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.
Our small group coaches have begun working through Joel Comiskey’s training manual “Coach: Empower Others to Effectively Lead a Small Group,” which I highly recommend.
The first lesson focuses on our ability to receive. As it’s been said, ministry flows out of being. The effectiveness of a coach depends on his or her own relationship with Christ. Comiskey reminds us that you can’t lead a person beyond the place where you are and that your character will eventually find you out. No matter how talented or gifted you are, that’s no substitute for virtues like honesty, faithfulness and good judgment.
So what’s the key to receiving well? Comiskey points to spending time with God each day, taking a day off each week, and prioritizing relationships with those closest to you.
Time with God
Henry Blackaby has said that what we need more than anything is unhurried time with God. Spending time with Him each day enables us to know Him better, learn from His Word, be empowered by His Spirit, and grow accustomed to His voice. It’s essential, but far too often we allow it to be crowded out by other activities or by liberal use of the snooze button (or maybe that’s just me). We need to remember Who it is we are meeting with and make it a priority.
After being convicted by Blackaby’s “unhurried time” statement, I’ve tried increasing my often rushed morning quiet time to a full hour so I have plenty of time to read a devotional (by Blackaby, coincidentally), read my Bible (a friend and I pick a new book to focus on each month), journal, pray, and spend time silently waiting on God. Rarely do I actually spend a full hour (that darn snooze button) and it fails to happen altogether far more often than it should, but the key is to be moving in the right direction.
A Day Off
God didn’t design us to work 7 days a week. That’s just the way it is. If we do so, we’ll get out of balance and burn out.
Several years ago Heather and I read “The Rest of God” by Mark Buchanan (which I also highly recommend) and began being much more intentional about setting aside a day each week where we refrain from “work” and only do activities that recharge us. I’m an introvert and she’s an extrovert, so it may not always look the same for us, but we’ve both found it extremely helpful. I’m able to be much more productive during the week when I know that I have a day off approaching. And implementing Sabbath gave me time to add back into my life activities (like cooking and reading) that bring me joy but had gotten squeezed out by busyness. More joy is always a good thing.
We all need close, intimate relationships where we can know and be known. We grow in our relationship with God as we are able to share our lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with our spouse and close friends. If you don’t prioritize your family life and those closest to you, you won’t have much to offer those you are coaching.
Heather and I always have room for improvement, but we have established many ways to ensure we remain close and connected, including date nights every other week, monthly goals/calendar/budget breakfasts, and an annual prayer retreat. Keeping our relationship on solid footing enables us to more effectively minister to others.
So how are you doing in terms of receiving? Do you have a daily quiet time, a weekly Sabbath, and are you cultivating your relationship with family and close friends?
What is it you need to do? Don’t just ponder it – go do it.