From 2013-2018, Auburn ran six cohorts of a certified Coach Training program. As of July 1, 2018, that Coach Training program was handed off to our friends at Columbia Seminary.

We are excited that the Rev. Dr. Laurie Ferguson, and her coach training team, will stay with the program as it makes a new home.

If you are interested in a coach training experience or to learn more visit their new homepage to learn more.

The Auburn Coach Training program equips leaders like you with the skills to effectively nurture and promote pastors to not only address the challenges they currently face in today’s ecumenical Church, but how to also thrive in the midst of them. – Rev. Dr. Laurie Ferguson

Auburn has coached and supported hundreds of church leaders through the Coaching Institute, equipping new certified coaches with the wisdom and know­how to guide pastors through a process of discernment and accountability.

As a participant in the Coach Training Program, you will:

  • Acquire the training necessary to seek credentials to be an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation (ICF).

  • Have the opportunity to work with your own clients and maximize their personal and professional goals.

  • Learn a curriculum that combines practical coaching skills with theological substance to empower you to coach through a range of traditions.


What does being a "coach" really involve? Can I do it full-time? Part-time?

A coach is someone who helps a client get to a goal, or achieve significant change. Being a trained coach means that you have taken some of your natural gifts and skills for listening and encouraging and motivating, and developed them to a more effective level. The Auburn program is designed to train you to be that kind of coach – someone who is knowledgeable and practiced in helping clients create change.

We emphasize two aspects – the coaching mindset, and the specific skills that coaching uses. The coaching mindset involves thinking about the client and their situation from the perspective of where they are and where they can go. It includes having a sense of possibility and a deep curiosity. It is the foundation of the process. The skills are the practices you use to coach.

When you complete the program, you will be able to use this training however it best suits your work and sense of call. Some participants plan to become full-time coaches. Others simply want to learn the process so they can use it in the setting where they already are. As you work through the program, the faculty are happy to help you sort out your next steps.

What is the curriculum like?

The training curriculum consists of four days of in-­person training and eight months of classes delivered through distance learning. Each of the distance classes meets for three hours by web and telephone per month. Every class, whether in person or distance, will include live coaching, with practice sessions between classes.

The curriculum is designed to address the specifics of church and ministry coaching. It will include some theological reflections on coaching, the role of coaching in ministry settings, and how coaching creates the possibility of transformation and adaptive growth in faith leaders and congregations.

What courses will I take?

In-person courses (for residential week): Introduction to Coaching, Creating the Coaching Relationship, Active Listening, Asking Powerful Questions, Intuition and Testing, Getting to Goals and Actions, Expanding Possibilities, Change Theory, Keeping the Client Moving Forward, Creating Your Coaching Practice, Coaching Relationship II. Webinar courses: Resilience and Hardiness through coaching, Coaching for Adaptive Change, Coaching in a Cross cultural Setting, Organizational Change and Coaching, Coaching a Team +supervision, Artful Coaching, Appreciative Coaching, Poetry of Coaching, Spirituality of Coaching.

Will I have opportunities to actually practice coaching?

Coaching practice, feedback, and supervision are the heart of the training. There are presentations of material, discussions and observations of coaching, but the emphasis in each class is for the participants to develop coaching skills and mindset through actual live coaching.

Participants who want to move towards certification will also need to accrue coaching hours beyond the training classes. We can help students identify potential clients.

Who could I coach after I complete the program?

You will be able to coach anyone who wants to work with you! While much of the training emphasis is on coaching pastors and lay leaders in congregations and judicatories, you are receiving standard coach training in this program. As you develop your own style and identify your best clients, you will be prepared to coach in a variety of settings.

Can I get certified as a coach through this program?

This program meets all the educational requirements for the credential of Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the most widely-­recognized provider of coaching credentials. The ICF has recognized Auburn’s Pastoral Coach Training Program as an Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH) program.

What about Mentor Coaching?

The Auburn Mentor Coaching Program offers a ten-hour training to deepen your coaching skills, and prepare for the ICF accreditation process. The training occurs in groups no larger than six members. Mentor coaching consists of three, 2-hour group sessions where you will practice coaching and receive feedback, and four individual hour-long coaching sessions.

In the individual session the emphasis is on helping the coach get clear about goals, evaluating where they are in the process, where they feel they need to grow as a coach, and other issues that are particular to each coach. At the conclusion of the training, participants receive a Certificate of Mentor Coaching, and one of the written letters of recommendation needed for the ICF process.


