About once a month I meet with an amazing dude in his 70’s or 80’s named Randy. I’ve been meeting with him for a little over a year and it has been life-changing. Randy is my coach and helps me see my situation at either work or in life from different angles and his wisdom and insights really challenge my thinking. They are so valuable.

Growing up in the church I was always heard that discipleship was the main thing we did, but I didn’t always feel like anyone really had any kind of plan for it. I never really served as an intern, nor did I have a mentor in my life to show me the ministry ropes, and when I started youth ministry, I just did what I thought I had seen my youth pastor do. Certainly, I had influential people in my life, but someone who singled me out and took me on as a project? Never. That’s why I’m starting The Seminary of Hard Knocks Podcast (July 5th!) so others won’t have a similar experience!

Finally, after 16 years of being Luke with no Obi-Wan, I decided that if discipleship was so important, I was done waiting for someone to take me on. I went and asked Randy to start coaching me (and training me to use a lightsaber. Though in all fairness, he’s been pretty disappointing in that arena so far).

When I knew I was going to be leaving youth ministry, and had no idea what I was going to do next, I sought Randy out. I had heard that he was mentoring another ministry leader I knew who spoke very highly of him. So we set it up and started meeting.

Here’s me on third base waving you home: Don’t wait! You need a coach, like, yesterday! Go find one!

A Coach Gives a Different Perspective

There have been times that I’ve come to Randy with a situation at work or in life in which I was sure I was being victimized, only for him to kindly point out that I was being a brat or overreacting. He didn’t say it that way, but looking back, I knew he was right and I was a punk.

Mentors can see things that you don’t see because they are not so close to the situation. I want you to put your face right on this screen and try to read this blog. You can’t can you? You’re too close. You also looked really stupid just then. Did anyone see you? They’re probably laughing at you.

If you back away from the screen, things are put into perspective. Coaches have this ability to see your situation right away because they start far away. Not to mention that they probably see the world differently than you and can interpret some situations better than you can naturally.

So, let’s do another perspective test. Put your face near the screen again until it touches your nose. Now, move it away from you slowly and moo like a cow. Now moo louder. See? You DO look ridiculous!

Seeking the Counsel of an Older Coach is Biblical and Humbling

When Moses first led the people out of Egypt, he sat and judged cases of the Law all day. In Exodus 18, his father-in-law, Jethro, comes to visit and sees what he’s doing and gives him advice (see my blog on Delegation for more on this).

Moses could have just said “This old guy doesn’t know the problems I deal with nowadays. What does he know?” and ignored him, but he didn’t. Moses listened to his elder (who wasn’t Hebrew, nor a master of the Law, btw. Just like some elders don’t have seminary degrees but you should still listen to them) and because of it, was able to lead the nation of Israel in a healthier way.

It’s hard to listen to advice, especially when you don’t feel like the person giving it knows what you are going through. Though, by the same logic, does it take someone who’s been hit by a car to convince you that standing in the street can be dangerous? Not convinced? Listen to Mr. Miyagi then. Which, by the way, The Karate Kid is a great example of the need young men and women have for older coaches in their lives and the impact they can have on you, so, you could just have watched that movie instead of reading this.

An Older Coach’s Wisdom is Invaluable

To learn any skill or sport, the best way to go about it is to find someone who has done it before. I can Google or YouTube just about anything and learn it just like the rest of you, but there is just no replacement for the wisdom of an experienced teacher. Gillette put out this great father’s day video that tugs at the heartstrings as well as illustrates my point.

The world is just too big and connected for me to believe that there isn’t someone out there who has gone through something similar to what you’re going through. The questions you have, the issues you face, and the personalities you must learn to work with are repeating archetypes in some form or fashion that have appeared before and will appear again.

When I talk to the guys I coach right now and they tell me about a difficult elder, or a parent giving them fits, or the fact that change happens so slow in their ministry because of one person or group, my response is surprisingly uniform: Yep, I know that person. I’ve seen someone similar. Here’s what I did or wish I had done…

No, they aren’t the exact same, but the similarities are close enough that I can bring perspective because I’ve learned from that before. Randy does the same thing for me. That’s why you need a coach yesterday! It really does help!

So let’s talk about what you should look for in a mentor or ministry coach.

Find a Coach who is:

  • At least 10-15 years older than you
  • Has a track record for being trustworthy and Godly
  • They can be in your church if you want, but it should not be a direct boss. You need to be able to be very open and honest with your coach, so they must be able to keep your confidence.
  • Willing to take notes on you professionally and keep up with you personally
  • Willing to say hard things to you and pursue you when you try to isolate yourself

Don’t wait for someone to approach you. Pray now that God will reveal someone to coach you through this season of life and then go ask them to help you out. Just get that first meeting set to decide how often you’ll meet and to determine how your coach can best help you. I promise you’ll start seeing an impact quickly!

Tell us how having a coach in your life has helped you in the comments. What did I leave off of my coach criteria list?

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