November 15, 2015 Steve Caton

A Leadership Lesson Pastors Can Learn from College Football

I was born in SoCal, but I grew up in Georgia. For that reason and many more, college football is, without question, my favorite spectator sport. The excitement, the atmosphere, and yes, even the controversy, are simply unmatched by any other sport.

As we head into the final weeks of the college football season, there’s going to be a lot of debate about who deserves to be in the national championship game. My loyalties lie with the Georgia Bulldog Nation, which means, yet again, my team will underperform and not be part of this conversation. Regardless, I still appreciate the leadership of other coaches across the country.

If you pay attention to the sport, you know teams like Alabama, LSU, and Ohio State almost always end the season in the top 5 national rankings every year. While recruiting obviously plays a part, there are a lot of other leadership factors that go into the success coaches like Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Urban Meyer have experienced. Those factors have helped them experience success everywhere they have coached.

As you analyze their leadership, there’s one principle behind their success that also has tremendous application in the local church:

The systems and processes you implement as a leader directly impact the behaviors and outcomes of those you lead.

Well coached teams don’t experience regular success on Saturday because of epic motivational speeches before each game. Likewise, well led churches aren’t sustainably healthy because of epic teaching on Sunday. While focusing on the weekend experience is very important, it’s not sufficient unless your real ‘win’ is to engage people in real community and make disciples. That doesn’t just happen; there must be a method behind it. More specifically, your discipleship strategy must be supported by a strong combination of systems, processes, and tools.

How to Develop Processes and Systems That Lead to Successful Ministry

A solid process will actually help us reach our goals by influencing and dictating the behavior of the people who help us get there. Here are a few ways that effective processes impact outcomes:

  • Effective processes set expectations. Failing to set expectations for staff and volunteer leaders is one of the most common ways church leaders put their ministries at risk. At the same time, doing something as simple as providing job descriptions for volunteers is the easiest way to set them up for success.
  • Effective processes offer clarity. This is more than providing clarity for specific roles; it’s about providing a clear vision for where your church is going. Ministry teams that are vision-focused rather than task-focused are often most effective.
  • Effective processes help people self-select or opt-out based on their fit and passion. Moving people beyond consuming and into being the ministry of your church requires more than just encouragement to get involved. We must actively help them find their groove in ministry.
  • Effective processes equip and train. There is no one-process-fits-all program you can use to create equipped and empowered leaders. You must therefore be intentional about providing personalized, ongoing training opportunities to continually developing your team.
  • Effective processes identify the right tools to support people. You need to set your staff and volunteers up for success. Give them the tools they need to fulfill their roles. This is where technology really comes in handy. Once you equip them, get out of their way.
  • Effective processes evaluate success and offer accountability. Churches that constantly improve their efforts have a healthy culture of evaluation within their ministries. Their leaders are also intentional about providing the appropriate accountability for both their staff and their

Inspiration alone will not create the Kingdom impact we desire. Hope is not enough. You must start by creating systems and processes that will help you get wherever it is your feel God is leading you.

Nick Saban won a National Championship at Alabama in his first third season. He did this with the very same players who finished 6–6 the year before. When he was asked how he did it in the post-game interviews, he referenced the word PROCESS every single time!

How have you seen this principle play out in the work you do? What encouraging words would you have for someone looking to create processes that lead to the life change we want to influence?

Photo Credit: Clint120 via Compfight cc

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Steve Caton

Steve Caton is part of the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder. He leverages a unique background in technology, fundraising and church leadership to help local churches decentralize their processes and equip their people to be disciple makers. Steve is a contributing author on a number of websites, including the Vision Room, ChurchTech Today, Innovate for Jesus and the popular Church Community Builder Blog. He also co-wrote the eBook “Getting Disciple Making Right”. While technology is what Steve does on a daily basis, impacting and influencing the local church is what really matters to him……as well as enjoying deep Colorado powder with his wife and two sons!
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