What High School Football Taught Me About Developing Leaders

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I played football in high school for the mighty Fort Worth Christian Cardinals. (Okay, so it was a tiny private school; but it was Texas football so we took it very seriously!)

We had the same routine every week during the football season. On Monday afternoon we would suit up and crowd into the coaches’ office — this dingy, poorly lit space above the gymnasium. For the next hour we would watch film of the game from the past Friday. They’d play it on one of those huge rear projection TVs that someone had donated to the school several decades before; the kind where you could only see the picture clearly if you were directly in front of it. After each play the coaches would comment on what went well, or what didn’t go well. They’d celebrate the good plays and offer critique about the bad ones.

After that we’d watch film of the next opponent, and the coaches would begin to prepare us for the upcoming game. We’d hit the practice field in the afternoons for the rest of the week to revisit fundamentals, work on our game strategy, and run plays.

Then Friday would come. I always loved the anticipation in the air on Fridays. We got to play the game! We got to see how well we prepared, what we were made of, how good our team was.

When Monday arrived the next week we’d start the process all over again.

My high school football experience provides some solid principles about leadership development and discipleship. It reveals a cycle that occurs repeatedly when leaders in invest in emerging leaders and help them build competency for their ministry:

3Ps

  1. Prepare. As we invest in others, we prepare them for the ministry tasks ahead of them. We teach them. We give them the best information we have on the subject. We offer them exercises to help them reflect. In my football days this was watching the film of the next opponent and daily practice in preparation for the game.
  2. Participate. In this stage we do the ministry task together. We play the game! How we participate together is determined by where the emerging leader is in her/his development: we might have them help us; or they might be ready for the driver seat and we take a helping role.
  3. Process. After we play the game, we pause to debrief and process how it went. We look over the game film. We discuss three questions together: 1) What went well? (Celebration); 2) What didn’t go well? (Improvement); 3) What do we want to remember to do next time? (Action).

Jesus demonstrates these stages as he teaches the disciples (prepare), invites them to minister alongside of him and also sends them out in pairs to minister (participate), and dialogues and teaches them further after their ministry experiences (process).

How have you seen these stages at work in your own development?

Which of these stages is particularly challenging for you as you develop emerging leaders?

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