm Eric Basye says:

    Nicole, thanks for your post. I would love to hear your thoughts on if you sense there to be a lack of this coaching mindset among seasoned leaders. If so, why and what can we do to change that course?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Eric, that is an interesting question. I’m not sure if there is resistance of coaching among seasoned leaders. There may just be too many confusing roles…..coach, consultant, mentor, counselor, spiritual advisor. The other dynamic is practicing self-care….leaders in the church are notoriously bad at this practice. AND the church universal hasn’t always been agreeable to allowing time and space for self-care…not really.

  6. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Nicole R: I like your point that we must see God’s love correctly and we must see ourselves as loved by God in order for thriving to happen. If that is not understood, then a whole host of problems arise within an individual. Nice post.

Leave a Reply