As a teenager, my dream was to become a high school basketball coach in Indiana.
Mind you, I’ve never been to Indiana, but I fell in love with the movie Hoosiers as a middle schooler. My fantasy was to be the coach who led the small-town high school to the state championship against the large city schools, just like the movie portrayed.
I actually came close to fulfilling my dream—at least the part of becoming a high school basketball coach. I was an education major in college and taught high school for three years. I coached junior varsity guys’ basketball and was an assistant coach on the varsity team. I actually got to experience being part of the North Carolina state championship team as an assistant coach. It wasn’t Indiana, of course, but I loved every second of it!
Reflecting back, though, I was not a great coach. I was young, inexperienced, and did not understand the fundamentals of coaching. I simply mimicked what I saw in the movies and what I witnessed at games. My focus wasn’t on developing the young players on the team to become better people but being the “show” on the sidelines. I was a terrible leader. I, as the coach, needed a coach to help me develop the skills to be a successful coach and leader.
Good coaches get good coaching
Too often in youth ministry, leaders feel isolated and alone. Some are in remote locations where there are few youth leaders around. Others feel a sense of competition and allow their own insecurity to stand in the way of collaborating with others. Some leaders don’t have the denominational networks or other accessible community to provide the support needed to thrive in ministry. Whatever the reason, too many youth leaders are trying to lead by themselves and simply relying on what he or she experienced as a teenager in his or her own youth group. Sometimes, we just need someone to walk with us in the ministry journey.
About eight years ago, when I started as a new senior pastor of a small church after 20 years in youth ministry, the church gave me a great gift: it hired a ministry coach to meet with me on a monthly basis. Each month, the coach and I talked about life and ministry. He served as a mentor and a sounding board. He helped me navigate through what could have been explosive situations in the church. He cared for my soul and my marriage. Most of all, he was an encourager and a gentle guide. I owe all of the success of that pastoral ministry to God and to my coach.
Coaching for compassion, creativity, and courage
In Sticky Faith Innovation, Steve Argue and Caleb Roose divide the work of innovation into three moves: compassion, creativity, and courage. After listening to young people with compassion and discerning areas of innovation with great creativity, the final move is to launch experiments with courage. They write, “We believe there is success in trying, in experimenting for learning and growth, and launching ideas that advocate for young people, who are always worth it.”
However, taking risks experimenting in ministry can be vulnerable. It can be scary. This is where a coach can be a tremendous asset. Here are three gifts a ministry coach can offer you:
1. A coach provides insights from experience and outside perspective.
There is no substitute for experience, and it takes time to gain the experience needed to lead well. The hope is that as we learn from our and others’ lived experiences, we don’t harm the people around us, especially the young people we are leading.
This is a major benefit of a coach who has lived through similar experiences in ministry and can help leaders avoid making some of the same mistakes. A skillful coach can ask questions others on the team might not ask because he or she sees things from a unique vantage point. The objective view of a coach can be invaluable.
2. A coach provides a safe, compassionate, and encouraging space for leaders.
When taking a risk and trying something new, we need someone to help us process our thoughts and feelings. We need someone who is safe and compassionate to help us through the ups and downs of innovation. We need someone who is invested in the process but can remain objective to help us think clearly.
The role of a good coach is to provide the safe space for frustrations, celebrations, and tears of joy and sadness. A coach can provide encouragement when it is needed, and a coach can provide exhortation when a kickstart is needed.
3. A coach empowers leaders and journeys with them.
Oftentimes we can get so focused on the details of ministry that we lose sight of the mission and vision. We get so deep in the weeds that we can’t see where we are headed. A coach can continually point us back to the big picture, help us stay connected to the ministry and walk alongside of us as an advocate and confidant.
At the Fuller Youth Institute, we want to journey with you through the innovation process. We have highly experienced coaches who can walk with you through the moves of compassion, creativity, and courage. We can support you to make innovative changes to your ministry so your young people can thrive in discipleship. It will be our honor to serve and support you in this journey!
Tweet this: Sometimes we need someone to walk with us on the youth ministry journey. Sticky Faith Innovation coaches are here to help.
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Our Sticky Faith Innovation coaches have worked intensively with more than 100 youth leaders to develop a step-by-step innovation process that equips youth leaders to effectively serve teenagers’ changing lives and support their long-term faith.
We know you have the compassion, creativity, and courage you need to lead change in your ministry. FYI’s coaches are ready to walk with you every step of the way.
Photo by Surface
 Steven Argue and Caleb Roose, Sticky Faith Innovation: How Your Compassion, Creativity, and Courage Can Support Teenagers' Lasting Faith (Pasadena, CA: Fuller Youth Institute, 2021), 169.
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