D. Michael Henderson and the art of the coaching conversation in champion discipleship

In a post last week on D. Michael Henderson and What Mormons Can Teach Us About Major Donor Development, I made a not so subtle recommendation that you buy everything the man ever wrote.

I received a gratifying number of emails from people who ordered Henderson’s Ladder of Faithfulness, from which I quoted in the piece.

Good step.

But it’s not everything the man ever wrote.

So in an effort to coax you into the rest of his catalog, let me quote from Making Disciples One Conversation at a Time on the subject of the kinds of conversations we should be having with our champions as we coach them to full maturity in Christ in our shared cause through the vehicle of a mutual accountability relationship.

First of all, note the centrality of such conversations to your overall effort–and why you can’t expect success if you skimp on them!

Ministry always entails relationships, and relationships require communication. So the way to improve your ministry is to improve your conversations.

Second, recognize that such conversations are something entirely different than friendly chats, nor do they arise spontaneously out of same:

The reason we engage in redemptive discussions with our friends is that both of us are committed to following Jesus. We want to be like Him and to do His will and work. Every time you meet with your friends, you need to keep that objective in mind. All parties to the conversation must agree that this is where the conversation is headed.

In fact, seeking to be spontaneous in such a conversation–because you feel awkward about walking a champion through a P/E/O chart, for example, and prefer to “shoot from the hip”–actually works against you:

Regarding the subject of conversations, in one of my classes a student objected to what he considered regimentation of discussions. ‘I just like to be free to talk about whatever comes up,’ he said. ‘I don’t like to be bound by rules. I want to say whatever comes to my mind,’ to which I answered, ‘It’s not all about you.’ Lots of people want to talk, and they do. They drone on and on about whatever strikes their fancy. But self-centered conversations don’t accomplish much. If we want to serve God first, others second, and ourselves last, we need to shape the direction of our discourse.

Coaching conversations follow a delightfully predictable and manageable four-step process:

Here are four elements that every effective conversation should contain:

  1. A clear goal
  2. Shared information that relates to that goal
  3. Strengthening of the relationship
  4. Agreement on the next steps toward the goal.

Next, don’t use the coaching call just to “give an update on the ministry” and “let you know how to pray”. Use the call to ask productive questions:

Productive conversations start and end with productive questions. The first words of a verbal encounter set the stage for the rest of the interaction. ‘John, I’m glad we have this time to talk. I know you’re serious about following Jesus, and I know your time is valuable. Let’s make the most of it. What is the most important issue we can discuss today?’ Or you might ask, ‘What’s on the growing edge of your relationship with Christ?’ or ‘Is there a particular decision you need to make or an issue you need to clarify?’ You should also ask, ‘Is there something you sense I should be tackling?’ That insures that the conversation will be mutually beneficial—a discussion between fellow strugglers

Finally, remember that the coaching call itself is just part of a wider process:

The most effective conversations share information before, during, and after the conversation itself. The people who make the most difference in other people’s lives are constantly sending each other supplementary material: books, articles, quotations, personal notes, tapes, or reports. People who are good at this follow up their discussion with a note that reaffirms their discussion, perhaps with an enclosure—an article, a photo, or a news clipping. And, just as often, they send some information prior to actually meeting: ‘John, you mentioned your interest in serving the poor in our own community. Here’s an article on “Neighborhood Networks” that might give you some ideas. We can discuss it when we meet on Tuesday’.

What a fantastic book. Order yourself a copy today, and, while you’re waiting for it to arrive, pick up the phone and call a champion today to put into use what you already learned, above.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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