Becoming A Coach

From Ministry to Life Coaching: A Guide for Pastors, Clergy and Spiritual Leaders Seeking a New Path

Uncover how your skills in empathy, listening, and guidance can flourish in a new career path, from ministry to life coaching!

From Ministry to Life Coaching: A Guide for Pastors, Clergy and Spiritual Leaders Seeking a New Path

For many pastors and other spiritual leaders, ministry is not just a profession—it's a calling. 

It's about compassion, empathy, and a deep commitment to guiding and supporting individuals through their spiritual and personal journeys. Yet, despite the deep sense of fulfillment it often brings, ministry can also be demanding as you navigate many different personalities and goals and sometimes draining, emotionally and spiritually. 

Pastors often face high expectations, very limited resources, and the ongoing challenge of meeting the different needs of their congregation and community. And all that before you consider the social, political and societal unrest we’ve seen in recent years.

If you're a pastor contemplating a change, seeking a way to leverage your strengths and passion for assisting others, making the shift to becoming a professional coach could be a highly rewarding path for you.

What are the similarities between Pastoral Work and Life Coaching?

At first glance, life coaching and pastoral ministry may seem like totally separate domains.

Yet, they share a fundamental goal: helping humans lead more fulfilling lives. Both roles demand a high level of empathy, active listening, and a commitment to guiding others toward their personal and spiritual goals.

Client-Centered Approach: Both pastors and life coaches prioritize the well-being and autonomy of those they serve, focusing on their goals and aspirations.

Empathy and Listening: Both roles require a deep understanding of and empathy for a wide range of emotions and perspectives.

Ethics: Like ministry, life coaching (when accredited) is governed by professional ethics, ensuring integrity and protection for everyone involved.

Relationship Building: Establishing genuine trust and real rapport is crucial for guidance in both fields.

Goal-Oriented: Both pastors and professional coaches assist individuals in setting and achieving personal or spiritual goals.

Holistic View: Each profession considers the whole person, including their environment, relationships, and experiences.

Confidentiality: Both coaches handle personal information with utmost respect and confidentiality.

What are the differences between life coaching and pastoral duties?

While there are many overlaps, there are also clear distinctions between pastoral work and life coaching. These differences help to highlight the truly unique contributions that professional coaching can make to an individual's life. Let’s look at a few.

Methodology: Life coaches use appreciative inquiry, targeted questions and evidence-based techniques to foster self-awareness and action, differing from the pastoral emphasis on spiritual guidance and support. (Some in ministry may find this shift uncomfortable at first, as coaching is client-led and doesn’t focus on offering mentorship or advice.)

Focus: Life coaches concentrate on helping clients achieve future goals, whereas pastors may also address spiritual and existential questions.

Training: The transition to life coaching may require specific training and certification, distinct from theological education.

Scope: Life coaching is generally more focused on personal and professional development, without the direct spiritual or community-oriented services typical of pastoral work. However, spirituality coaching is itself a distinct and emerging area of specialization in the coaching field.

Setting: Coaching offers the flexibility of various settings, including remote sessions, which can broaden the reach beyond the work that clery can complete within a local congregation or community.

What is the difference in salary for clergy or pastor vs. a life coach?

Average pay for a Pastor

The average pay for clergy and pastors varies significantly depending on the context, location, and other factors.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2022, clergy members on average earn an annual wage of $60,180. The earnings range from $31,170 at the lower end to $93,530 at the higher end. provides more detailed information specifically for pastors, indicating that the base salary range for a Pastor in the United States spans from $87,840 to $121,129, with an average base salary of $106,875​​.

These figures highlight the broad spectrum of potential earnings for those in pastoral roles, influenced by factors like geographic location, denomination, and the specific duties and responsibilities associated with their role.

Average pay for a Life Coach

The coaching and wellness market is growing rapidly, which means that data and reporting on income potential varies widely.

Our recommended go-to resource for industry data is The Global Coaching Study, conducted once every five years by the International Coaching Federation.

In the most recent results, published in 2023, the ICF reported the average pay for a life coach as $67,800 – but many coaches are making well over six figures.

