Coaching and Training the Different Generations

Coaching and training are two important tools in developing individuals to function more effectively in ministry. If you are involved in either of these functions it is important to realise that people from different generations do have slightly different approaches to learning, so it’s worth it to take a look and see what some of their expectations are.

Traditionalists — are less likely to look at themselves as needing coaching than other generations are. They do want training that is tied to their roles and their learning style tends to fit the more classic structured classroom setting. It is important for the facilitator to be an expert in their field so that the Traditionalists can fully respect them. Equally important are the details. Make sure that all learning material is presented free of errors, including spelling and grammar.

Boomers — are cautious of coaching unless it is connected to personal outcomes. If they feel they are being being held accountable they are less likely to accept the need for coaching and a well-intentioned effort could backfire. Boomers want learning that is tied to bigger picture ideas and look for interactive workshop environments where possible. They appreciate peer-to-peer learning from trainers that are professionals in their fields.

Generation X — tends to be focused on transferable skills that they can use practically. Most are open to individual coaching and may even prefer it to classroom teaching because of the focus on independent learning. Ironically, the more equipped they are when it comes to learning those transferable skills; the less likely they are to wander. Generation X’ers like self-directed learning where they get to figure things out on their own direction based on clear rationales and directives. Then they will come back with questions to be answered by expert trainers.

Millennials or Generation Y — are sponges ready to absorb new information. Their learning style is team-based and hands-on. Millennials want it all. They love being coached, they want workshop interaction where they get to know each other and their peers, and they are ready to take on online instruction at the drop of a hat. Abstract information needs to have immediate practical application. While all generations are becoming more and more accustomed to various forms of online learning, for Millennials, technology is a given. Games are always appreciated, especially if new and entertaining approaches are used instead of the same-old, tried-and-true.

Be prepared to pay close and continuous attention to what the Millennials are doing and to be there and ready to answer questions when they come up. They are likely to start to train each other and to function as co-facilitators without thinking twice about whether that enhances or impedes the learning, so set parameters for engagement up front.

Coaching and training will continue to be instrumental in individual development and to serve as motivators. Paying attention to generational learning needs and training resources is an excellent way to keep everyone feeling included and engaged. And as we all know, there is nothing better than an engaged individual.

Colin Noyes is the Director of ResourceZone. He has thirty-five years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors

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