Helicopter Leadership

We’ve heard the term “helicopter parenting.” There is a great article about it in Parent’s Magazine identifying reasons parents helicopter, the consequences, and how to avoid it.

Recently, David Martinelli, Executive Director, CFM, talked about the parallels of helicoptering to our own leadership with students and faculty. That got me thinking about how easy it is for us as staff to hover too closely and supervise in such a way that fosters dependence upon us.

What naturally comes to mind is the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will feed his family for a lifetime.”

A few weeks ago, my wife, Chris, had a coaching call with Kaitlin. She got married six months ago. Due to her husband’s more extensive travel than they had anticipated, she was grumbling about it some. Chris asked her to consider how 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 and Philippians 4:11 relate to how she might view her husband’s travel.

A couple of hours later, Kaitlin sent a picture of some notes she jotted down about the pro’s of a traveling husband.

  • Freedom to make plans with [a co-worker with a different religious background] and other girlfriends.
  • Opportunities to serve moms at church.
  • Freedom to do projects/crafts.
  • Time to read and seek Jesus without distraction.
  • Time to talk on the phone with my family and friends.
  • Could practice cooking.
  • Special date nights when Clark is home.
  • Cherish time together.

Kaitlin realized that Clark’s out of town travel allowed her ministry opportunities with her co-worker and women in her Bible study. A simple question set Kaitlin on a path to discovering the positives herself. If Chris had pointed out those positives to her, she would have helicoptered in her leadership. Nothing left for Kaitlin to do but to agree.

In the time since Chris’s exchange with Kaitlin, she had a dinner with her co-worker and some Christian friends. It has opened up even more opportunities in the future.

For many of us in the US, we will be attending a recruiting conference, a team leader gathering, or fall staff conference this week. These will take us off campus. Let’s look for ways to set up our student leaders to take on some of the responsibilities we might normally retain for ourselves.


Other related tips.
Student-led movements in Nebraska.
Student-led Ministries in Brazil.
Distributing Ownership.
Evaluating Ministry to Generation Z.


Earlier in the fall I wrote about the five areas of strategic focus of the US Campus Ministry.

  1. WBS Movements
  2. Multiethnic Organization
  3. Stakeholders & Partnerships
  4. Movement Accelerators
  5. Prayer Catalysts

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