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4x4x4 Coaching Process: The Key To Helping Staff Lead At The Next Level

by | Sep 15, 2020 | Church Leadership, Coaching, Pastoral Burnout

I’ve never met a Senior Pastor who didn’t have the ability to do an outstanding job leading their staff, but I have met quite a few who didn’t have a clear plan in place for making that happen.

I would like to share with you a very simple framework for coaching your staff that will make your job, and theirs, much easier. I call it 4x4x4.

A 4x4x4 coaching process is when a Senior Pastor meets with a staff member to help them identify and make progress on the 4 people they are going to meet with and the 4 tasks they are going to accomplish over the next 4 weeks.

Setting Up A 4x4x4 Coaching Process

To lead at the next level every person on our team needs three things in place: responsibility, authority, and coaching.

Responsibility (I need you to tell me for what I am responsible)

This is provided when we give our staff clear job descriptions, in writing, that outline for what they are responsible. In my experience, most Senior Pastors of churches under 600 do not provide written job descriptions for their staff. This is a mistake and one that is easy to remedy.

Authority (I need you to give me the ability to do my job without your micromanagement)

This is provided when we Senior Pastors simply let our staff members do their jobs. Often we micromanage staff because we’ve never seen a good role model in action. But more often than not this happens because (a) our staff members don’t have clear job descriptions that outline for what they are responsible, or (b) we don’t have a simple coaching process in place that allows us to coach and not dominate, influence and not direct.

Coaching (I need you to help me see how what I’m doing fits into the larger picture of the church’s mission).

A 4x4x4 coaching process allows our staff to operate independently without our micromanagement while allowing us to help shape their monthly priorities. It’s the best of both worlds – we get to guide staff at the highest level, and they get to lead without micromanagement – a win/win.

How A 4x4x4 Coaching Process Works

Put 30 Minute Coaching Blocks In Your Schedule

The first step to making this happen is to block off time in your schedule for when you’re going to meet with individual staff members. In my article, How Senior Pastors Can Schedule Their Week For Maximum Impact, I argue that staff coaching needs to take place on Tuesday afternoons. For staff who are part-time and can’t meet during the week, this will take place on Sunday afternoons.

I encourage Senior Pastors I coach to schedule 30-minute meeting blocks, with 15 minutes in between each meeting. A typical Tuesday afternoon would look like this:

1:30-2:00 pm. 1st Meeting with Children
2:15-2:45 pm. 2nd Meeting with Youth
3:00-3:30pm. 3rd Meeting with Adults
3:45-4:15pm. 4th Meeting with Worship
4:30-5:00pm. 5th Meeting with Finance

As I’ve said elsewhere, Senior Pastors should create five “departments” (Children, Youth, Adults, Worship, Operations/Finance) with individual staff leading each of those departments. That means a Senior Pastor should have no more than five direct reports. All additional staff need to report to one of those five people. This is critical in helping your staff lead at a higher level and to build infrastructure.

Once you get to 600-700, you should have full-time staff for all five of these areas except Operations/Finance, which will come in the form of an Executive Pastor around 800-900+. Since you don’t have someone leading the Operations/Finance Department, you’ll lead it, with the assistance of a part-time bookkeeper that you’ll meet with in that fifth slot.

Initial Meeting At The Beginning Of The Month

4x4x4 Coaching ProcessThe first Tuesday of the month your staff member will bring to you one sheet of paper listing the 4 people they feel they need to meet with, and the 4 tasks they feel they need to accomplish, over the next 4 weeks.

This is your chance to provide feedback, challenge them, and ask them questions. If there’s any hint of being “directive” in your leading style, it is in the few minutes when you discuss what their priorities should be.

The key, as any successful leader knows, is to help them get to the point where THEY can identify their top priorities. Anyone can “tell” someone what their priorities should be. Leaders are those who help their staff think for themselves.

It’s at this initial meeting you want to reiterate the church’s mission, help them view the organization globally, point out tendencies in their thinking, and challenge “safe” assumptions. Some staff will identify tasks that couldn’t possibly be accomplished in four weeks, let alone one. You’ll have to help those staff members think more tactically. Others will be so focused on the weeds, you’ll have to pull them up and help them think strategically. Coaching staff is both an art and science.

The first few times you meet you’ll rewrite the 4x4x4 for each staff member, but if you’re doing that after three months, you’re the problem, not them. Pull it out of them. Get them to dream. Get them to take risks and push the envelope.

On-Going Meetings

Initially, you’ll meet every single week, but as your staff proves their ability to lead themselves, you’ll back those meetings off to two times a month, and for some once a month.

The key is to identify what individual staff members need. Coaching is all about them, not us. The less experienced a staff member is, the more you’ll have to meet.

I’ve found that Senior Pastors often feel the need to meet more often than needed because two things aren’t in place: a staff policy manual and an online portal for their 4x4x4 updates. Once these two vital pieces of staff performance are instituted in the staff culture, the need to meet as frequently dissipates.

Staff Policy Manual

HERE is a link to our churches’ staff policy manual. It outlines every single thing you can think of that a staff member would need or ask: days off, vacation time, what to do about XYZ, etc. If you don’t have one, please steal ours and make it better. Just steal it.

Online Communication Portal

Most Senior Pastors start out by having their staff members put their 4x4x4 on one piece of paper. But as your staff grows, you’ll want to move to digital.

We’ve used THIS online resource to facilitate our 4x4x4’s and have had great success. This allows the staff member to update their 4x4x4 remotely and for you, the Senior Pastor, to provide real-time feedback on their progress.

The key to creating and maintaining a great staff culture is to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, getting our staff to sit in the right seats, and then to keep everyone pointed in the same direction.

A 4x4x4 coaching process is but one of the tools to make this happen, but it is a vital one for us.

I hope it helps.

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Brian Jones

Brian Jones

I am the founding Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and the author of four books. I’ve been married to my wife Dr. Lisa Jones for thirty years, and together we have three beautiful daughters and a lovable chubby orange cat named MAC. I love hiking, fishing, and backpacking. Our family loves to travel and have become passionate advocates for the rights of the poor and oppressed in developing countries. I’m an INTJ, 5w4, and D/I on various personality tests. I also write practical articles on church leadership and preaching at Senior Pastor Central.

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