how to put a price tag on coaching and mentoring

Question >> ” what do u think of this paid church coaching trend? is it biblical? Somewhere deep down, I just can’t imagine Paul turning to Timothy and saying I’ll help you for $250 per month? ”

djchuang >> coach and teamI am seeing a growing trend of people offering their services as a coach or mentor. There’s already been a growing trend of coaching professionals in the past decade (cf. Professional Coaches and Mentors Association, International Coach Federation,, International Association of Coaching, MentorCoach), and now there are coaching programs specifically for the church & ministry world.

It can be said that just as you’d have a coach to help you perform as an athlete, or hiring a coach to improve your golf or tennis game, people can hire a coach for developing their leadership capacity. This is all acceptable in the sports world, in the business & non-profit organizational world (cf. executive coaching), in the personal development & self-improvement world (cf. life coaching), and yet the practice has raised some questions in the church & ministry world. (i.e. Ministry Coaching International, Leadership2Go: an online mentoring community, Partners in Church Consulting Coaching Network, Next Coaching Network, International M Network’s 7-Day Mentoring Immersion, Expo Coaching, Pastors Coaching Network, Celera Group, to name a few)

While there is some overlap between mentoring, coaching, spiritual formation, teaching & training, disciple-making, the distinction isn’t paid vs. unpaid. Right? I’ve personally benefitted greatly from all of these kinds of relationships, both paid and unpaid.

Should coaches & mentors be paid or not? Here’s what I think at this time: the Bible doesn’t forbids payment being involved in these relationships per se. Just as there are pastors who are paid and those who are unpaid, there are coaches who are paid and unpaid. So for me, this matter is one of freedom and personal conscience.

Personally, I think I’m at an age and stage of life where I may be called upon to be a coach or mentor to a few others. I’d love to do that for free, personally. However, not being financially independent, I do have to use a large portion of my time to earn wages to provide for myself and family. Where money fits in the equation is that if I were to be paid as a coach or mentor, then I would be able to commit more time and energy to it than if I volunteered as a mentor.

Would you pay for a coach or mentor? Why or why not? How do you decide when you would be an unpaid mentor to someone else, and when you’d charge money for being a coach / mentor?

[photo credit: jfre81]

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36 Responses

  1. Doug Young says:

    Good post. Good response. I don’t think it’s wrong per se, but I do think it compounds the already immense degree to which the church is overly commercialized. This is what I don’t know is good or not.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Eric C JAFFE says:

    OK – I admit it. 🙂 I am the one who posed the question to DJ. I know the arguments for paid coaching and can’t discount the fact that it has helped many, but deep down I can’t help but sense that something is wrong with it though. In some ways I lump conferences with it too.

    I still have trouble visioning Paul or any of the early church fathers turning to someone like Timothy and saying, “Timothy, for a mere $250 a month I will be your paid friend, I will disciple you, I will teach you principles of furthering the kingdom, and more!’ But you must pay me for this resource or to join my coaching network.

    I will leave out the name, but here is a recent email soliciting me as a church leader, ‘so and so – sets forth a step-by-step, biblically grounded, proven plan for creating immediate church growth by utilizing a “Big Day” to mobilize the church for evangelism. This event will show you what you need to do to reach the unchurched in your community and break through the debilitating growth barriers that are holding you back.

    WHile the above was for a seminar, I have received similar promises from other “COACHES” who want me to join their paid network for similar reasons.

    Hmm.. Should we give it away to keep it? Should we really share the God given insights God has given us for the furtherance of the kingdom for a fee? I just don’t know. Something I am still praying about but have shyed away from.

    I long for the day that we see -register for this conference – “THE FREE CONFERENCE” Learn how to share the free gift of God’s salvation for others with no fee’s and all resources are free. some like Life Church seem to be leaning in this direction and are some of the largest fasting growing churches in the country.

    As full disclaimer – I do own a consulting practice. http://WWW.INTEGRITYCSG.COM 99% of our business is paid network consulting and website development. a small percentage of that is with churches. We try to give away everything whenever possible to the churches unless we have to pay for someone’s service, software, or hardware. But 100% on the speaking or advice side about anything regarding helping further the work of the church or coach is done for free.

    ahh enough of my 2 cents.. I thank everyone including the coaches for doing their part to further the kingdom of God..

  3. Jesse Phillips says:

    I’d rather have Christian coaches coach for free. But I’m not against the paid option. Here’s why I think it should be free:

    1. Jesus said to make disciples: it’s already part of our job as Christians

    2. We’re on the same team: if we’re on the same team, we shouldn’t necessarily be charging for our services. Like we should share our knowledge to help duplicate ourselves and advance the Kingdom. By holding back our knowledge from others who would use it to advance the Kingdom, isn’t this limiting Kingdom growth for the sake of money?

