My brother and sister-in-law left Friday morning from Florida for their home in Pennsylvania. He texted me last night to say he always wanted to see the Blue Ridge Parkway. They drove lots of miles out of the way yesterday to see it. But he said, “I could barely see the car in front of me because the mountain was fogged in, rain and ice. Lucky me! They should rename it Black and Blue Parkway!”
Many of you have had some snow days this year. Does ministry stop on those days? I was going through my archives and came across a tip that a friend, John Mitchell, did several years ago on coaching when the weather doesn’t cooperate. He is now teaching high school science, but at the time coached campuses across New England, mostly when face-to-face ministry was not possible. Here’s what John said:
Distance Ministry Training in Evangelism and Discipleship even works on snow days!
Can you do effective evangelism and discipleship training on a snowbound day while sitting by the fireplace with a hot chocolate?
As I write this, I am sitting on the couch next to my son while he watches Thomas the Tank Engine. His preschool was cancelled today because of snow and freezing rain. So I can confidently answer the above question with a definite yes! When we use distance principles to coach student leaders, we are able to increase both our flexibility and efficiency.
Over the past several years, I have come to appreciate the ease of getting a hold of many students and the more relaxed pace of some students on snow days. However, distance coaching in evangelism and discipleship works any time of year, whatever the forecast. Distance coaching is just like face-to-face ministry. It is just that you are meeting together over the phone instead (or video call if you prefer).
When selecting student leaders to distance coach, 2 Timothy 2:2 offers great insight: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” This means that the best student leaders for me to coach are reliable. They return e-mails and/or phone calls and notify me when they can’t keep an appointment. They are teachable and have the ability to build into others with some training.
There are some things I can do easily over the phone and other things that I do when I am with them face-to-face.
After selecting a student leader, I try to use my phone appointments to focus on training in evangelism and discipleship. I typically call them every week or two. When I call, I take a few minutes to find out how they are and what’s going on in the ministry. Then I take around 15-20 minutes for training, 5-10 minutes for coaching related to ministry activities, and I close our appointments by praying for them and the ministry.
…I usually develop a personalized discipleship plan with the students I mentor each semester. Each time we meet, we are either discussing a topic related to evangelism or apologetics, how to disciple or build into other students, or how they can personally grow in their walk with God.
It helps to send reminder e-mails about two or three days before my appointments with a link to an article that relates to our topic or a relevant attachment. This helps both of us take the appointment seriously and we each benefit from these training articles and related discussions. At times both students and I have practiced sharing the Knowing God Personally booklet to one another over the phone. Even though this can seem awkward at first, once you have done this a few times, it becomes quite natural.
Each semester I seek to visit the large group meetings at the campuses I coach twice. Campus visits are the perfect time to actually do evangelism with the student leaders you mentor, so it is good to plan for your visit in advance. (Make sure they have you scheduled to speak, have them set up a table on campus or other outreach, bring Soularium or Perspectives cards with you, set up a special meeting with student leaders for lunch or dinner etc.). Campus visits like this provide us with a great opportunity to provide training to the ministry as a whole and connect with the whole student leadership team.
During one of my campus visits each semester, I emphasize evangelism and in the other visit the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Usually when I visit a large group meeting on campus I speak on one of these two topics. Since I can’t go sharing with a student leader while talking on the phone with them, visiting their campus provides me with a great opportunity to do this. Last fall I used the Soularium and Knowing God Personally booklets while meeting with my student leaders and this semester I also expect to use Perspectives cards with them during visits.
While doing distance ministry, I have noticed that some students and campuses grow quickly and effectively implement coaching and training. However, other students and campuses have struggled more or can be difficult to coach. This is similar to my experience when I was focused on one campus. Don’t be surprised if you experience a variety of fruitfulness from your distance ministry endeavors. Even as you experience some disappointments, I expect that you will receive the rewards of seeing God answering your prayers as He builds new movements on your campus and on other campuses where you didn’t believe it was possible.
John knew that selection of his leaders is key no matter how near or far away that leader is. And then beyond that, he has a plan for those he coaches. He is intentional about what he does on the phone and when he visits the campus. But the biggest benefit in his coaching from a distance is how the leader realizes the importance of what they are doing in seeing God’s Kingdom grow on their campus or in their community.
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