Lisa Gomez Osborn
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.– Ephesians 4:1
When I first began building my coaching practice I unashamedly labelled myself as a Christian Life Coach. As time went by, however, I began to wonder if adding the label Christian to my business was actually the right choice. On the one hand I wanted other Christians to know about my faith, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to be excluded by a client because of it.
About a year after opening my business, a Christian woman interested in learning how to become a coach made an appointment with me. During the consultation she admitted she hadn’t any actual coaching experience, but she felt as if she’d been a coach her whole life. This is a proclamation I hear all the time from people who think they already know how to coach but lack the actual training. This can be a dangerous misperception, giving people a false sense of confidence about their capabilities. Because of this, I openly shared my experience, past work history, and education. And I gave her my advice: Do not coach without being properly trained by another coach!
Like so many others who don’t want to hear this, I never heard a word from her again. I did, however, encounter the tide of people left in her wake who now believed that all Christian Life Coaches were disreputable crackpots.
This experience really drove home the immense weight of responsibility for claiming Christ as my Master and then attaching this declaration to my professional reputation.
This awareness continued to trouble me for some time as I questioned whether I was a good enough Christian to call myself a Christian Life Coach. What if I upset a client? Or worse, what if a client felt my values didn’t line up with my claims of Christianity? Was this a business or a ministry? Clearly, I intended it to be a business, but if someone came to me who needed help but couldn’t afford to pay me, what was I to do? Was it Christlike to turn clients away because they didn’t have money?
My focus became more and more misdirected as I struggled between meeting deadlines, growing my business, pleasing clients, and obsessing over what I now dubbed my Christian dilemma: Should I be a Christian Coach or should I be a Coach who is a Christian?
I struggled with anxiety over the demarcation between my Christianity and my career.
What if I wasn’t a very good coach and people discounted Christ because of me? I wanted to live an honouring life to Jesus Christ, but I wasn’t sure if splashing Christian symbolism and one-liners all over my website was actually honouring to Him. Was I doing this because of my love and zeal for Christ or to sell more coaching sessions? Guilt and doubt became two very close companions.
A few months passed. The day I moved into a new office suite someone mentioned the other Christian Life Coach there. The Christian want-to-be coach who had visited me earlier now worked in this office complex and was advertising herself as a Christian Life Coach!
I was taken aback, and, I must admit, a bit miffed, as I wondered how she had gotten here before I did. I selfishly grumbled to God about taking two years to build up my business enough to afford this office. What had I done wrong?
I soon found out that there was a lot more at stake than my ego; reports of her casualties began drifting in. Apparently, she had managed to sell her services to many of the other business owners, including the Chief Executive Officer of the complex.
Unbeknownst to me, there had been quite a negative buzz about her among the other business owners and executive staff. After I unsuccessfully tried to woo my colleagues into trying Life Coaching, someone finally told me why many of my neighbors were convinced that Christian Life Coaches were a joke or, worse, frauds.
The woman who finally shared her experience with me described her first and last Christian Life Coaching visit as “sixty tremendously awkward and rather distressing minutes in the dark.” She went on to explain how the coach had turned off the light and said she wanted to help her relax by, “closing my eyes and thinking of a peaceful place, like a beach, and to imagine lying in the sun.” Apparently, this woman had hired this coach to help her, as she described it, “Get her life under control.” Needless to say, the client felt as though she had been taken for $100. She didn’t want anything to do with me.
Although this lone Christian Coach was in the office complex for what turned out to be only a few months, she was able to substantially damage the reputation of not only the profession but also the character of the Christians who were connected to it.
This experience ultimately helped me resolve my dilemma; I decided I was both and not either or. I was a Christian no matter what I did; if a librarian, I’m a Christian librarian. If a construction worker, I’m a Christian construction worker. Therefore, because I’m a coach, I am a Christian Coach.
Coaching the Coach Tip:
However you choose to advertise or introduce yourself, consider the significant influence and responsibility that comes alongside your choice to be a Christian professional. You are held to a much higher standard; if you cheat, the perception will be that all Christians cheat. If you get caught in a lie, all Christians lie. We represent Jesus Christ, and we must therefore strive to represent him in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ.
Lisa Gomez Osborn is the president and founder of Paragraphs 22 Coaching & Consulting. Lisa has worked with others for over 15 years in areas such as overcoming personal and spiritual growth obstacles, leadership development, organizational development, Christian Life Coach training, personality profiling, communication, and conflict resolution. Lisa is passionate about Christian Coaching and helping other coaches build their businesses.LifeCoachLisaOsborn.com. lisa@LifeCoachLisaOsborn.com.