I’m sitting in this posh coffee shop feeling like I am not in Kiev for the moment, except for the smoke wafting through the air. I am supposed to be enjoying London and attending a training conference to learn how to effectively coach ministry leaders. Instead, an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland erupted, spewing out ash directly in our flight pattern and so I sit. And ponder. And let my thoughts wander and hopefully coalesce into a blog post.
I think back to a few months ago when, after leaving this coffee shop, I had an epiphany (epiphanies often occur after coffee): all of our LIFE+ English Clubs for Ukrainian students fit in the category of life coaching through conversational English. We primarily cover topics on leadership, relationships and life issues. Then I considered what was lacking in this nation, and that was it. People yearn for and need mentoring in these areas. I knew we were on to something that had the potential to reach a generation.
My world intersects with Kiev street kids about twice a month when I take some Russian-speaking youth from an international Christian school to interact with the kids at a shelter. The kids are brought to this government shelter from the street and they cannot leave until they are relocated. The guys often play sports with the guys there, then eat and hang out with them. Sometimes we plan discussions on practical and spiritual topics. The girls do crafts, dance hip hop and also have similar discussions. But at times the place can be intimidating and it is easy to feel that our efforts are so minimal when these kids’ lives are so tough. I was considering ending this outreach in May because I had not developed a full program that met my level of satisfaction and accomplishment.
So last week, on the verge on quitting, I took a group to the shelter. And while I was there, the woman in charge of the day to day happenings stopped me and said that we were their favorite group. I asked her why, since our outreach was so simple. She said, “You don’t understand. Adults come here and lecture. They come in with programs, but you are the only one who is bringing young people who can relate to them. They see them as examples.” I realized that what we were doing, simple as it was, was tremendously powerful because we cared enough to connect and relate to these often forgotten kids. I also realized that something inside of me was not allowing me to celebrate success until it reached a level that I deemed good enough. A weight fell off of me as I left and celebrated the good in what we were doing.
Young people need loving mentoring. And we who are trying to make a difference in their lives need to embrace the value in it. Many missed out on mentoring in their own lives, but it is possible to break the cycle of relational neglect and get involved on an intimate level with some of the people around us who can learn from us. Attending a conference or listening to a speaker is not enough. There has been a paradigm shift away from top-down, up front ministry to relational, engaging, interactive ministry.
Here is one effective way to approach mentoring others. In preparation for this training in London, I read “Coaching 101” by Robert Logan and Sherilyn Carlton. There is a specific coaching process they lay out in their book. Here is the process with accompanying questions:
How are you doing? Where are you now? How can I be praying for you? What do you want to address? How can we work together?
What can we celebrate? What’s really important? What obstacles are you facing? Where do you want to go? How committed are you?
What do you want to accomplish? What are possible ways to get there? Which path will you choose? What will you do (who, what, when, where, how)? How will you measure your progress?
What resources will you need to accomplish your goals (people, finances, knowledge, etc.)? What resources do you already have? Where will you find the resources you need? What can I do to support you?
What’s working? What’s not working? What are you learning? What needs to change? What else needs to be done? What further training would be helpful?
Wouldn’t you have loved to sit down with someone at some point in your life and have them ask you these questions over a period of weeks and really listen? Maybe you need that right now. And there are probably people in your life who need it right now. You don’t have to know all the answers to be effective in helping others grow.