In our mission organization, we provide a coach for all of our new missionaries at the mid-point of their first term. This coach meets with the new missionary for a total of 6 times over a 3-month period to help them walk through the process of doing a self-assessment of their spiritual, physical, emotional and relational health. This 3-month coaching period is called MOP-up (Member Orientation Program under pressure). SEND’s pre-field training is called MOP or Member Orientation Program, and MOP-up is a follow-up event a few years later. The whole program seeks to 1) reinforce the pre-field learning, 2) identify what has been learned experientially since arriving on the field, and 3) plan future learning goals for the rest of the first term. You can read more about this training for first-term missionaries at this link.
At the end of the MOP-up experience, we ask the coachees to give us an evaluation of the experience. Thus far with almost 30 responses tabulated, 64% have indicated that the coaching was very valuable and that they definitely want to be coached in the future. This greatly encourages me, for one of my hopes was that in exposing first-term missionaries to coaching, they would see its value throughout their missionary career.
Recently, I asked a few of those who have completed the MOP-up training to share why coaching was so valuable. Here is one testimony to the value of coaching that I received a few days ago. The missionary who wrote this completed the coaching series two years ago, and is now in his second term.
Overall, I felt that a few key aspects of coaching were very helpful in the MOP-up experience. The first was the time spent with a coach trying to determine what it was exactly that I was here to do and how that fit. Because my assignment is to help the local church develop a new phase of ministry they haven’t had before, I often found myself busy doing all sorts of things that were good, but not helping move us in a direction to fulfill our ministry goals. Coaching helped to think through concrete steps and make a plan that was actionable.
Second, developing the Individual Growth Plan (IGP) with the help of a coach was actually a helpful exercise, although at first I had my doubts. I don’t like busy work! But, in reality having this tool and going through it with my coach gave me attainable goals and helped to identify areas that were actually things that were either personally frustrating, or were things I hadn’t identified as needing to be developed in order to be more effective at life and ministry.
Lastly, I feel like coaching gave me a place to organize my thoughts, plans, and activities. I am the kind of person who, when tackling a big project, especially a new one, needs to talk it through. This also means that sometimes I can get tangled up in all the possibilities and future problems. Coaching helped to break it down and taught me how to set it up in more bite sized, measurable, goals.
Coaching as part of the MOP-up experience is invaluable, because it takes what we learn in the classroom and reminds us of it and gives us an opportunity to use it in the real world setting it was intended for.
There is not much that needs to be added to that statement! The coachee has clearly summarized the power of coaching, not just for a first-term missionary, but for anyone seeking to grow and become intentional and focus in their ministry.
For those who would like to better understand coaching as we use it in SEND, I invite you to look at a series of letters that I wrote to our mission membership about coaching a few years ago.