Our Student LINC and Coaching Center coaches often use Skype and WebEx in their coaching. It makes sense to utilize these innovative technologies when you can’t travel to a campus. But I was intrigued when I heard that Clyde Comer’s team, Eastern NC Catalytic, was consistently using Skype to disciple their leaders on distance campuses. Clyde said that it was originally Kai Gibbons’ idea. I asked both of them to describe what they were doing.
Clyde gave this overview.
“Discipleship via Skype or “diskypleship” as we call it has been a huge innovation for our team. As a young catalytic team with multiple campus movements between 1-2 hours away from our base, we found it very difficult to get consistent discipleship time with our students when we were on campus. We were only able to go to each campus every other week or so and when we did, we had so much we needed to accomplish during that time: catching up, training, pouring into their walk, taking them out sharing. It seemed that we weren’t doing any of it well. Plus since we weren’t consistent with weekly appointments our student leaders didn’t have us in their schedule and often had other plans when we came to campus.
“Kai Gibbons had dated her now husband via skype while he was in Slovakia on Stint. She began to use Skype to disciple a couple of girls at Campbell after my wife Jenn had a baby and couldn’t continue traveling to meet them. We found that she developed a deeper level of connection with them than Jenn had the previous semester. Seeing this, we decided to implement “diskypleship” across the board this fall for our staff team.
“We have set aside Thursdays for distance coaching and we have set appointments with our leaders. It allows us to be on multiple campuses during a day and to have consistent input into leader’s lives. I personally hate phone appointments, but a skype appointment is the next best thing to being face to face. Several of us have been able to have very frank discussions with leaders about issues in their lives. Things you’d think you’d need to be face to face for, but with Skype you can actually look them in the eye sort of and can see body language that you miss on the phone.
“The other benefit is that it allows us to better prioritize our time when we are physically on campus. We can take students out to share their faith, meet with new/potential leaders or begin looking for possibilities of new movements with faculty and ethnic students. There are definitely some kinks and technical difficulties we’ve had to work out but “diskypleship” has allowed us as a small team to maximize our time and effectiveness.”
Kai told how staff on the team viewed diskypleship and how the students reacted to their plans.
“At first our staff team was a bit skeptical about this strategy. They wondered how different this was from phone coaching (which had not been successful). They wondered how the students would respond, expecting a lot of push back. They thought it would be better to spend that day on campus. However, we decided as a team to try the strategy for a semester, and then we could reevaluate.
“As we evaluated this strategy, our team loves it. There has been some messiness. However, we have decided that this is a worthwhile strategy for our team and that we would continue on this path. We have found that diskypleship is very different from coaching by phone because of the face-to-face contact with the students. In this technological age, students seem to be very comfortable with having Skype discipleship. All of them already knew about Skype and were very comfortable in using it before we even introduced it to the ministry. We also found that our time on campus has become more focused and productive because we use Thursday as a discipleship day (our students have been growing, they feel more equipped in ministry, and we even have had very direct and truthful conversations with them).
“I have been using diskypleship with one of our student leaders for a year now. It was so easy when I introduced this idea to her at first. I thought I was comfortable using Skype; however, I found that students oftentimes use it with each other even if they are already on the same campus. Students today are becoming increasingly comfortable with technology. It is easy for them to open up with discipleship and at times can be more comfortable being real via technology than even in real life. Because of this reality, when we do have the opportunity to speak with these students in person, it is very easy and natural to pick up with them. I have also seen tremendous growth with this student. Because of my weekly time with Andrea, I’ve been able to enjoy the level of depth in our time together that I would get if I were on campus with her.”
The Eastern NC Catalytic team is using Skype to disciple 11 students at 6 locations. As they uncover new leaders, they plan to use diskypleship with them also. The strategy is working well for them, giving them the opportunity to influence and feel the pulse of multiple movements on multiple campuses. Why not give it a try with someone you know on a campus a bit farther away.