A few weeks ago, right after Hurricane Katrina hit, Tim Holcomb, Mid-Atlantic Forerunner, sent me an email saying that he was having to re-work his budget because gas prices had gone up so much. He thought this might actually help motivate us to employ distance coaching more and to think outside the box about other coaching paradigms. So I did some asking around for others’ thoughts on distance coaching. One of those responses came from Jim Layman, Northeast Catalytic Regional Director. I asked him if I could share his thoughts with you.
One time I was talking to a director who confessed that retention was a problem on the staff team. As this was a gracious person, I wondered what would be the problem. But then he described the typical work week. Staff would drive up to several hours each way to visit four or five different campus locations each week. That’s roughly a daily “road trip”. I told the director that I would want to leave the team, too!
Staff can beat the high price of gas by traveling less and “distance-coaching” more. If I had five campuses to coach, I would plan to show up when I needed to, when I could really make an impact, but certainly not “every Thursday”. The wear and tear on the staff member being constantly in a car is one thing, along with the “walletectomy” done at the gas pump! But another factor is also important.
Students need room to lead and take faith steps. I would coach those leaders via Godsquad, email, and phone over four or five weeks and make a special visit sometime when I could deliver resources and participate in outreach alongside them. The students would not have a weekly face to face with me to “solve all their problems”. They would need to solve them locally, with my coaching and encouragement from a distance. They would need to actually lead the ministry since no staff are going to be showing up anytime soon. They would have to lead in evangelism, maybe actually do it! Also, these students would not grow tired of a “weekly appointment”. They might actually truly look forward to my occasional in-person visits, and so would I!
True, if there were not student leaders in place, the ministry might flounder. But would I really want to drive over and “prop it up” each week? I might consider investing more visit time to try to uncover new indigenous leaders, but I wouldn’t automatically fix it into my weekly schedule.
The time I wouldn’t spend driving to each assignment (each week) could actually be better used in research about additional campuses or multiple movements. . We know a big challenge for us in Catalytic includes re-inspecting our launched campuses for multiple movement options. A certain amount of that can be done by phone and computer, a zero-gasoline expenditure. I could also keep working on critical mass for the ministry, so I’d have money to buy all those local student leaders a Christmas gift!
Jim offers some good principles of student ownership here. Kerri Louck said, “A well planned hour on the phone can save 9 hours alone in the car. Encouragement is not bound by gas prices when we use the phone, email, IM and even ‘snail mail’.” And Sam Osterloh is prophetic when he says, “In Acts, it took persecution to force the church out of Jerusalem and into the world. Today, it’s taking rising gas prices to force us to commute less, give ownership to the students and practice good distance coaching.” If you are looking for ways to break out of the weekly visit to Campus A on Mondays, Campus B on Tuesdays and Campus C on Wednesdays, give us a call here in the Student LINC office, 1-800-678-5462, and we will give you some practical tips on phone coaching that will actually free you up to do more launching.