In October 2012, the Pew Forum on Faith and Public Life published a poll showing two important shifts in American religious life:

  1. for the first time in American history, the majority of the population is not Protestant; and
  2. the number of people declaring themselves religiously unaffiliated (the “nones”) has risen dramatically to 20% of the population.

There are many who see this as another sign of the continual decline of American Protestant churches in their vitality, relevance, impact, and power.

We at Auburn think differently.

We believe this report actually shows extraordinary opportunities for bold and resilient pastors to lead their congregations to minister in powerful and innovative ways. 21st century ministry will require significant vision, creativity, and stamina from both leaders and congregations.

That’s where coaching comes in.

The Auburn Coaching Institute has set the standard for excellence in coaching church leaders for almost a decade. The impact has been profound: pastors who work with our coaches say, “this revitalized my sense of call and helped me actually do the kind of ministry I’ve always wanted to do.”

We are convinced that coaching is one of the most powerful tools the ecumenical church has for building the resilience and innovative spirit our pastors need to thrive in the changing religious landscape of America.

Auburn’s approach to coaching involves three elements:

The vertical dimension appreciates that church leaders ground their identity and vitality in their sense of call from God. It also uses coaching to help the leader identify and access one’s sense of self and values as resources for ministry.

The horizontal dimension allows the leader, with his or her coach, to assess needs, set goals, and develop the stewardship of time and resources to meet or surpass their goals.

A third element that we emphasize is hardiness or resilience, which is a quality that can be nurtured in both persons and communities. Hardy leaders are committed, seek challenge, and take responsibility for their personal and professional lives.

The Auburn Coaching Institute supports leaders who learn, adapt, and grow and, in turn, lead others to do the same.



Rev. Dr. Laurie J. Ferguson is a Presbyterian minister, licensed clinical psychologist, and a coach credentialed by the International Coaching Federation as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC). As the Senior Research Fellow for Coaching and Director of the Residential Coaching Program at Auburn Seminary, Dr. Ferguson has coached church leaders and supervised coaches since 2005. She is an adjunct lecturer at Auburn and Union Seminaries, teaching classes and conducting workshops on using coaching skills in congregations and judicatories. In 2006, Dr. Ferguson created a coaching skills curriculum and used it to train leaders from more than 25 Presbyterian judicatories and in national PCUSA groups, such as the Interim Pastor Faculty Network, and the national Pastoral Care Network. In her private practice, Dr. Ferguson does individual and group coaching with clergy, judicatory executives, and church administrators. She is currently working on a book that outlines coaching skills for church leadership. She earned her Ph.D. from Adelphi University, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Seminary, and her AB from Smith College.

Philip C. Bergey is credentialed by the International Coach Federation as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC). Phil’s primary’s focus is coaching executives, pastors, leaders, and teams who are transforming systems in non‑profit and business settings. In his approach to training coaches, Phil draws from a range of evidence-­based theories with personal style emphasizing humor, vulnerability, and intuition to create an environment for deep listening and insightful conversation. Those who work with Phil consistently cite his capacity to build trust quickly, help clients gain clear perspective, and move individuals and groups forward in addressing complex agenda. Phil received an Evidence-Based Coaching Certificate through Fielding Graduate University. He Earned a MA in Human Development from Fielding, and a MA in Theological Studies with a concentration in theology and ethics from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Human and Organizational Systems at Fielding. During his free time, Phil enjoys reading and being in nature. He and his life partner, Evon, are parents of three married children and have a grand‑dog and grand­-bunny.

Chris Holmes was credentialed Chris Holmes as an Associate Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) in 2008, and the United Methodist Church endorsed Chris for the ministry of coaching in 2009. He is a pastor with 26 years of experience serving small to large churches and has seven years serving as District Superintendent in the Baltimore-­Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. Chris has played a pivotal role in developing the coaching ministry in the Baltimore­-Washington Conference. “As a leadership coach, I come beside denominational leaders and pastors to help them get sharply focused and committed to what they need to do in ministry and then lead boldly with courage.” Chris co-­authored the Coach Approach Skills Training (CAST) manuals used by the General Board of Discipleship in the training of Bishops, District Superintendents, and Directors of Connection Ministries in the basic coaching skills. Chris has written numerous articles on coaching and serves as an adviser to several United Methodist Conferences in utilizing the basic skills of coaching in ministry at all levels of the church. He is the president­elect for the newly formed Maryland Chapter of the International Coaching Federation and a founding member of the Methodist Coaching Connection. Chris and Margaret have been married for more than 30 years and have three grown children. Chris is also a watercolor artist with paintings, prints, and posters for sale in a variety of galleries and stores.