The difference between coaching and involving

Occasionally a development director will say to me, ‘We’re all about giving our champions opportunities for involvement. In fact, our latest brochure lists 50.’

Kudos for having 50 opportunities for involvement! That’s great!

Now just don’t present them all at the same time. And don’t confuse presenting opportunities for involvement with coaching.

Coaching your champions doesn’t mean giving them a menu of involvement options any more than diagnosing a patient means giving them a list of ailments they might have and then inviting them to choose which one you treat them for.

In both cases, the skill is really in the ‘diagnosis’.

I wrote you about Seoul USA champion Bob Faulkner in my post Behold A Champion Champions! last week.

Bob writes the Seoul USA weekly blog, and he received an excited email this weekend from a newbie to the blog. The woman wrote Bob that she was so excited to learn about Seoul USA because she had been aching to jump on an airplane to Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea) and share the Gospel, and Seoul USA seemed like an excellent vehicle to enable that to happen.

Now, the truth is the last thing Seoul USA would ever do is to enable or advise an American to jump on a plane and head to Pyongyang to share the Gospel!

So how to respond to this eager woman? Clearly she has a passion for the cause, and it seems altogether possible that God enabled the blog to cross her path as a way to pair her tremendous zeal with a bit of helpful knowledge.

Organizations (like the ones I mentioned in the opening sentence of my blog) might be inclined to send the woman a brochure that lists the 50 ways to get involved with Seoul USA.

But such an approach works from the organization back to the champion rather than from the champion forward to the cause. It misses the opportunity to begin by exploring where the woman has come from, where God is in all this, and what has led the woman to be so passionate as to want to head out on what is for all intents and purposes a suicide mission.

So a good coach will be slow to whip out the organizational brochure or to suggest analogous opportunities for involvement. (‘We don’t condone flying to Pyongyang to share the Gospel, but serving as a table host at our banquet might be equally painful and deadly…’)

Instead, a good coach will be quick to:

  1. Ask questions (like ‘Why are you so passionate about going to Pyongyang?’ It’s amazing how seldom we in the champion development world ask questions like this when people first inquire or when they send a gift or even when they step up their involvement a notch);
  2. Calibrate the champion’s interest to enter into a mutual accountability relationship to grow in the cause (in other words, is this a burst of enthusiasm that will soon dissipate, or is it something more?);
  3. Always remember that God was at work to bring the champion to the organization in the first place, so we’d best figure out what trajectory God has the person on before we launch them out on a trajectory of their own.

Hence why I was so pleased with Bob’s champion-coaching email reply to the woman:

Seoul USA takes words like you have given and turns them into a question. Are you willing to enter a process that takes a thousand steps, and not just one? It may be indeed possible for you to get on that plane and find that translator and be so led of the Spirit that you will immediately be doing what your heart cries out to do…

… Or it may take a little longer. Are you willing to wait, and grow, and plan, and strategize, and pray, and do little things right where you are?

A great coaching reply. Behold, the champion champions again.

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 the former 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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