I’m continuing to work through “Coach: Empower Others to Effectively Lead a Small Group” by Joel Comiskey in conjunction with our team of small group coaches, which I lead. Lesson two is on learning – specifically, learning from failure, learning from your own small group leadership experiences, and learning about your leaders by spending time with them.
Learning from Failure
Comiskey points out that there are no shortcuts – we learn from experience and we gain experience by making mistakes. While mistakes invite self-condemnation and attacks from the enemy, the reality is that Jesus uses inadequate people – it is in our weakness that He becomes strong. We must continually cling to that truth and keep trying.
God hates passivity. Comiskey quotes Henry Cloud and John Townsend in Boundaries: “The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try.” As Hebrews 10:38 says, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
Learning from Leading
For small group coaches, one of the best experiences to learn from is leading small groups ourselves, which is why we make that a prerequisite for coaches. This allows us to draw from our own experiences – both positive and negative. In fact, often it is our failures that are more helpful to our leaders than our successes. I’m always amazed at God’s ability to redeem anything, and in coaching one of the most gratifying experiences is to see God repurpose our own negative experiences to benefit our leaders.
Learning through Spending Time
Simply put, we learn about our leaders through spending time with them. But how much is enough? And how much is too much?
While we ask our coaches to meet with their leaders a minimum of three times each semester, over the long term we seek to learn how much time a leader needs from us. That will vary depending on the leader. As Comiskey notes, the key question is whether or not the leader feels cared for. It may be as simple as asking, “How much time do you need to spend with me to be a more effective leader?”
We are life-long learners. Comiskey identifies the foundational coaching principles as listening, caring, developing, strategizing, and challenging (which he explores in the following lessons). As we learn from our failures, from our own leadership experiences, and from interaction with our leaders, we can build upon those principles and continue to grow in our ability to coach.