Coaching Younger Staff
By Dick Gruber
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” Fred Rogers
Children’s ministry is growing out of its infancy. With this growth, more and more churches are allowing, even encouraging children’s pastors to hire associate level staff to serve in ministry under their direction. So seasoned children’s pastors are mentoring or coaching inexperienced staff members.
This natural progression isn’t always welcomed by seasoned ministers. Perhaps it’s one more thing to do on a maxed-out calendar. It’s a high calling, though, that all of us must aspire to. In the introduction of his book, Next Generation Leader (Multnomah), Andy Stanley writes, “I am convinced that it is my responsibility to pass on what I know about leadership to the generation coming along behind me.”
“It’s part of your calling to raise up and train others to do ministry with children,” writes Jim Wideman in his book Children’s Ministry Leadership (Group). “You can’t do that if you’re unwilling to give up some control. If you’re going to be an overseer, it’s time to quit pouring the cups of orange drink before children’s church and start pouring your heart for ministry into leaders.”
Time continues to press onward and you’ve gained valued life experience that the next generation desperately needs. How do you pass this on? How can you effectively coach the next generation of children’s ministry leaders?
Gary Collins gives a basic map for coaching in his book, Christian Coaching: Helping Others Turn Potential Into Reality (NavPress). His pattern is workable in a variety of church settings.
Issues-Many times leaders come into the ministry with issues or challenges they’ve carried since childhood. Others just bring along the baggage collected at the last place of ministry. Either way, Wideman is correct in writing, “As a leader, how you live your life is far more important than where your name appears on an organizational chart.” Dealing with your issues prior to meeting with those you’re coaching is essential to assisting them to grow in their ministries-and to deal with their issues.
Awareness-Lead those you coach to become aware of themselves, God’s view of them, and God’s view of others in ministry. I’ve had to deal with this one throughout my ministry. Who I am in Christ was formed in the fire of experience. Early in my ministry I felt I had to prove my competence to be appreciated by my pastor. Thank God he was more interested in my development as a Christian than my expertise as a children’s pastor. He invested time and much patience in me. He also instilled something else that Collins places on the list: vision.
Vision-In younger ministers, vision is often untamed. A good coach can help the newcomer refine the vision and move forward within reasonable parameters. It’s important for the younger minister to learn to set reachable goals. Then after reaching each goal, the leader grows in spiritual confidence and moves toward God’s best in his or her life.
Strategy-As you coach your young mentee through issues, awareness, and vision, YOU’LL develop a strategy for success with that person. Stanley writes, “A coach helps you measure your performance against your strengths instead of against someone else’s. A coach will know what you are capable of and will push you to your limit.” A good coach also plans, adjusts, and makes midcourse corrections.
A coach can even help a young minister change course wisely. Oftentimes in football an “audible” is called when immediate circumstances on the field don’t match up with the game plan. The quarterback sees what’s happening, and because of good coaching, has the confidence to change the play. Coach your young protégé in such a way that he or she is never shy about calling an audible in the midst of Sunday morning change-ups.
Action-Your coaching will drive the young person to take action both personally and professionally. You may also discover the need to take action as you’re challenged by this process. Your transparency in demonstrating willingness to grow will set a great model for the others.
Obstacles-In every ministry relationship there will be obstacles. Facing these with Christ like compassion and integrity will do much to train the younger minister. Wideman says, “Leaders aren’t derailed by problems. They meet challenges with a spirit of faith in God’s ability to overcome those challenges.”
Following Collins directives will help you establish your own patterns for personal growth. This will direct you in becoming a more effective coach.
I’m 50 years old. I’ve spent the last 33 years of my life serving Jesus by serving his children. God never called me to be the controller. My friend Bob Hahn once told me, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘On this rock Dick Gruber will build my church.”’ You’re in a unique position to affect children for eternity, but recognize these two things: (1) you must relinquish control to Jesus; and (2) he expects you to train others in what you’ve become accomplished at doing.
Invite Input on Drafts
It’s a rough draft, but does your team know that? When you ask your team for feedback on a printed item and they look at you with blank stares, chances are they’re not sure you really want their input. How is that possible?
If the door is still open for input on a strategic plan or other new idea, ask yourself if that message is clear with your written presentation. The more polished and professional the document, the more final it appears, which translates to the reader as: “No changes allowed.”
Author and leadership expert Rick Maurer has an analogy for this situation. “When
a friend invites you to take a ride in his shiny new car and asks excitedly, ‘So, what do you think?’ there’s only one correct answer: ‘I love it.’ “In much the same way, a proposed plan that’s finely detailed, color-coded, and spiral bound leaves little room for input.
Others may feel the decisions have all been made at this point.
Maurer’s solution? “Print the word ‘draft’ conspicuously on the proposed plan,” he suggests. This sends a message to other staff that advice and suggestions are quite welcome at this stage. It also reminds the leader to stay open to input, he says. And ultimately, he reminds, the likelihood that others will fully support a new idea increases when they feel they’ve had input in the process.
So consider skipping the fancy fonts and cross-referenced pages until the final round. Leave space for notes, provide highlighters or red pens, and clearly mark at least the cover page with “draft” to invite real feedback. Of course a large marker will suffice for this task, or make it even more officially unofficial with a pre-inked red “draft” stamp from Staples or Office Depot for about seven bucks.
This article “Coaching Younger Staff” by Dick Gruber is from childrensministry.com/leaders and beyondresistance.com