Tom Camacho’s new book, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders Through Coaching makes a case for the need for coaching for pastors and leaders. Having wise guides outside one’s context who can probe toward growth and development is not only helpful, it can save much time, pain, and redirection in ministry. As Camacho says in his introduction, “This book is written to help in this vital process of identifying, molding and shaping thriving kingdom leaders.”
One of the primary aspects that sets Mining for Gold apart is the metaphor itself. Mining assumes a posture of initiative and work on behalf of the coach. They must put in effort, be patient, and continue to dig even when the surface does not reveal what they are going after. And then there is the idea of gold. To consider leaders, or people even, as gold is unique. It is much easier to work with those who are already shining rather than those who need purifying, cleaning, and polishing. Mining for gold is honoring to both the effort of the coach and the inherent value of the leader.
There is a great need for coaches, spiritual directors, therapists, and wise guides today. Many people, particularly pastors, feel isolated in their work and need the unbiased voice of another who will encourage them and help them to reframe, while also offering spiritual support. Camacho’s book is a step by step workbook offering support and guidance for both coaches and leaders looking to take the next steps in the journey of development.
While much of Camacho’s text stood out as insightful and wise, two aspects particularly resonated from the reading as well as my recent engagement with Notre Dame’s Work Well research. The first is that Camacho takes a kingdom perspective on coaching. God leads in both the mining and refining process and the coach must submit themselves to this in order to serve the process in a healthy biblical way. As Camacho notes in his introduction, “God works continuously to call and shape leaders so they bring pleasant offerings to Him, and they bear the fruit He created them to bear. God never stops developing leaders.” Relying on the Lord’s leadership rather than a slick program or formula for developing people roots the content in ancient wisdom rather than quick fix propaganda.
Second, Camacho moves from the Spirit to the identity of the leader. The ownership of a leader’s sense of self is of vital importance to be able to lead authentically. I recently learned that our identity is stored in our brains as a life story, not as a bunch of facts in our head but a story. Research shows that this begins in our adolescence and we write our story every day of our lives, which then becomes an autobiography we are writing each day. This autobiography emerges out of the stories we tell ourselves. Thus, with a clear life narrative, we understand better who we are and who we are in the world and who we are as a leader in the world. This creates a strong sense of self-integrity and dignity for leaders which allows them to flourish holistically.
While being very helpful, one aspect the text lacks is the outside proof of the fruit of coaching. Whether through statistics or empirical evidence, it is helpful to have research throughout the text that reveals the science behind the work and the positive effects on leaders. Though this is not an academic text, it would benefit from some research outside of the author’s direct perspective, relationships, and anecdotes.
In the epilogue of Camacho’s book, he states, “Thriving is not a good idea. It is your birthright (John 10:10). As a Christian leader, you were created by God to flourish and bring pleasant offerings for His glory (Ps 92).” Thriving is essential to leaders in order to create resilience and protect from burnout.
The evidence of the need for thriving was present in our recent Institute for Pastoral Thriving retreat I had the honor of facilitating. We gathered thirty-two pastors from a wide variety of backgrounds and denominations to nourish their bodies and souls, while creating space for them to commune with God, self, spiritual directors, and peers. These pastors, both female and male, spent four days together in conversation, play, rest, prayer, and continued education on Scripture and their own wellbeing as ministers. In our time together, we recognized that many were facing major life transitions and needed space to rest and reconnect.
One of the most interesting and exciting aspects of our time at the Thriving gathering was the lack of assumption made by our pastors. Very few of them knew one another before arriving and because they shared little background denominationally or ethnically, they did not ask the typical pastoral question of “how many people are at your church?”. Instead, the pastors began with sharing their story and learning from one another.
As we are creating cohorts, we have learned that we must look for gold in new places. We cannot always mine the same places or people groups but must work to include those gold nuggets who may be overlooked because they are not typical. Thus, we purposefully protect our cohorts to include gender balance and diverse cultural backgrounds. This has proven to make us rich in authenticity, unity, humility, and kingdom likeness in our gatherings.
As Camacho has experienced, it takes much effort to coach well toward thriving. However, it is worth the work, and even the extra work to find diverse leaders, because when all of our pastors flourish, their congregations have the opportunity to flourish, and so do their wider communities.
 Camacho, Tom. Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders Through Coaching. Intervarsity Press, 2019, 5.
 Camacho, 4.
 Bloom, Matt. Workwell research. Flourishing in Ministry: Lecture for Thriving Participants. February, 2019.
 Camacho, 133.