Posted on: July 9, 2019

Throughout the book of Proverbs, Solomon’s instruction on the importance of receiving good counsel seems endless (e.g. Prov. 1:5; 9:9; 13:10, 20; and 20:5). Perhaps most famously, Solomon teaches, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). SENT heeds this teaching by providing coaching to sharpen its network of church planters and pastors so these leaders and their churches thrive.

Each lead planter receives a coach within the Network. Once a month, the coach and the coachee (lead planter) work through SENT’s coaching and tracking tool to guide one-on-one meetings and track the pastor’s progress. During these one-on-one meetings, the coach asks the planter guided questions and may offer advice for the planter to consider throughout the mountains and valleys of church planting. While SENT believes in both mentoring and coaching, the narrowing in on coaching facilitates the lead planter to learn how to create his own solutions to life and ministry issues. The coachee, upon the foundation of a relational coaching approach, can begin to find his own answers through the coach’s thoughtful and reflective questioning, and in turn becomes more equipped to lead his church plant. Simply put: “Mentors put in. Coaches draw out” (Why We Need Both Mentors and Coaches, Keith Webb).

We recently sat down with lead planter Charles Shannon (Mission Church; Norfolk, VA) to speak on coaching with SENT Network and his experience with his coach, Derrick Parks (Pastor, Epiphany Church; Wilmington, DE):

What has your overall experience been like with coaching through SENT Network? “It has been refreshing and clarifying for me as a leader. It has also been beneficial for the other leaders on my team as we have set the course… to focus on clarity of vision in a cohesive leadership team.”

What is the importance of having a coach as a church planter? “Sometimes as planters, …it’s helpful to have an outside voice who is asking good questions, guiding the church planter along, helping him ask good questions that he may not be thinking about in his context…”

What is a personal way coaching has improved your ministry, pastoring experience, or personal walk with the Lord? “It is helpful just to pause and to get away for an hour and to talk with a coach, and have a concrete opportunity to talk about the evidences of grace in the life of my own heart, in the life of my own family, and in the life of our church. My coaching experience has also been helpful in connecting my organic leading with some organizational leadership… I’m convinced that, as we have set the course for clarity of vision in a cohesive leadership team, that our church will be blessed in the immediate future and in the years to come.”

Do you have any closing thoughts about coaching at SENT? “I’m thankful that SENT provides a coach to help planters to grow as individuals, as men, as husbands, as fathers… as well as pastoral leaders in our respective churches.”


Michael Willis, SENT Network Coaching Director, offered some insight into the crucial role coaching plays in the life of the network, the lives of the individual church planters, and the gospel mission at large:

“SENT’s Coaches are an integral part of SENT’s plan to help church planters succeed. All potential church planters through SENT are provided an assessment that affirms their strengths and identifies areas of growth in their hands, head, and heart. Utilizing the results of the assessment, SENT creates a Customized Prep Plan (CPP) that lays out a roadmap specific to that planter’s needs that will best develop him to plant a church. Our coaches help planters start their CPP strong and gain the most from the development process…[and] our planters continue meeting regularly with their coach long after they have completed their CPP because they find tremendous value in it.”

When asked about the successes and challenges of coaching at SENT, Willis stated:

“The ability of the planter to set the agenda is key to the success of our coaching process. Our planters determine the topic of discussion during their coaching sessions, not the coach. Doing this allows our planters to get the most out of their sessions because they are able to talk through the things that are weighing on their minds and hearts… The thing weighing on our planters is usually the thing that is keeping them from accomplishing their planting tasks—not their lack of knowledge about what to do. We have found that when a planter is able to talk through these things, our coaches are able to ask the right questions that help a planter reach a solution that is specific to his context and enables him to move forward.

“I think that the greatest challenge all of our coaches face is with helping our planters overcome the effects of that voice inside them that tells them they don’t have what it takes. Regardless of their abilities or successes, most [if not all] planters have had moments of tremendous discouragement… While dealing with this is a challenge, it is also very rewarding. It is an honor for all of our coaches to be able to sit with our planters who are sacrificing much of their life to share the gospel with others and to give our planters the time they need to talk through their struggles and to ask them questions that cause them to evaluate how the gospel is at work in and around their own lives.”


Let’s intercede for effective coaching throughout our Network, as Willis requests: “Please pray for our coaches that we would have wisdom in our coaching sessions and that we would continue to add value to our planters.”

If you are interested in learning more about coaching and other ways SENT Network encourages church planters, click here for an overview of our Equipping and Resources.

In His grace,

Nikolas Oliverio
Communications Director
SENT Network

Charles Shannon is the lead planter and pastor of Mission Church in Norfolk, VA.