What Churches can Learn from the NFL ‘Black Monday’

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Today is “Black Monday” in the NFL. The day after the season has ended for most of NFL teams, so coordinators, coaches and GM’s will be let go. Lots of debate swirls for weeks on the radio, blogs and TV’s about who will be fired on this day.

As I was thinking about it this year, I thought of some things churches can learn from the NFL on this day. Now, I’m not suggesting that every year you should fire someone, but there are some things we as pastors and elders can learn.

1. Evaluate yearly. In most churches, evaluation only happens when something goes wrong. If evaluation does happen, it is often based off of something subjective and not the actual goal of the church. For the NFL, winning is the goal. Period. For churches, if you ask 10 people what you should evaluate on, you will get 10 answers. Most will center around giving and attendance. While those are important markers and a church will close without them going in the right direction, they don’t actually say if a church is winning or losing.

At Revolution, we have each ministry leader create an annual plan for their ministry. In it, there are benchmarks for where the ministry will be in each month. This creates a guideline that is agreed upon.

There should also be a weekly evaluation of the service and what matters to a church. In the same way that blogs provide immediate feedback of opinion to athletes and coaches, there should be immediate feedback of things that go well and things that need to be improved.

2. Be accountable. In the church world, we often shy away from removing an elder, staff member or volunteer when they aren’t up to the level we need them to be. Whether it is because we want to be nice, the history with the person or the fear of what others will think, churches put up with things that no other employer would. If a staff member is not meeting the requirements of the job and you have worked with them and nothing has changed, then hold them accountable and let them go.

If an elder is not meeting the requirement of being an elder and you’ve talked with him and nothing has changed, then it is time to remove him. Same with a volunteer.

Sometimes accountability means you completely remove someone, other times you might reassign them or help them find a spot that is better suited for their gifts and personality. You might need to promote someone who has exceeded expectations.

While churches should not create an unhealthy fear of “Will I be fired?” there should be a culture of, “you need to do your job.” I meet too many churches filled with lots of lazy staff members who don’t seem to work hard or chose ministry because they didn’t want hard labor. Don’t be lazy.

3. Create stability. The most successful franchises in any sport are ones that are stable. It is easy to get caught up in the next exciting coordinator who might be the next great coach, but the successful franchises aren’t fooled by that. If you look at NFL teams, the ones that win keep their GM and coaches longer than anyone else would. They know, a great coach is hard to find and can cover a multitude of sins (lack of talent) on the football field.

If you have agreed upon expectations with your leaders and if you’ve done the hard work of assessing your leaders before hiring them, you should be able to build a great team that lasts.

4. Start working on next year. While some NFL teams are continuing on into the playoffs, most teams right now are starting to work on the 2015 season. Churches need to do this as well.

In the month of November, while my team is working on their annual plans I take some time to pull back and work “on” the church more extensively. While I do this a little each week, it is important to have extended time for it. I look at everything and everyone (including myself). Asking what is working, what is clear (this might be the most important question a church asks), what is on track, what is unclear, what is not working or off track. Is everyone aligned and using their gifts or is someone in the wrong spot?

I also look at goals: what 2-3 things do we need to do next year to accomplish what God is calling us to? What is keeping us from reaching those?

I’ll be honest, this is hard work and can be agonizing. It might mean admitting that things aren’t working or that you made a poor choice as a leader, which no one ever likes.

The hard work is worth it so that your church can be healthy, strong and effective.

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