Ethics in Christian Coaching

“... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.". 
~ Phil. 4:8 NIV

How often do you think about ethics in Christian coaching?  If you said, “Hardly ever,” you are like most coaches.  Our priorities are with helping others live an awesome life and then … taking care of business, believing that ethics are common sense and will just take care of themselves.  Well, maybe they will or maybe they won't.

While we want the benefit of maintaining strong ethical guidelines, many coaches don’t spend too much time thinking about them or discussing them.

Just because something is legal, does not necessarily mean it is moral and/or ethical. And, there are consequences, good and bad, depending on our choices. As coaches and leaders, let’s choose well. We owe it to God, our clients and each other in the coaching profession.

Since we are about to enter a new year, I thought this would be a good time to review some of the highlights of sound ethical conduct.  My list is neither complete nor exhaustive but hopefully this will trigger additional thoughts or questions you may have on the topic.

“…because something is legal, does not necessarily
mean it's moral or ethical.”

If you are a Christian coach or have considered becoming one, you likely understand the need for ethical conduct in our profession.  It doesn’t matter if you are coaching formally or informally, the same ethical principles apply.

Because you bring so much of yourself to your coach-client relationship, you can’t separate who you are privately from who you are publicly. By this I mean, live in such a way that you will be proud of your decisions made in private, should any ever become public.

When it comes to coaching, there are several areas where ethics are important. They are integrity, professional competence, professional responsibility and respect for other individuals.

Here are some guidelines for ethics in Christian coaching:

(1) Represent yourself in an accurate manner. Be aware of your own competencies and limitations. If you are not qualified to coach on a particular topic, refer the prospective client to someone who is qualified if you can.

(2) Know yourself well so that you’re aware of your own beliefs and values and communicate who you are clearly to those who wish to hire you.

(3) Clarify the role of a coach that you will perform and how your relationship will function.

(4) Treat each client and prospective client with dignity and respect. Be attuned to and take account of any cultural variations and related biases. Each client has a right to privacy, autonomy and the utmost confidentiality.

(5) Acknowledge that your actions reflect on you as well as others in the coaching profession at large. You are responsible to maintain the highest standards. As a Christian, we are to do everything as unto the Lord and this means with as much excellence as we are capable.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

(6) It goes without saying that coach should not engage in illegal activities. This includes (but is not limited to) copyright infringement, theft of intellectual property. Fulfill your contractual obligations to your clients and to other service providers. Pay your bills.  Even if no one finds out, God will know and since you rely on Him to promote you, prove yourself trustworthy.

Side note:  If you aren’t making the progress you think you should, check yourself and your lifestyle, behavior, thoughts and associations.  Ask God to reveal any area that needs to be changed or improved. Then get on it immediately.

(7) Understand the difference between discernment and judgement. Coaches are to be non-judgmental however as Christians, we are to point to God’s opinion about a matter. If your client gets off track from a Godly plan, you need to lovingly remind them.

(8) As you practice, maintain awareness about industry best practices as well as in your own specialty. Make an effort to gain increased competence in related areas. Stay up to date on new technology, legal requirements and coaching skills / tools.  You must remain a step or two ahead of your client (minimally) because you must be able to lead the coaching process and you can’t lead from behind.

(9) Do not engage in any activity that could be construed as sexual harassment. Let’s be clear about what this is. Sexual harassment includes physical advances, verbal and nonverbal communication that is suggestive or sexual in nature and of course sexual solicitation.  Make sure your behavior is appropriate at all times. God’s word instructs us to refrain from even the appearance of impropriety. (2 Corinthians 6:3) Any action, impression or perception must be above board.

“... put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” 
~ 2 Corinthians 6:3 NIV

(10) Do not hesitate in making a referral to emergency personnel or mental health professionals if at any point you see a situation where a client is at risk of harming themselves or others. Notify authorities if the client indicates they intend to endanger others.

(11) Maintain current professional liability insurance.  Although coaching has historically low levels of exposure to legal issues, we live in a litigious society. Students and graduates of PCCCA have access to affordable professional liability insurance. If you are a student or graduate involved in practice and have not yet obtained your professional liability insurance, please contact this academy for a referral right away.

Want more information on ethics in coaching?  Here is a link to the International Association of Coaching ethics:

Got a comment or question?  Leave it near the bottom of this page in the Comments section and I’ll be happy to discuss your question or comment.

© 2018 Leelo Bush PhD

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