Recently on ESPN’s Mike & Mike Show, former NFL coach Herm Edwards was discussing the purpose of preseason training and games. The preseason games are an important part of a team’s process and a relatively frustrating part of a fan’s experience. Hoping to see the stars and the starters play, fan normally get fed a steady diet of second-string players and watching guys that are simply fighting for a place on the roster.
As a former coach, Edwards has a unique perspective on why preseason games are so important. It piqued my interest and made me think about similar implications for how we train leaders in the church. Edwards pointed out that in preseason training and games, he asked for three things out of all of the players. Whether you are the superstar quarterback or the guy just hoping to stay on the team, Edwards emphasized that he needed to see these three things out of everybody: assignment, alignment, and technique.
Every player has an assignment that is primary to his job. The coaches need to see that you understand your assignment from the classroom to the practice field to game time. As we train leaders for ministry, it is the place to start as well. Fully explaining someone’s assignment takes more time than you will think is reasonable. But it is because you have lived with the understanding of what you are recruiting someone to do.
The person you are now training is just coming into an understanding of it. Therefore, repetitively going over their assignment is critical for two reasons. They need to know what they are responsible for and they need to know what they are to leave to others. One of the constant threats to successful leadership is trying to do someone else’s work. So, make sure those you train understand what is unique to their assignment.
On a football team, everyone needs to understand how their assignment relates to everyone else in the game. A player should know where their lane of work is and how it integrates with the other ten players on the field. The same is true of leaders in the church.
Overall, we have a goal (or vision) for ministry and a plan to fulfill that goal. The leaders we train need to fully embrace that goal and align their lives with it. Oftentimes, that means understanding how others are accomplishing their assignment. By aligning purpose and strategy throughout the church, we are able to create unity and momentum.
Knowing your work is one thing. Ensuring that you are committed to how we do the work is another step forward. But, unless a person is willing to show that they can do the work, we don’t have a player yet. Edwards said that some guys were great in the recruitment process in understanding what they were responsible to do. Many others could take it to the next level of displaying unity in the desire to execute the plays as drawn up while in the classroom.
However, the real test comes in the practices and preseason games when it was time to execute the techniques being taught. For an NFL player (as with all high-level athletes), every motion matters. If an offensive tackle has too much weight on the wrong hip, then he will lose his footing when the play starts. If a linebacker goes too high for a tackle of a running back, he may miss altogether. Each player must be able to turn what he’s learned and turn it into proper action. As we train leaders in the church, a moment arrives where they must move out on to the field. After all, if we quarantine leadership development to the classroom, then we will have smart people who don’t know how to relate to people or move others on to God’s agenda.
Leadership development in the church is a complex endeavor. But, with the right plan in place, we can move willing and qualified people from watching in the stands to leading on the field.