Today’s tip will challenge your thinking. It came about because of a collaboration call last week between high school staff and college LMDs.
During the call, Josh Chen, who serves both on the City Millennials Team in Portland and as LMD for the Western Washington and Western Oregon Cohort, talked about the difference between ministries as microcosms or ecosystems. I asked him if he would elaborate. Here is what he sent me.
Microcosm or Ecosystem
“One of my frustrations in leading the City team was that I felt like our strategies across the city were disjointed. There was no cohesion between the high school strategy, collegiate strategy, the city strategy, and even beyond that, the other churches and ministries in our area. This type of silo-ing is inefficient, what we need is a bridge that can span all the strategies. So this fall, we rolled out a strategic plan that is designed to help staff and volunteers think of their ministry more like an ecosystem than a microcosm. The ecosystem in our case is Cohort 20. On the city side, we have done quite a bit of research on what it will take for students to live out their faith after college, and that’s our goal isn’t it? To reach and develop students to live a life of faith? What we realized is that some of our collegiate strategies were inadvertently keeping them from thriving after they graduated.
“An example of this is that we teach students to find community, in fact we try to create such a great community, that it attracts other students. Well that type of community requires effort and intentionality, maybe even vision and direction. But what we do is we spoon-feed it to college students. After they graduate, a great majority of them find themselves having a hard time finding community. In essence we’ve taught them to be consumers of community and not contributors. So we need to rethink how we develop our middle school, high school and college ministries to prepare people not to find community, but to be able to create spaces of belonging wherever they go. Along those lines, we train students how to reach other students, yet most of our strategies will never be utilized in a work place environment. Even our best leaders in our movement won’t pull out a KGP or Soularium as they are talking to coworkers or neighbors. We need to train students on what it means to be gospel fluent rather than reliant on tools.
“So as an ecosystem, we need to have the end in mind as we develop our win/build/send strategies, ones that will translate into the next season of life. We also need to see what comes before our microcosm and what comes after our microcosm. I asked one of our metro team leaders from the collegiate ministry who their best student leaders were. His response? A handful of high school students in the running start program at a community college. They were faithful, available and teachable. I asked him, why not focus a chunk of their teams time reaching high schools, develop them as leaders, so when they hit college, they’ll be ready to multiply? He thought it was a great idea. But how does a small team that is already struggling to reach scope add more to their plate? They’d need to cultivate the ecosystem. There are volunteers that could come out of our millennial focused ministry and the collegiate ministry that may have a heart to reach college students. So spend 15% of your time raising up these volunteers, and going with them to high schools to get them going and coach them the same way you would coach a circle movement. On the other side, you would have to spend some time (minimal) making sure your college seniors are going to be transitioning well into the work place. Because if they are struggling to keep their head above the water like many of them are, they won’t be thinking about how to be a contributor, they will be trying to get their own needs met.
“So we are trying to develop a curriculum that students would go through in their last semester or quarter that will continue into the first 6 months of whichever city they go to. This is where we have to start thinking of geographic ecosystem. We currently have 5 teams in the Pacific Northwest. My guess is that a majority of our graduating students will stay in the PNW, but many of them will move cities. This is where the larger the ecosystem, the higher percentage we can send well. In the city they move to, they can form a launching community with others that have moved into the city (or already live there). They can meet once a week to go through the curriculum, check out the city together, check out churches together, and encourage each other to be on mission. If there are City staff in those cities, they can help facilitate this group and orienting them to the city, if not, Campus staff can spend some time facilitating.
“In order to create capacity to spend 15% of your time with high school, and another say 5% of your time with grads, we need to become excellent at student-led movements. I think what we will find as we look beyond our scope, is that our ministries will slow down in the short run, but in 3-5 years, they will grow tremendously. But it’s hard to think about long-term gains, unless you own a larger scope than just your microcosm. Which is why with the shift in our organization towards cohorts, we become a team of teams reaching a larger area. So knowing that as we raise up high school leaders, each team will be invested in making sure that high school leader goes to college and becomes a multiplier there. If there is not a movement, maybe the sending team works with the receiving team to launch a movement.
“Initially, I want to test out the ecosystem theory in the Northwest, but I’m hoping if it goes well, that it will become more of a national strategy, because, like I said, the larger the ecosystem, the less people will fall through the cracks…”
Lots to think about!
Have a great week launching and building new movements.
Previous Coaching Tips
- Andy Stanley’s Looking for the Uniquely Better.
- Beginning the Year Checklist.
- A tension: Only the interested or every person?
- Next Steps with the Each and the Every.
- Can Incoming Freshmen Launch?
- Caring for our People.
- The Network Map.
- The First Coaching Call.
- Collaborative Discipleship.
- Developing Leaders with Different Personalities.
- Two Simple Leadership Development Constructs.
- How to Finish When You Can’t See the Finish Line.
- Uh oh! Now what?
- Key Volunteer Challenge.
- Launch Week Side Benefits.
- A Launch Trip Offers Team Benefits.
- Advent Devotionals.
- December Checklist.
- Mention Spring Break Opportunities Now.
- Gap Year.
- Engaging Spiritually with Friends and Family Over Break.
- Prayer, Evangelism, Biblical Content, and Community. Parts 1 & 2.
- Students learning from other student leaders.