In my last blog I talked about how football became family. I described how the community around us became something more than just football, and how that support developed into something much bigger.
In thinking through the idea for that I began to see many parallels between the football team and the church. So much so that I realized there are some important lessons that the church can learn from our pewee football team.
1. Singular mission. Do you know what I appreciated about the football team? No one showed up thinking it was baseball practice. The nature of why we were there was clear, and no one doubted that purpose. I often wonder what would happen if the church operated with the same kind of focus. Imagine what would happen if the entire church showed up with the same purpose: To make disciples. Wow! What a game changer, single focus in the mission would not only ignite a movement, it would eliminate some of the ridiculous conversations we have to have about what is important.
2. Clearly defined success. Our head coach made it crystal clear what this season was all about: Teaching the boys the game of football and getting each of them to improve. Notice what was absent? Wins and losses. In pee wee football everyone wants to win, but we also realize that it’s really not about the numbers. The numbers are an indicator, but they aren’t the determining factor. In the church it is tempting to consider attendance to be the wins and losses, part of the reason it is such a big temptation is that we haven’t clearly defined success. Imagine if everyone knew that the job of the church was to make disciples and improve someone’s relationship with God. We wouldn’t have to worry about attendance ever again!
3. High commitment. There is a large expectation in football, and the expectation has to do with practice. We practiced two hours a day for three days a week, and then another two(ish) hours on game day. Here is the thing about that: Not one family said they couldn’t do it! Everyone seemed to make the majority of practices, and that is how the community formed. What would the church look like if we had an eight-hour commitment requirement in order to be on the team? I’m not saying that we would expect that commitment for visitors, but imagine if there was an expectation that people who have committed to following Christ, gave their time to Christ. I think a high commitment church could change the game.
4. Excitement. Football is fun, football is exciting, and in football you can go a little crazy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is infinitely more exciting than football. Yet, somewhere along the way we’ve equated reverence for God with a dull/drab approach. As the church we have to be excited about the mission of God. This isn’t something we have to do, this is something we get to do! Excitement can be worship, it can be radical hospitality, it can be a sermon. We can choose to get excited about everything, but if we don’t get excited about anything what does that say about the church?
5. Clearly defined roles. If you aren’t a football fan, then you may not know this; there is only one head coach. One head coach who decides how the team is going to be run. One coach to implement the game plan. We still have to play within the larger rules of the game, but how we carry out the offense and the defense is straight out of the philosophy of the head coach. One of the areas where I want to encourage the church is to remind us that each of us have a role to play. I see this happen all over the country; parishioners try to be the head coach from the sidelines. In some churches we also see a tendency where the pastor doesn’t have any real authority. In those cases we ask the pastor to install a game plan, but don’t give him/her any real ability to do so with effectiveness. Effectiveness increases with clearly defined roles, and a commitment to honor the calling of those playing the role. It doesn’t mean we can’t question or discuss, but it does mean at the end of the day there can only be one head coach.
Those are my thoughts, but I would love to hear yours. Any other thoughts on what the church can learn from football?