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The place of Christian Coaching in youth ministry

I recently attended a 3 day workshop on coaching. Christian coaching is a process of mentoring that consists mostly of asking questions and allowing the coachee to come up with their own discoveries and goals. There are two things I really love about coaching:

  1. The emphasis on trusting the Holy Spirit to to be the one at work transforming.
  2. Coaching is a process that empowers the coachee to set their own growth goals – a great reminder that I don’t have to have all the answers.

Coaching is a great tool to add to our tool belts. The seminar was focused mostly on peer-to-peer coaching and how to use these skills in informal settings.  The big questions now in my head revolve more the application of these skills to my own ministry context – working with youth. How can we use the principles of coaching, and the art of powerful questions, in youth ministry? What is the role of formal coaching in our work mentoring youth?

Most long term youth workers have spent time considering what makes a “good question” during group teaching times. It’s a big topic – probably best to spend a whole blog post talking about that alone. In the context of coaching, we talked about asking “powerful questions” and the risk of asking open-ended questions. We have probably all experienced the crazy tangents that can happen in small groups – and even large groups – when an interesting question derails the whole discussion.

If we really believe that personal discovery is more powerful than being told the right answer, it seems to follow that we should strive to set our kids up for personal discovery. Instead of teaching them the right answers,we should be learning to ask powerful questions that lead them to think their own way through to those answers.

Parents and Coaching

The principles of coaching might provide some valuble tools for parents, especially as they work through changing relationships with their kids. Coaching speaks to kids the message I have confidence in you. It makes lots of space for positive feedback and recognition. Although parents may never formally coach their kids, the techniques can be used to  help their children think through their decisions, the consequences and, and setting their own goals.

Formal Coaching in Youth Ministry

I think one of the most vauble roles of formal coaching in international youth ministry would be as a transitions coach for students who have graduated and are moving back to their passport countries.  Think about all the changes that happen January to January – preparing to leave the host country, graduations and farewells, a summer break, and then moving into  uni and settling into  a new life…  How valuable would it be if we intentionally coached our students through this process? Not just being intentional about checking in but also giving them a dedicated hour of our time – to listen to them, and give our assurance that they have within them the resources needed to set and meet goals. Coaching actually works well over skype, and many professional coaches actually prefer to use skype.  For students in transition, this means that the coaching can remain a constant during the months leading up, during, and after the move.

One of the factors that Fuller Youth Institute has identified as helping highschool students make a success transition to college or university is continued contact with their highschool youth leader*. How much more valuble would  this be for international youth like the ones we work with? They are not only facing the challenges of the transition from high school to college but also the extra pressures of an international move, and entering a “home” country they may not feel at all at home in.

What about you?

What experiences have you had either formally or informally coaching teens? Either as a youth leader or parent?

*A note: I am currently studying at Fuller Theological Seminary. The Urban Youth Ministry program I am doing was created by Fuller Youth Institute. A concept they have spent a lot of time looking at is “sticky faith” – helping students build a faith that lasts beyond high school. More resources here.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs, Youth Resources

 

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A Memorable TCK Quote…

At the beginning of December a friend left Cambodia and, as is customary here, a bunch of us headed to the airport to say farewell and wish him the best as he left. I posted something in regards to this on my status, about a good semester and a trip to the airport. It was a bit cryptic, but anyone here who knew us would have clearly understood the reference.

A couple weeks later, my sister mentioned that friends in the US were asking her if I was home for Christmas, because they “saw something on facebook about a trip to the airport”. An understandable mistake, especially since I was home last year for Christmas.

So today, in the middle of chatting via skype with two of my youth now back in the states, I mentioned this brief misunderstanding, and like me, they were both amused. One replied:

“Where we’re from, going to the airport means many things, sometimes its to say goodbye, sometimes to say hello, sometimes it just means you just want Dairy Queen. . . And occasionally it means you get to go somewhere!”

Her simple comment was very memorable in that it spoke of something at the very heart of international culture in general, and life in Phnom Penh in particular. The airport is indeed an intricate part of my Phnom Penh experience. Many hellos and goodbyes have been said there. The Dairy Queen provides the back drop for this, and provides some sugary relief when it gets particularly hard; it also give a distraction for the real reason we are there.

Her comment, poetic style, and light hearted understanding of international culture spoke to my heart and soemthing that has been so essencial to my Phnon Penh experience.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs

 

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Helping youth deal with the loss of leaving

“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.” David Pollock

Anyone who has lived in an expat community knows that transition, change, and leaving are constants – sometimes the only constants. Whether you are the one leaving, or the one left, it can be painful.

Two guest speakers came to the youth groups in Phnom Penh in early December last year. They spoke about the changes and transitions faced by both the “leavers” and the “stayers.” They spoke on the RAFT model and how that process is an important one to think and act through whether you are a leaver, or a stayed who needs to farewell someone leaving.

They did an excellent job at leading the youth through some guided reflection, but it stirred up in me another thought – mostly that you can say good bye well – but then you are still left to live with the loss.

I think part of what becomes so wearisome is that these changes are constant – a constant stream of hellos to new people and a constant stream of goodbyes to old friends. And as blessed as we to have facebook and skype, nothing can take the place of a hug, a cup of coffee, a late night talk, a shared glance that speaks an entire conversation, the little everyday exchanges that are so important.

I LOVE the movie UP; it shows this so well. The characters are living with loss and grief. The old man has lost his wife and throughout the movie we see him missing her, the sense that “she was supposed to be here.” Russell has also lost his Dad and he mourns the loss of the little everyday things – “I might sound boring, but I miss the boring stuff the most.”

Russell’s new friend learns to see past his own hurt, his own sense of direction, and is willing to have a new adventure with Russell. And at the very end of the movie when he returns home, he joins Russel in watching the cars go by.

When Kris Rocke spoke on pain and loss, he said that it is only by facing our own pain that we are free to enter the pain of others. So I suspect my role as a spiritual caregiver is twofold, (and not only as a spiritual caregiver, but also as a child of God).

  1. Help youth acknowledge their own loss – not only the loss of a friend, but the loss of that friend’s house as a safe place to go, the loss of a group of friends. Sometimes this loss is cumulative; even familiar places can become hard to visit, as it brings with it the reminder of times when others were around. Grief is a process – one that takes time and energy. Unfortunately, at the end of the school year when so many people are leaving,  both time and energy seem to be in short supply. In the midst of exams and end of the year celebrations and goodbye parties, TCKs need to somehow find time to grieve in their own way. As adults, we can model this and be open about our own grief processes.
  2. Help youth move into a place of entering others’ pain – becoming compassionate, caring individuals and remembering that others’ losses are significant. We, and they, can learn to come along side others and give of ourselves. Like the old man in UP how we can move from focusing on our own situation into helping another person in need.
 
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs

 

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