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What’s the Difference Between Training and Certification as a Life Coach?

Transcript from the Christian Life Coach Collective Podcast:

Episode # 10

I want to talk to you about something I get a lot of questions about, certification. Potential coaches always want to know do I need to be certified? Clients never ask me if I'm certified. So here's my answer, quick and easy Do you need to be certified? No, do you need to be trained? Absolutely. What is the difference between the two? I'm going to tell you that anybody who asks if you're certified is usually looking for information about one or two things. Certification usually means that you have gone an extra step or ten to become certified in any given area.

I also run a nonprofit where we train crisis responders. We teach people how to respond in times of disaster natural, man-made disaster, and other types of crisis, whether it's people across the street from them or it's on the other side of the world, and the certification means nothing.

For the past 20 years, no one has ever said, 'Oh, I don't want you to help me unless you have shown me a piece of paper and proven that you're certified to come help me'. This is not something anybody has ever said or asked. Now, the people who want to help are the people who ask the question do I need to know more? And so the pursuit of being certified often is usurping. The actual right question to ask is do I need training? The answer to that is yes.

Let's just, for instance, bring up the scenario of being an ordained minister, so you can marry your brother and his wife-to-be who want to get married. Suddenly, tomorrow, and online, you can go get certified by paying a certifying entity. Does this mean you are trained? Does it mean you're equipped? Does it mean you're called? Does it mean you're responsible? Does it mean you know anything? No, but you have a piece of paper. Does that paper do you any good? Well, it does. When it comes to legalities. Okay, that's fine.

Life coaching is not a regulated industry, however, at this point. It is a profession where you can show up and help people who want to be helped. You can become a guide. You can bring your expertise or adjust your ability to listen, lean in, and know how to ask the right questions. You can show up with your intuition and your previous experience, but it doesn't mean that you need a piece of paper to do so.

Now, a lot of us have been trained in our culture and today's way of thinking to believe that there needs to be more information poured into us, and I'm going to argue and say that just having more information does not equip you. So what do you do with that and how do you go get what you do need? 

Training is something that pours the knowledge into all the cracks. It's like the ice cream after a heavy dinner. There's always room for it. Training, especially when you are interested in the knowledge, helps to equip you both mentally and emotionally, spiritually and physically. The training and equipping side is holistic and hands-on.

You can take any kind of course online for cheap or free. You can watch a lot of videos, you can do it on demand, you can do it at your own pace and those things are totally fine and you will know more than you did when you went in with it. But that doesn't mean that you're equipped. It doesn't mean you're ready. It doesn't mean you're going to have confidence.

A certification often means somebody has said they'll back you up if there's any question, but that doesn't mean that you're going to get any backup. It doesn't mean you're going to get any support. And there are, as I said, a lot of different life coach certification programs out there, ranging from free, at your own pace, online, to 12-month programs for $20,000 with pretty spectacular training associated with it. But not everybody is capable of reaching that. 

I would say to you, if you're hung up and stuck on, I need to be certified before I coach anybody I want to help you remove that snag. If you think that there is something that you must have before you can move forward, before you can ever help anybody, before you can take your next right, imperfect action step, then you're probably going to get stuck there for a long time, especially if the kind of training and certification you would like is too out of reach or so accessible that it brings no value to you. 

Here is what I recommend.

This is the process I suggest you start with and recontextualize to yourself, and then even move around and reorder based on you and your life. I don't know everybody particularly, but I would say to most people, do this. Start by helping the one person in front of you. Start gaining some tools. Buy some books, read some things, listen to some podcasts, do some research, and see what it's about. My goal is for this podcast to support you in this and to make a way for you to start now and not wait for months and years to pass before you begin doing the thing that you're called to do. Once you start helping people who are actually in front of you with some of the basic tools that you can learn through books and podcasts and research, then find somebody who offers the kind of training you're looking for.

Let's just say you're a single mom, you work a full-time job and you don't have time, with what's going on in your life, to do something jam-packed and short-term but very expensive. Okay, Maybe one of those free online courses is good enough for you. That's where you need to start and you take a free course that's at your own pace, or even a paid course that's at your own pace. Go do that and just start somewhere. Stop waiting for tomorrow to come before you do it because tomorrow ends up being today and you still have the mindset of waiting for tomorrow. That's the problem with the mindset of now versus not yet. When you're always waiting for not yet and you're in a habit of thinking and operating that way you're always waiting for not yet, when not yet has become now and you don't recognize it. You can't see it. Your brain is still waiting.

Shift out of that mindset. Recognize that a lot of your not-yet's have become yesterday's. And what are you going to do with that? Move forward, take some kind of action step. If God is giving you direction not to, you will not feel peace about it. Now move forward from that training program and start building your business. Start looking for clients and take some of the money that you get and put it aside.

