Thursday, October 15, 2009

Environments for Developing People

I recently listened to an audio MP3 of a conference call on "The Small Group Fraternity" led by Mark Howell. This featured an interview with Jeff Galley who serves at as Central Team Leader for Life Groups / Life Mission. Jeff discusses small group coaching, people development, life coaching, and some big shifts in how they think about discipleship in their church. I found it really interesting, and wanted to share a few highlights here. If any of those areas of interest to you, definitely check out the MP3 (time points listed below are from this audio).

Small Group Coaching  (8:00-15:00)

Every environment is unique, so every campus needs their own approach to small group coaching. One of the more popular models adopted/tweaked by different campuses is very decentralized. When a person signs up to lead a group they meet immediately with a coach and dive right in, pulling people together the start their group. About twice a year clusters of 4-5 group leaders under one coach will come together for a huddle. At that point they go through a more intentional development process that takes about six-weeks, based on conference call discussions with reading or an e-learning lesson between sessions. The point is let leaders jump in when they're excited to do this, and train them after they've been doing it when the questions and discussion will make sense. The use of the 60-90 min conference call and reading in-between is to fit their schedule. is big on open source - actually they provide these lessons for any church to watch! That site is currently down for updating but will be available again soon. After leaders been through this training, what happens next? The coaching becomes much more informal, mostly driven by the leaders' need or questions as they arise. Once a month coaches will give a phone call to each leader he or she has on their list and just touch base, letting them know they're praying for them. LifeChurch structures this for growth, not control.

People Development (23:10-27:30)

It's not about the program, but in life change - they have identified five specific behaviors they want to see people engage in. They can't force people to exhibit these behaviors, but their goal is to set up environments which foster these, support leaders, inspire people to want to be a follower of Christ, then step back and coach the process. Specifically, they've identified Four Environments that are effective in supporting development. This is NOT four programs, not four buckets to discipleship, and in some cases these things might go on together in one venue, or four different ways of viewing the same activity. Their four key environments:

1. Group  (be in a small group / life group)
2. Learn Something
3. Serve
4. Get Coaching  (for my own life and development, or functional development towards helping others)

This actually represents a major shift in their shift in thinking on discipleship -- 
"Not all the environments are going to be the right thing for people at the right time." Not everyone wants to be in a small group / life group, and that's ok. As a result what they're doing in their campus is to set up some best practices to encourage these environments, but promote the desired behaviors more than programs, and allow people freedom to choose their own path in this common direction.

Their new approach is pretty simple, asking their people these questions:
"Where are you now?" "What's next for you?" "What should you do?" These lead to: "Which of these four environments is going to help you go down that road?"

Five Behaviors they're looking for, what does a "win" look like at LifeChurch? (29:30-35:45)

1. Lead people to identify their next step for personal and spiritual growth
2. Generously serve others
3. Build healthy relationships (healthy family, relationships they're investing in, and people investing in them)
4. Read and reflect from Scripture
5. Be Christ-Centered - He is the compass for all areas in their life

What they would like to do is measure these outcomes rather than just program participation. The 1,000,000 dollar question is of course, how? For example #3 is pretty hard to measure. What they're likely to try is to develop an evaluation process including a survey, some kind of self-evaluation, plus a follow-up personal interview. Then repeat this a year later and see how people have changed.

A natural question is: "How do we track people's participation in these four environments." (43:20-46:30)
Jeff's answer may surprise you: "Why do we need to track them?? What we want to see is the behaviors. If we're seeing those, we don't really care how they got there." They don't cast vision for groups, for coaching - they're casting vision for growth, for life change, for the things a Christ-follower does, not the methods themselves. That said they're not going to stop tracking these other numbers - they do give some useful info - which environments are working, and which need some help. But the key to remember is that these are not the primary determinant of success, God-honoring behaviors are.

Coaching - What might it look like? (36:07-40:00)

Probably there will be an intentional structures to do these two kinds of coaching:
1) Life coaching - How can someone sit down with me and help me develop a plan for my growth, my next steps, or more broadly, how do I get a better understanding of my life purpose? Maybe it's a marriage situation, or parenting. Not a counselor, but a coach.
2) Functional coaching - To do this, we will have to train volunteers to do these very things and to better craft these environments. Jeff is going for coaching certification and will setup a program to train people interested in learning how to coach. He wants to help interested leaders to mobilize people to become effective coaches who can in turn help others. As a great benefit, these skills are completely transferrable. They may also develop several Coaching Journeys (maybe doing a book together) along with a common coaching methodology.

Other interesting comments from the interview

- It's not attractional vs missional, it's both. We definitely need to live out our faith outside of Sunday morning, but we have them here together at that time, how can we make best use of this?
- For things to move forward well it's important to identify catalytic leaders and encourage them strongly, seeing what they're fired up about and seeing how you can help them.
- Any time we use the word "leader" to refer only to people leading in a church program, we lose some of our best leaders and fail to move forward our real mission. (50:00-51:00)

Some of my own thoughts on all this...
- Wow, a lot of this touches on things we're doing or want to do at Calvary. Much of it echoes what Pastor Chuck and other staff have been thinking.
- The five behaviors seem to encompass four of our five purposes, and it seems like anyone doing these four will be wanting to do the fifth. They also stress outreach through several environments including their Life Groups and through Serving.
- I wonder how Monvee might be used as a tool to help people develop in a framework similar to what's described here. Monvee is a tool for encouraging personalized spiritual growth - it should be launched later this year as an online tool tied into what is already going on and supported in a local church setting.

Small group leaders, coaches, Calvary folks, what are your thoughts on developing people?

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