Mentor or Coach?

By Peter Meier   |    August 15, 2016

If you’re looking for some help to fit various ministry pieces together, sort through challenges you’re facing today, or you want someone to help you develop as a mission leader or church planter, who would you talk with? Would you look for a mentor – or a coach?

Mentor or coach – Is there a difference? What is the difference? And which would be right for you?

God knows what is good, which is why after he created Adam, he said, It is not good for man to be alone. God designed human beings to thrive in relationships, which is why Adam needed Eve. Joshua needed Moses. David needed Jonathan and Nathan. Elijah needed Elisha. Paul needed Barnabas. Timothy needed Paul. Each of these needed a mentor or a coach to help them on their leadership journey.

How about you? Who do you need?

As we relate to others, we help each other grow. We support, encourage, and sharpen each other to develop and achieve the mission tasks God has prepared for us. Both coaching and mentoring are means to help individuals accelerate their learning and doing, to get from where they are to where God wants them to be.

There is a difference between mentoring and coaching.

The church planter, for example, will benefit from the mentor who is willing to “pour into” the planter from his own experiences and resources (think of a funnel). The mentor will walk alongside the planter, in order to share experiences and teach skills so that the planter will learn and practice skills which will be useful for life-long ministry. Mentoring is teaching for the long-haul.

Coaching is not so much a “pouring in” as a “drawing out.” A coach works to draw out of the planter or mission leader what immediate next steps are needed to move forward. By means of powerful questions, a coach will help the leader to identify goals, evaluate options, and develop action plans needed for a particular situation. By drawing these out of the planter, the coach helps the planter to self-identify issues and answers which will most directly help to multiply his or her mission efforts at this point in time. A coaching relationship is often for a limited amount of time.

Coach or Mentor? Mission Planter and Coach Steve Ogne describes the difference this way. “Coaches pull the best out of a leader, while mentors pour their best into a leader.” 

Another writer summarizes the difference this way, “A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions.”

A mentor is someone who is usually more experienced, who takes a personal interest in the “mentee.” A mentor is often a senior colleague or a friend. The coach also takes a personal interest, but tends to be more impartial, focused on developing the individual’s performance. Coaching is also a certifiable skill. 

No church planter can get the job done alone. No mission leader should attempt to work solo. Each of us needs someone to come alongside. I have been blessed with both coaches and mentors at various seasons in my ministry. They have helped me focus clearly on goals, assisting me to identify paths to accomplish them. They have helped to determine strategies, assess available resources, and develop action plans. They have shared teaching and resources from their vast experience. They have provided needed encouragement along the journey.

Having experienced these myself, I’ve made it my goal to share these with other mission leaders and planters. Mostly, I coach, but I wear the mentor hat too.  I’m thankful for these relationships which allow these missionaries and apostolic leaders to multiply their kingdom impact.

Coach or Mentor? Both are blessings whether you’re on the receiving end, or on the giving end.

The Center for United States Missions offers personal coaching for church planters and mission leaders, as well as training for individuals who would like to learn and grow in mentoring and coaching skills. We offer coach certification upon completion of our Mission Coach Certification Training. See the resources below, and contact us for details and opportunity to learn and use these skills.

How can God use you to help mission leaders grow in spiritual maturation and mission impact?


Moment Extras

Questions for Discussion

1.       Even the best church planter or mission leader can find himself or herself challenged or stuck. How might a good coach or mentor offer needed encouragement and movement?

2.       Churches that are healthy, reproductive, and life-giving are churches that have healthy leaders. How can coaching and/or mentoring be part of that healthy church ethos?

3.       When you come face to face with problems you’ve never encountered before, what is your response? Do you seek help from someone who’s been there before? How could a qualified coach or mentor help?

4.       Would a coach or a mentor be the one you need most at this time?

5.       With whom are you investing your experience as a mentor?

Resources You Can Use

Mission Coach Certification Training is being offered at the Minnesota South District office in Burnsville, MN on September 19 and 20. Please register by August 20 - for more information, visit our website by clicking here.

Mentoring Church Planters is being offered at Bethany Lutheran Church in Austin, TX on September 26 and 27. Please register by September 15 - for more information, visit our website by clicking here.

TransforMissional Coaching, by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl. 

From Followers to Leaders, by Robert Logan and Tara Miller.

Coaching 101, by Robert Logan and Sherilyn Carlton


Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website:

Center for U.S. Missions – Contact Information 

Email us at: | Rev. Dr. Peter Meier, Executive Director;  | Rev. Michael Ruhl, Director of Training;  | Kathy Meier, Coordinator;  | Mil Behnken, Office Manager;