    Having said this, I agree that it’s good for a worker to be paid what he’s worth. So perhaps there’s room for both paid coaches and free amateur coaches.

  4. Glenn says:

    if the mentoring (coming along side of another, disciple-making, “coaching” if you will) can’t be for free, then i think that–in and of itself–says something contrary to the Gospel

  5. Glenn says:

    @ eric – just saw your post. but this might be something like what you’re talking about:

  6. Clement says:

    This raises a lot of questions that are hard to answer. For example, if I’m a “professional” mentor, how do I determine how much my services are worth? At what point am I asking too much? Should I charge what I think I’m worth, or should I charge what I think people would be willing to pay (or do those two numbers just happen to correspond)? Am I going to have discounts, promotions and coupons from time to time? If I charge $10 an hour, does that imply to people that I’m new at this? Does the price for my services go up 3% per year based on inflation rates? If I charge $250 an hour, does that imply that I’m arrogant? If I don’t fulfill my responsibilities, can my mentee’s complain that they aren’t getting what they paid for and ask for their money back? Are they entitled to demand more personal attention? Will I be at their beck and call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? For any ideas I give them that happen to make money, can I take 20% of their earnings from that idea? If I go on vacation, will someone mentor my mentee’s for me while I’m gone? Is there a discernment process that happens before I decide whether I take a new mentee on, or can anyone who pays for my services be recipients of them? Can all of these questions really be answered by my following the lead of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and my Church?

    Some things just shouldn’t be commodities.

    In this case, the integrity of mentoring seems to me to be at stake. I suppose the professionalization of mentoring doesn’t necessarily mean that the integrity of mentoring is automatically compromised … but from a long-view: the trajectory of this for the future of the Church is not exactly ideal.

    Perhaps this trend is most disturbing to me because of what it is saying about how our churches are doing with mentoring in general (which is very much related to discipleship ~ a.k.a. the Great Commission). Obviously, we’re not doing very well. 🙁 If we were, such services would not exist.

  7. Ben Arment says:

    The Apostle Paul did charge people for his discipleship.

    Sometimes he charged other churches.
    Sometimes he charged people who wanted his tents.
    And sometimes he charged the very people he was discipling.

    But there is a cost to coaching.
    And it does get paid by somebody.

  8. Clement says:

    (they wouldn’t exist because there wouldn’t be a market for them).

  9. djchuang says:

    @Clement, thanks for your comments, and you’ve listed several questions on my mind too — how do we know when our professional services are being priced fairly, be it in coaching and mentoring, or be it consulting or counseling or other fee for services rendered? In a free market economy, like in the USA, isn’t the answer to that whatever the market bears? (I have never taken an economic class, and do not consider myself financially literate, so this is a blind guess.)

    @Ben, yes, there is a “cost” to anything and everything that we do. Cost can be that of time, of energy, and/or of monetary value, too. Now I’d be curious to learn from the Scriptures you’re thinking of where Paul charged the very people he was discipling.

    As an aside, I confess that I’m personally wrestling with this question. I have just started working as a freelance consultant. And, I am wondering indeed what would be a fair cost to charge for my services as a coach or mentor. And, when to charge vs. when to not charge. Can anyone help me with some (free) advice?

    The idealistic part of me wishes that money wouldn’t get in the way, and I could just do things for others without charging a dime. But, this is not very realistic, since I do have a responsibility to provide for self and family.

  10. Clement says:

    @DJ & @Ben – I thought about this some more since my last comment. It might be helpful to draw a clearer distinction between the words “discipling,” “mentoring,” “coaching,” and “consulting.”

    If nothing else, it at least sounds much better to ask for “consulting” and “coaching” fees than it does to ask for “discipleship” and “mentoring” fees.

    It also seems that consulting and coaching are more specific (i.e. involving a special project or task) and are of a more temporary nature than are discipling and mentoring (which, at their most base levels, are extremely general in scope and could potentially be lifelong in duration).

    As for fair pricing for consulting and coaching? I’m with you on that one… I have no idea! 🙂

  11. Ben says:

    Paul only called it a “charge” when someone challenged his intentions. He said -and probably exaggerated to make a point- that if people weren’t paying for their own discipleship, he was robbing other churches.

    2 Corinthians 11:7-9
    “Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.”

    I could make the same argument about my pastor: “I don’t think it’s right that my pastor gets paid for preaching the Gospel. The Gospel should be free of charge.”

    But somebody has to pay for it. My pastor can rob other churches or flip burgers until I’m mature enough to handle it. Or I can strain toward spiritual maturity, help cover the cost and relieve the burden from somebody else.

    I agree about some of the fees people charge. I’ve been aghast at the fees some pastors require. But all I can do is live by my own convictions.

