One of our Student LINC coaches, Chris West, recently sent a letter to his partners about what he does as a distance ministry coach. With over 20 years of field ministry experience, most of it at the Ivy League, Dartmouth College, he offers unique insights, that I thought you might find interesting. Thanks, Chris.
If Jesus wanted to start a ministry on every campus in the world, how would He do it? He might start with 12 disciples, teach and empower them, and depend on the Holy Spirit for everything. This model is not far from what we do as coaches in Student LINC.
So what does a coach do?
It’s not uncommon even for Cru staff to question the value of “distance coaching.” Most staff prefer to be in-the-mix, and on-the-ground with their students. We want to be where the action is. Of course! However when we shift our primary energy from staff-doing to staff-coaching we are better positioned to mobilize others to lead. Ideally, we do both!
Whenever we begin coaching a student leader it helps to explain how we can help them. For example, when I first met Joseph and his friends at UMaine in April, I started with a “DTR” (define the relationship.) I explained …
First, as staff coaches we provide student leaders with a point of connection to Cru. UMaine already had a fledgling CRU ministry, but almost no support. Our first job as coaches is to connect regularly with the student leaders and adult volunteers we coach. We strive to understand who they are, the unique features of their campus, and what they need to be successful.
Staff coaches also function as “tour guides” to the wider world of Cru. As a major campus ministry organization, we have a TON of firepower and can familiarize our student leaders with resources and opportunities they might not otherwise know about. We can introduce them to ideas, events, and methods to help them build their local ministry.
The whole coaching arrangement is based on the Home Depot® motto, “You can do it. We can help.” Coaches assume that God is already at work. We believe He already has people like Joseph on every campus that we can link with and mobilize.
More ways a coach helps.
- We help students like Joseph form a team.
- We are a sounding board — we listen… and offer ideas.
- Help with problem solving.
- Help students think through planning — (student-led ministries are notorious for starting too late.).
- Help students see the bigger picture. Not just the next activity, but the overall vision, goals, etc.
- We encourage — when things don’t go well, we’re there to talk it through.
- Connect our students to a “world” of summer missions opportunities with Cru.
- Introduce our conference and retreat events.
- Evaluate — we help students think through what’s working well, what isn’t, and what adjustments are needed.
- Staff provide a voice of experience. We’ve done this before!
It’s most helpful when student leaders understand the role of their coach from the beginning. Typically, we ask our student leaders commit to a few things from their end:
- To maintain a growing personal walk with Christ.
- To stay in regular contact with their coach.
- Agree with Cru’s mission and purposes – finding appropriate and meaningful ways to share the gospel, and help others grow.
- Be willing to consider Cru opportunities such as conferences and summer missions.
- To serve as a liaison – spokesman between the Coach and other student leaders.
Sometimes there are misfires. But when it’s working well, staff become multipliers and mobilizers. Then the sky is the limit! Maybe this is what Jesus has in mind. Working with hungry students like Joseph, strengthens my own confidence that we’re on the right track. And we won’t stop looking for ways to do it better.
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