I recommend that you then move into another training program as your season sees fit, as it works for you, as it becomes more possible for you to get into a higher level of training. It's great, that you've gotten some Legos to start building with. You put them in your pocket. Once you start moving in the direction of I've got some knowledge about coaching and I've watched some videos and maybe done some worksheets that's great. But keep moving, don't stop there.

It doesn't matter if they said, hey, you're certified at the end of this program. It doesn't matter. If you want to stay with that certifying entity and do something with them, then the certification means something that only has value within the certifying entity. It doesn't have value unless somebody knows about that entity and cares about it. 

Most people who are asking you if you were certified just want to know if have you gone the extra steps to learn anything about this. Clients think that being certified means that you got trained, and it doesn't not.

In this profession, there are all types of free and very cheap but low-end training platforms out there and programs and companies. If you're in a place to be able to spend a little more money and be able to invest more of your time to get into some kind of training program that is more short-term, skip the cheap low-end training platforms and do something like The Greenhouse. The Greenhouse is a cohort-style three-month-long program where you're working alongside people that are wanting to do the same thing, like-hearted people who want to become Christian Life Coaches and they want to do it with me and through Sterling and Stone Mentoring. In this kind of program, we're just going to work together and go from a beginning start date to an end date, as everybody learns together and does peer coaching together and you have requirements and deadlines and homework. It allows you to put to use everything that you're being taught Inside of the knowledge portion. 

There are other training programs out there besides mine,  and it is acceptable for you to find what fits for you and for you to go there and still listen to my podcast. I'm here to support everybody, no matter who gets them, who is trained, who is not trained.

This is just my take on the difference between training and certification, what you should go after, how they'll benefit you, and, while I would love for everyone to come inside The Greenhouse, it is not the right place for everybody. What I'm doing is a cohort-style training. That means that the cohort is a collection of people all going in one direction collaborating. There's a community, there's co-creation, co-laboring, and coming together to support one another in the gifts and callings God has put on our lives as coaches. It is not for just anybody. It is for somebody who wants to spend a little money and, at the end of three months, really have some solid foundation to go forward. Someone who wants to become part of The Greenhouse Society.

The society is advanced training and staying in that collective group, that community of people growing as Christian Life Coaches together, and then that levels up for people who are interested in working with Sterling and Stone Mentoring in the future, roundtable conferences, etc. I'd be excited to have so many people in there, but it's important to me that it's the right people, which is why I can confidently say that there are other training programs and certification programs out there. You should check them all out, you should put them side by side. You should find what fits your season of life, your calling, and your values, so that things align and you get the most out of it you can. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the on-demand courses, there are a lot of life coach schools and institutes and things like that that you can search out if you have more discretionary funds to invest in yourself and your training. Again that is something I would even suggest. Somebody who goes through The Greenhouse with me and then you start making so much money that you have those discretionary funds at your fingertips, go do it, find one of those high ticket programs, and go get trained there.

A life coach should be a lifelong learner. You should continue to seek out higher mountains and distant horizons for things that you don’t know now but can know later. I encourage you to continue your journey of learning and becoming a greater, greater, and greater coach as your calling progresses, as your life seasons change. 

Do what you can do right now, but make sure that you line up with somebody who's going to train and equip you.

Even if you start with just doing a course that's all online and you're doing it by yourself, I'm gonna tell you you're missing out to some degree on the collaboration and camaraderie of doing it with other like-hearted people, but it's not all bad. It will benefit you and I encourage you to finish it. Do your best with it, do what you can with where you're at and then keep moving on and, even once you're certified, keep learning, keep growing, and keep connecting with other people who can encourage you and support you.

I hope that this has explained some of the tension between training and certification and what you need, and what you don't need. You can get trained and never get certified, and likely most of the clients you come across will never question you. Other coaches will question you. That's the fun part. I've never had somebody on a deployment ask if I was certified to be a responder and help them. But who does ask? The ones who work for other disaster relief organizations. They wanna know and I say, oh, actually I certified myself when I built the certification and training program for our organization and it's excellent because I am called to be a teacher, a trainer, a builder, an organizer, and so it influences greatly the type of coaching that I naturally operate in.

Listen to the episode titled What Type of Coach You Are, I talk about the four types of coaches The Possibility, The Mentor, The Strategy, and The Pastoral coach. These types are influenced by the types of strengths and giftings that you have innately that God's put in you.

Go to and check out The Greenhouse Course so you can get trained and start coaching!

And just to end, I bless you, your calling, and your coaching. 


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