    I wonder if this wave of coaching is a reaction against publishers and conference-makers solely profiting from the influence of pastors. I’ve paid my fair share of “coaching fees” through the number of books I’ve purchased, but now with coaching, the money is bypassing the middle-man.

  12. Dave Baldwin says:

    Thank you all for such a healthy discussion. I believe if you believe in a transformational style of leadership you have already crossed the paid/unpaid line. For me mentoring is just a part of my everyday ministry style. I am coaching, encouraging, asking questions and pushing my team down the field. And I get paid for it. That’s what the Individual Consideration and Intellectual Stimulation of transformational leadership is all about.
    Now for me, do I have a mentor or coach. Outside of my son wanting to practice as a coach for me in an on-line course he is taking I don’t have one. I could pay for one, and would if I had one I could find that would fit me and my circumstances. And I don’t think that’s unbiblical.
    Once again thanks so much for this lively discussion you have ignited. By doing so you have been a coach & mentor to us all DJ!

  13. Jay says:

    I think there is a difference between “coaching” and “mentoring.”

    The former being more of a relationship that is meant to last for a short while before moving on. Sure, a friendship could be born out of that relationship, but with coaching I see it as benefiting from the experience and skills of another person for a specific purpose.

    Mentoring on the other hand, is much more personal. It’s not about learning from another person for a particular skill set but rather sharing experiences together and forming a personal relationship. It moves to a different level and foundation. One that is built upon the ‘Timothy’ learning from the life experiences of the ‘Paul’ and gaining wisdom in the process.

    To look at it another way, as a photographer, I might attend a workshop given by another photographer who has a lot of experience in the field and I would be willing to pay for that ‘coaching’ in terms of what he can teach me. However, let’s say we got to know each other know each other on a personal level. We decide to meet for coffee and started having a conversation not about photographic technique, but rather we started discussing vision and creativity, life experiences etc. I would be extremely insulted if he held up his hands and said, “Whoa. I’m going to have to charge you for this.”

    Bottom line for me is this:

    Pay for coaching? Yes

    Pay for mentoring? No.

  14. Imei says:

    One day, a woman called me in my psychotherapy office (think counseling and coaching, people) and asked if I would see her son for psychotherapy, for free. She wasn’t in desperate straights, but she was pressed for money. I told her I had a sliding scale fee. Immediately she jumped on her soap box: how dare I charge any fee at all to help her poor child? What kind of a Christian was I, charging money in exchange for help? At the end of the conversation, she had the gall to insist that because I was a woman, I probably didn’t need the money anyways; she assumed I had a man to take care of me (probably a projection from her, since she was no longer married).

    I told her I was the kind of compassionate person most people would love to have in their corner, but that I needed to eat and pay my bills too. I gave her a list of referrals in my city for free or low-cost therapy, wished her well, and got off the phone. Honestly, I went and fumed for a whole of five minutes.

    I have never felt that the exchange of fee for service in the religious context should be equated with the “market in the temple” mentality. A worker is worth his wages, folks, including the pastor and the pastor’s family on down to the man or woman who cleans the bathrooms and maintenances the church’s computers and databases.

    Mentoring is another category. I think I’ll mentor people for the rest of my life, free of charge. But I pay for coaching, and it does not matter to me if that person is religious or not: the services are valuable and deserve compensation for time, expertise, and application.

    I have added coaching services to my own practice, purchasing expensive CEU’s on the subject so that I’m in-line for official certification (something that many so-called “expert” coaches don’t even bother to get since there are no federal regulations on coaching yet). It is clearly more expensive than psychotherapy but for the added benefits, coaching is well-worth the price. Makes me think I should raise my rates higher for psychotherapy.

    B. Imei Hsu, RN, MAC, LMHC
    Seattle Direct Counseling

  15. Kyle Reed says:

    I wrote a nice little blog post about this a couple of weeks ago but have not hit publish yet. You handled this well though and brought good perspective.

    I have applied for coaching networks mainly because this was the only place that I could find a mentor. I think the real question is why are these gaining popularity? Mainly because the need is great and there are not enough mentors to meet the demand.

  16. Jerry says:

    Lot’s of good discussion and comments here. I think I agree with Imei, like therapy, coaching AND mentoring could be treated on a sliding scale type of concept. If you have knowledge and experience that someone else could utilize, and it takes up your time and expertise, then why shouldn’t you get paid for it? But what and how you charge people should depend. (I know of a Spiriutal Formation program that requires enrollees to “pay” their Spiritual directors a small fee. Maybe it’s kind of like, unless you pay for the gym, you’ll never use it kind of thing.)

    I think the sticky part of it comes when you start thinking of it in terms of a business plan, and you get into marketing your business, then you may cross some questionable lines with regard to “ministry”. I’m very often put off by the marketing for the “latest and greatest” strategy for making your church grow bigger-and all you have to do is pay $$$ for the secret.

