The Team is the Dream

By on February 18, 2020   /   Leave a comment

Raising support in isolation nearly devoured our staff. 

In late 2014, I found myself hitting roadblock after roadblock coaching new, often very young hires in support raising. Running dogged with individual coaching sessions, I was seeing limited, and at times, frustratingly slow results. It often took our staff 6-12 months to raise support. Some would make it. Some wouldn’t. Many would reach campus like marathon runners who finished a 26.2-mile race they hadn’t trained for and didn’t want to run, only to start a second race a week later. 

Staff felt drained. 


Spiritually dry.

Painfully working through support raising as if it were some form of cruel and unusual punishment laid on their shoulders by an overbearing leadership team who didn’t know any better.

These same staff often questioned their decision to go into ministry in the first place — even more so — a ministry that required they raise their own funds.

Thankfully, this is not where the story ends.

Frustration is the breeding ground for innovation, and the leadership of Campus Outreach Birmingham gave me full reign to experiment. So that’s what I did.

I scrapped everything I had been doing (okay, nearly everything) and went back to the basics of small group discipleship. From this point forward every person raising support in our ministry would be placed in a small group (cohort if you will) launching every January, May, and August.

It had to be done through the cohort.

No lone wolves.

No support raising warriors on an island.

None of it.

The team was the dream. A team that was spiritually healthy, vision-driven, and fully funded. 

“You are now part of a team. And this team is focused on raising support in 100 days or less. Yes, you’re raising your own funds, but you’re raising together, and there will be weekly team goals, daily prayer, and constant encouragement.”

Why did it work?

First and foremost, it worked because God was in it. You’re a support leader. You know this. Nothing happens without the Lord.

And He’s given us a tremendous capacity for practical wisdom to generate results. In the case of team-based coaching, the results were clear. We began seeing young, raw, hungry leaders raising support with incredible speed, often displaying unbelievable spiritual maturity. Now, staff regularly raise in 100 days or less, and an unusually high number finish within 50 days.

The Desired Behavior Became The Normal Behavior 

When you begin to set standards that everyone in the group is committed to meeting, you change the culture of the team, and you raise the bar for all participants.¹ What used to seem far fetched (100+ calls in your first 5 days), becomes normal. Meeting with the Lord every morning to fuel your heart, mind, and soul. Check. Asking 5 people to join your team for $5,000-$10,000 a year. Done.

Staff Can See and Replicate Bright Spots

Team-based coaching gives you the greatest opportunity to witness outliers and create best practices.² Investigate what’s working and clone it. Staff seeing the best results often possess the skill sets, strategies, and tactics you would like to replicate across your team. Obsess over what these staff are doing. How they are doing it. Why they are doing it. Why it works. Then, begin creating and refining a list of best practices for the team. There’s no silver bullet, but there is a toolbelt.

Tip: It’s worth exploring this video for a deeper dive.

It Leaves Room for Fresh Starts

We call it the ‘week one mentality.’ Treat every week of support raising like it’s the first. When you gather your team together each week, you’re giving each staff member a chance at a clean slate–a new opportunity to serve the Lord by serving the team while serving current and future supporters.

Where to start

Weekly Coaching Meetings 

Weekly meetings are your opportunity to implement the strategies above. Set crystal clear standards for the week for each team member while leveraging one team goal that may be stretching in nature.

Our new hires are located across the Southeast so we use Google Hangouts or a tool like ZoomVideo for our weekly coaching sessions. I specifically request people turn on their videos so we can see and experience them as if we were in a meeting room together. Meeting live is best, but doesn’t functionally work for our organization.

Tip: This might make you uncomfortable, but for the first four weeks I display team-wide results (number of calls, meetings scheduled, held, pledged amounts, etc.) broken down by each participant’s contribution in front of the whole team at our weekly meeting.

Daily Stand-ups

Every morning (Monday-Friday) each team member attends a 15 minute daily stand-up where they can pray together for the day, share their “Big Three,” and encourage one another. 

“The Big Three” are the three agenda items that if they accomplish for the day will move them toward full funding. Early on staff need help to break these goals down into simple steps and make them actionable. Bad: I will raise support today. Good: I will make 15 calls before 10 AM.

Stand-ups usually start no later than 8 am and are intentionally brief (short enough one could stand through the meeting). I give one team member the responsibility to lead and guide this time for the week. Early mornings work best.

Group Messaging

Every day team members are required to share an update in the group thread. Typically asking for prayer for each support meeting, sharing personal and spiritual breakthroughs, and posting their Big Three covered in the stand-up. We utilize GroupMe, but you may be interested in exploring Slack for Teams or leveraging iOS messaging. The key is not the tool, but the tactics themselves.

Tip: Don’t try to control this thread. Staff will learn more from others as they share what is and isn’t working and how God is moving in their hearts and lives. The key is daily engagement throughout the week.

Mistakes to avoid

Comparison is the Enemy

Someone in the cohort will finish first. Someone last. Some will be better at communicating their vision. Some better at making calls. Some better at encouraging others. Some will have more relational opportunities to invite anchor donors to join their team. But in support raising, comparison is the enemy. And one downfall of displaying results in front of the team is comparison. I address comparison every week, placing emphasis on how God is growing the team through each individual’s contributions.

Shame, Disappointment, and Doubt

Your role as a coach is to combat the shame, disappointment and doubt your people will encounter during this process. If you don’t believe they can reach 100%, who will? Your ability to display relentless optimism in the Lord’s ability to raise their funds is undeniably critical. Set the tone at weekly coaching meetings and in the group message thread. Never miss an opportunity to encourage someone by celebrating what they’ve done and championing who they are.

Leading with Goals, Not the Gospel

Before each and every coaching meeting take time to consider how you can communicate the gospel to your staff before moving toward goals and plans for the week. The gospel fuels goals and plans. Not the other way around.

There you have it.

My prayer is that this will spur on your ministry to greater impact in the years to come.

I’m open to conversation about team-based coaching, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on the following platforms:

Twitter: @joshetress
LinkedIn: www.linkedin/com/joshetress


(1) “Atomic Habits” by James Clear has an entire chapter focused on the role of family and friends in shaping your habits. This is not a Christian book, but I highly recommend it to support coaches who can read it with and through a biblical lens.

(2) Chip and Dan Heath’s bestselling work, “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” has contributed significantly to my coaching philosophy. In particular, the focus on Brights Spots–how to find them,display them, and replicate them.

(3) Another author I highly recommend is Daniel Pink. The idea of strategic restarts comes from his 2018 work “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” and it’s worth exploring. Here is a 3-minute video on strategic days to change your behavior.


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