SMaC Recipe for Small Group Ministry Coaching

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Working to build an effective coaching structure?  I referred to a new concept from Great by Choice, Jim Collins’ most recent book in a recent post.  It turns out to have tremendous application for anyone working on their coaching structure.  Let me take a paragraph to bring you up to speed.  Then, I’ll show you how we’re applying it right now.

Get Up to Speed

A SMaC recipe is the code for translating a high-level Hedgehog Concept into specific action and for keeping an organization focused in the same direction, thereby building flywheel momentum (p. 186, Great by Choice).”  Greek so far?  You can get more in my previous post, but the essence of a hedgehog concept is simply the thing your organization is really designed and equipped to do and the flywheel effect is the product of repeated efforts to build momentum.

What does SMaC stand for?  Specific, methodical, and consistent practices.  One of the companies that Collins’ studied was Southwest Airlines.  A shortened example of their SMaC recipe is that they’ve determined to:

  • remain a short haul carrier, under two hour segments
  • utilize the 737 as their only aircraft
  • stay out of food services
  • keep the passenger as their #1 product. Don’t carry air freight or mail

A Recent Memo to My Team:

Hey guys…want to make sure we’re all thinking the same way about coaching and coaching assignments.  Here’s where we should be from a principle standpoint:

  1. Everyone needs to be cared for by someone and no one ought to be caring for more than about 10.  This is referred to as span of care and is the principle that ought to be driving our awareness of a shortage of coaches (i.e., if you have 236 groups and anything less than 24 coaches…you cannot expect to have a 1 to 10 ratio).
  2. As we build an effective coaching structure (with a suitable span of care and maturing capabilities),  flexibility is an essential trait for a coach.  As much as we will always prefer consistent coaching assignment over the life a leader (ideal), there will of necessity be shifting coverage from time to time (real).
  3. Existing groups (older than 3 to 6 months) are very hard to retroactively assign to a coach.  They will only rarely accept coaching.  Their thinking is almost always, “Why do I need a coach?  I know how to lead a group.”  This understanding ought to be driving our awareness that the critical need isn’t to provide equal care for all leaders.  Instead, we ought to be paying the most attention to newer leaders.  Seasoned, existing leaders, who “know” they don’t need a coach need to be contacted, but not coached.
  4. New group leaders (whether beginning as hosts or connection leaders) are especially open to coaching and ought to be our first priority for coaching assignments.
  5. New coaches (launch phase coaches) ought to be given one or two groups (1 or 2) during their toe-in-the-water phase.  Once they successfully completed the 10 to 13 week test drive, assuming they are both fruitful in the task and fulfilled doing it, we can give them an opportunity to opt-in to full-fledged coaching.

These five principles should define our coaching assignments (both right now and going forward).

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  1. Larry Baxter on January 26, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Hey Mark, I’m loving these recent posts, as I’m a big Jim Collins fan. I’ve not done much with SMaC before so this one left me with a few questions and comments.

    * In the definition for SMaC you italicize the word practices. In the list you give, I see five principles. They’re good principles too, and “why” is extremely important to understand. But as stated they’re not as actionable as I understand a SMaC should be?
    * Collins abbreviated example is wonderful because it’s so concise, which helps them be both specific and followed consistently. Your recipe seems a bit long.
    * Let me see if I’m digging out your practices and SMaC from these principles – does this look right:

    1. Our target coaching span of care is 10.
    2. Span of care for new launch phase coaches will be 1-2 groups.
    3. Assignments will be flexible, putting people first.
    4. Focus attention on newer and teachable leaders.
    5. New group leaders are the top priority in coaching assignments.

    * One more thought in my head – I recently read Great by Choice and the “20 mile march” concept struck me powerfully. The problem is, I’m having a hard time seeing what my “20 mile march” looks like as a small group point person. In a small church of about 25 groups, what is a (part-time) SG champion doing on a week-by-week basis, every week, to move things forward? What’s the SMaC recipe I should look at and put into practice every week?!

    I’m expecting to get out to the GroupLife conference on Feb 4th, and hope I get a chance to at least say “hi” and thank you for your virtual mentoring 🙂

  2. Anonymous on January 26, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Thanks for jumping in here Larry! You’re right about my memo being delivered in the form of principles (rather than practices). Definitely like the way you’ve shortened and refined it to reveal the derivative practices. Very good!

    I’ve thought too, about the 20 mile march concept and am planning to work on it in an upcoming post or two. Great concept about disciplined approach over a long time.

    Would love to meet you! Hope you can make it to GroupLife Midwest 2012!

  3. Steven A. Chaparro on January 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I can really appreciate this post.  We are in the beginning stages of creating a coaching culture in our Life Group ministry.  As we start out, we are trying the 4 person span of care model.  We have our Life Group Pastor who directly oversee four shepherds, who will oversee four coaches, who will oversee four Life Groups.  I look forward to reading more about this specific subject.

  4. Anonymous on January 27, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Thanks for jumping in here Steven! It’s such a big advantage to be able to build as you grow.


  5. grace6545616 on July 28, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    It will be so good teaching for the officers and i hope they found more idea to take more step to developed this sectors. I like this ministry education for them.