As we bid farewell to the Super Bowl (and hello to the XFL!) I am reminded that leading a church is very much like coaching a football team. The playing fields may be different, but you’ll find some things in common between playing in a football game and helping your people succeed in the game of life.

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to athletic competition if you read the verses carefully.

“straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

“Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:5

In these verses and others throughout the New Testament, you’ll read about running for a prize, winning and losing, competition, training, goals, fighting or struggle, opposition, spectators, obstacles and hindrances. There are many lessons we can learn about church leadership from football.

One of the most important lessons in both football and church leadership is that they are both played by teams. When the team is working in harmony under the direction of the coach (that’s you) good things will happen. In most good teams there are standout players (that’s you too), but good players cannot fully function without the core team. Good teams need blockers, linemen to open up opportunities in the defenses. There is an offensive team, a kickoff team, a team of receivers, and a defensive team and each are critical to a win. There is no individual victory, only the victory of the team. Only when all players, and the person who coordinates it all, (that’s you) playing their parts working together, does the team run a successful game plan. Likewise, every believer in your church has a unique role and a part to play on the team.

Just as a football coach knows his players and their talents, you need to know your church member’s talents and skills. When I coached a church team as lead pastor, I would gift test all of the players on the team discovering their talents and then position them in ministry. I would then have a yearly check-up on how they were functioning in their positions. Coach, the question I have for you is this: Are you aware of your player’s talents, and are they using them to benefit the team (your church and the Kingdom of God)?

In sports, focus is placed on the outcome, winning the game. In the Christian life, focus is also placed on the outcome, which is life abundant now and life everlasting. This is different than the temporary joy of winning a game. (Try to remember who won the Super Bowl two years ago?) Fighting the good fight and finishing the race and keeping the Christian faith reaps everlasting benefits.

Preparation, perseverance, using our talents, and keeping our eyes on Jesus, the perfector of our faith, are all important pages in our playbook. God has a game plan for making us champions in the game of life and you have been assigned the task of leading your team to victory.

Even good coaches need to have good coaching. Contact the Effective Church Group and ask about how their team of experienced coaches and consultants can help you achieve your goals.