Coaching leaders

Kathryn Taylor, New Orleans Metro, called me recently to talk about coaching. She said that Craig Johring, Mexico City, had been there recently and imparted a conviction that students can lead ministries. Kat facilitated a time with her team on coaching student leaders. I asked if I could pass on to you what their team discussed. (To shorten this tip, I posted some of her supporting material on my blog. It is worth reading.) We started by asking the question, “What makes a good coach? Here are some things that came out:

  • some one who can motivate,
  • makes sure the players are successful,
  • watches and gives feedback,
  • some one who challenges,
  • pushes people beyond what they think they can do so they can be who they dream of being.

A key point on coaching is this – you don’t coach a little league team the same way you coach the major leagues. I was a swimmer for 7 years and then I started coaching the 5-7 year olds on the swim team. Often with those young kids, they were just learning the strokes. It meant that I had to jump in the pool with them while I was training them to help them learn, I was much more hands on until they matured. The point is this, coaching depends on where the movement’s growth is. A new movement may require more hands on and as it matures and the leaders grow, you may be more on the sidelines. I think we often miss this step between launching and coaching.

We hear it often: “As a coach DON’T DO FOR STUDENTS WHAT THEY CAN DO FOR THEMSELVES”. Do the things that only you can do. We came up with a large list of what staff can uniquely do. Click here to see a partial list. So, in light of this principle, what are things that coaches should be doing?

1. Lead leaders. We have to find the right players. Dan Allan recommends reading the chapter on “selection” in The Masterplan of Evangelism. Two things that really stand out are finding people that are teachable and people who want to be used. It may take a little time to find out whether or not our leader is the right person, but if they aren’t the right person, don’t give up on the movement. They may lead you to the right person!

2. Help develop a leadership team. This is a process that may take a while. Structure seems to be one of the things that we as staff can uniquely bring to a group. For example, when I was in OK, we had a great ministry at Southwestern OK State. It was growing and their leadership team was a mess. Anyone who wanted to showed up for leadership meeting and a few people were carrying the burden for the whole ministry. It was exausting to the few and other’s didn’t feel ownership. We helped the students implement a leadership team that met weekly. The student director’s responsibility was much like that of a local leader, he/she led the team, was a spokesperson to the university, moved them toward the vision and cared for the team. Other vital roles on a leadership team are: prayer coordinator, outreach, discipleship/follow-up/small-group coordinator; conferences and retreats coordinator; and community. If the group has a weekly meeting, that coordinator should probably also be on the team. Of course, other’s can be on the team, but I recommend keeping it at 12 people or less. PRAY for all of your student leaders.

3. Give them a simple plan. Students want to know two things. Where are you going? and Why should I go with you? They need to know that we are helping them go somewhere that has a purpose and that we care about them. We need to speak of the mission OFTEN in compelling ways. For example, we don’t use the phrase, “turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers”, it’s a great vision, but not compelling. We use the phrases, “putting the gospel within arm’s reach of every student on this campus” or “giving every student on this campus a chance to be transformed by the lifechanging message of the gospel”. Paint a picture of the mission that they want to be a part of! Make sure they can articulate a vision for their campus. Dan Allan suggests that we have them draw a picture of that vision. We should know their vision and pray for that vision.

I only meet regularly with the student director. If it’s a phone appointment, it’s about an hour. If it’s in person, I may try to get up to 2 hours with them. (I also meet sporadically with other female student leaders for discipleship or encouragement.) Here are the elements of her meetings.

4. Write out your plan. I know some people like to be really structured and write out exactly what they will do week to week while others like to fly by the seat of their pants. It’s so helpful to at least sit down and write down a broadstrokes plan for your ministry. You can write what you want to do week by week in the areas of shepherding, prayer, evangelism, discipleship, sending or you can just write out a general plan that you’d like to see happen in each area in that person/team by the end of the semester. Whatever it is, I really encourage staff teams to spend some time thinking through their ministries and even sharing their plans. If you have a hard time with this, ask some one else to join you and talk through it!

Thanks, Kat. I ended my soccer coaching career after 13 years last spring when my youngest son decided he wanted to devote more time to cross country and track. My success as a coach was watching the boys on my team become as committed to the team goals as I was. We finished the season as District Commissioner’s Cup champs. I did not play a single minute of any game. But I ended up wearing the tank full of water after our last victory! Your role as coach to your student leaders is significant in what you see your ministries accomplish.


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