Additionally, in 2022 coach practitioners generated an estimated annual revenue/income from coaching of $4.564 billion dollars.

In North America, coaches with more than 10 years in practice are charging, on average, $300 an hour. 

When it comes to income potential, who you serve also makes a difference. Business coaches who work primarily with executive clients command $330 per session. In contrast, life coaches serving individual clients are earning an average of $130 per hour.

The factors that play a role here are the niche or specialty of coaching (e.g., executive coaching, relationship coaching), years of experience, geographic location, clientele base, and whether they work for an organization or have their own private practice can influence earnings. Certification (from institutions like the International Coaching Federation) also play a role in earning potential.

More Resources:
The Ultimate Guide to Life Coach Salaries
How Much Do Life Coaches Earn?
Income Pathways for a Life Coach
Mindset and Coaching Market Outlook

Leveraging Your Pastoral Skills in Life Coaching

As a pastor, you have a deep understanding of spiritual needs, human emotions, and the complex dynamics that shape individual and communal life. 

Your role has honed your ability to listen with empathy, provide guidance, and notice the unspoken struggles and strengths of those you serve.

These competencies—rooted in empathy, attentive listening, and keen observation—are profoundly valuable in the realm of life coaching.

Life coaching thrives on helping individuals transition from their current state to one of greater fulfillment and purpose. This transformation is achieved by assisting clients in identifying their aspirations, overcoming obstacles, and devising practical strategies for realizing their dreams.

While not every client will wish to seek coaching in spiritual matters, your existing skill set could be of great use if you choose to work as a spiritual coach. 

Coaching Takes a Proactive Approach

Transitioning from pastoral work to life coaching involves a shift from a predominantly supportive and responsive role to one that is more proactive and guiding. 

Rather than primarily addressing spiritual crises or community issues, you'll empower individuals to enact personal change on their terms.

This proactive stance encompasses:

Goal-Setting: Collaborating with clients to define clear, attainable objectives.

Accountability: Monitoring progress and celebrating achievements to maintain momentum.

Perspective-Shifting: Encouraging clients to view challenges as opportunities for growth and development.

Investing in Professional Development

While your pastoral background lays a strong foundation, and you’ve undoubtedly gained many skills over your years of work – additional training in life coaching can enhance your ability to make a significant impact in this new capacity. Pursuing life coaching-specific training equips you with specialized techniques and methodologies distinct from those you’ve previously used  in your ministry work, further enriching your skill set.

Enrolling in an accredited coaching program such as Lumia not only broadens your toolkit but also adds credibility to your new role as a life coach. This training ensures that you are prepared to meet the needs of your clients with the most effective strategies, framework and interventions. Plus, you’ll get valuable support and practice as you navigate this change!

Navigating Empathy and Professional Boundaries

Maintaining empathy is crucial in life coaching, much as it is in pastoral care. 

However, life coaching also requires a balance, ensuring you provide support without overstepping, giving advice or telling someone what to do. 

In this new role, you encourage clients to take the initiative in their self-improvement journey, with you serving as their guide and supporter, rather than the driver of their change.

More Resources:
The Coach and Client Partnership: Holding Up a Mirror and a Flashlight
What Coaching Is, And What It’s Not - Part 1
What Coaching Is, And What It’s Not - Part 2

Commitment to Ongoing Learning

The field of professional life coaching, like pastoral work, is ever-evolving. 

Staying informed about the latest coaching strategies, attending professional development workshops, and seeking new insights are important steps that will keep your coaching practice effective and in alignment with best practices.

Transitioning from ministry to life coaching represents not just a career change but a continuation of your personal goal to serve others in meaningful ways. It's about applying the skills and insights gained through your pastoral experience in new contexts, where you can guide individuals toward achieving personal fulfillment and success. 

By approaching life coaching with the same passion and dedication you've brought to your ministry, you'll find opportunities to work with those seeking guidance on their journey to personal growth and achievement.

Considering A Career in Coaching?

Launch your coaching practice right! Check out Lumia Life Coach Training - a program that's every bit as unique as you are. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and fellow students dedicated to becoming a force for good in the world of coaching.

Lumia Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

[Free Guide] 6 Steps to Start Coaching Today

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