    Then again, it is a “business” and you must market your business to grow your business. But then is it “ministry” like parachurches are “ministry” (Jesus didn’t say, I will build my para-church)?

  17. Wayne Park says:

    I think you can’t put a price tag on mentoring but you can put a price tag on spiritual coaching / or better yet, spiritual directorship.

    The latter involves professional training (not exclusively in the secular-psychological model mind you) and is a form of pastoral counseling, which in the face of the juggernaut depression – I think is very necessary. If I were pastor of a large staff I would make it requisite for all my staff to reguarly get spiritual directorship, including myself.

    As for price tag, that’s hard to pin down, but I think the worker deserves his wages and there is definitely a place for fee-based spiritual direction (albeit a looser honorarium-styled fee). In my town there is an entire minsitry that does this – perhaps it is not so much to price individual visits as much as supporting the ministry at large.

  18. djchuang says:

    @Ben, thanks for the Scripture reference. Yes, I think we do have to live out our convictions, and also be civil with those who have different convictions.

    Now, not everything we do has to cost someone money. We all do things for others, some for pay and some for free. In other words, there’s vocation and avocation. (are those the terms?) So, while some may choose to do coaching for pay, there are a few that are willing to do coaching for free.

    I do not think that books (or conferences) can count as coaching or mentoring, because books are for a broader audience, not for the specific person being coached/ mentored. I think books can count as training and learning.

    What makes coaching and mentoring so valuable is because it is personalized and customized. And, I’m leaning towards the notion that coaching should be for pay and mentoring should be for free. To minimize confusion, good to explain how you’re using the term when talking with others. Webster doesn’t seem authoritative any more.

    By the way, found this article from The Center of Coaching and Mentoring, and it describes how coaching is different from mentoring, according to one study. Good point of reference even if it might not settle things for everyone.

  19. As a 20-something who is part of leading a church plant, I have sought out coaching networks. The problem, however, is that the high prices were out of reach for me personally, and our brand-new church. While I have a couple personal mentors (dealing with heart issues, and spiritual development) I would love the opportunity to have access to a coach who could help in strategic ministry areas without shelling out upwards to thousands of dollars.
    For the record, Ben’s Dream Year was amazingly well-priced in my opinion.

  20. Jenn says:

    I think that the whole “we’re christians so everything should be free” bit goes too far…and doesn’t value the gifts and talents of certain parts of the body of Christ.

    With that said, it sounds good/right that some services should be offered to the church body either free or at a discount in a modified manner. Something of a non-monetary tithe (maybe and awkward idea to some, I know). But, if I went into a church looking for coaching/mentoring, it would be just awesome if they had a list of people who do that same job for pay outside of the church but also volunteer their services inside the church during limited hours. It’s like a gift back to God to say thanks for giving them that gift in the first place. (We should all be doing a version of this!) 🙂

    I’ve seen this model at a church with counseling care. A person will have a private counseling practice and then give up, say, their tuesday nights to counsel free for the church and anyone can sign up if there are available times. And if people want more consistency or a different time then they can pay the person and see them at their office. I think this could work similarly with mentoring/coaching. If you’re getting something for free, don’t expect to be catered to when and where you can meet. You’re going to have to be flexible and agree to the same sort of sacrificial commitment as the mentor/coach has done for you. It may not always be the same time/place but you’re going to have to flexible and show up!

    I know that for a lot of 20-somethings, they desire mentoring and are crying out for someone to help guide them through life/a crisis/a decision/etc. However, what I’ve heard from the mentoring-age crowd is that the 20-somethings are flaky! This made me a bit sad b/c I know of the need but also know of networks of the mentoring aged types who would love to be more involved and the times they have tried…the mentorees have FLAKED. Boo. This is not good news. If we want people to sacrificially commit to us (20-something or any type of mentoree crowd), and share their mentoring/coaching gift that God has blessed them with, then we have to sacrificially commit and show up, consistently.

    When this happens, when we can commit to show up, I think the whole mentoring/matching thing will start to gain more momentum. This message needs to be driven home to the 20-something crowd! (Kyle, lead the way!)

  21. Marc says:

    I have paid for business coaching before and benefited greatly. It was a positive experience for me.

    The trouble with paid coaching/mentoring in the church world is when people use it in lieu of having ‘Paul-Timothy’ lifeline relationships.

    When you pay a coach or join a paid network do you feel they OWE you and if they don’t deliver they’re indebted to you. Wonder what, if any, are the spiritual implications of such a relationship in comparison to one where no money exchanges hands.

  22. It reminds me a lot like the “paying the musician” phenomenon in churches. We pay for music, for “coaching,” for nursery workers, etc, etc.