Full disclosure, I'm a fan of a school that has only recently discovered football. When I was a kid, Louisville football tickets were something that came with a full tank of gas. Big teams used us as their homecoming, and we used them for "paycheck" games. Then new vision and leadership propelled them to a Heisman Trophy winner, big bowl wins, and a national platform. It's pretty cool.
At the center of everything in the college football universe is Signing Day. This is the day where hot prospects from across the country put on ball caps, throw on a shirt, or announce on YouTube where they'll play college football. For fans of the big time college football programs, the first Wednesday in February is a day of optimism or despair. The decisions of 17 and 18 year olds can have a ripple effect through an entire fan base, and many coaches recognize the stability of their job depends on their ability to bring in the biggest and best classes in February, 7 months before games are ever played.
So what does National Signing Day teach us about leadership?
1. Leaders must relentless pursue the future. It'd be so easy for successful coaches and successful programs to sit on their wins and rosters. But the difference between those programs and the programs who have a good year every now and then are that the top schools are constantly recruiting at a high level. In ministry, we mustn't ever become satisfied with the status quo. We must always find ways to improve, to get better, to be more effective, to be more faithful.
2. The right people matter. Look at the top classes, those schools are almost always the top classes. And those top players are part of those teams because of their impact and ability. If we want our churches to be fruitful, we have to recognize the importance of making sure the right people are on board. Talent matters. So does fit. So does chemistry. So does character. Along with the top recruits every year are the top busts of previous years. Touted players who flamed out because of off-the-field issues, players whose work ethic caused them to drop down the depth chart. Not only do we need to build our staff and volunteers with talent, we need to make sure they're right. That's why when Paul lays out the qualifications for pastoral ministry, character > ability.
3. Adjustments are part of the journey. Sometimes a player a coach thought he had for sure backs out and signs with a rival. That happens to everybody. Recently news broke that Alabama lost a quarterback recruit to Princeton. It's surprising. But that's where coaches adjust their plans and keep their focus on the vision. As leaders, we'll be surprised. The plans we spend months on may unravel in front of us. We've got to be able to adjust and move forward, trusting God's Spirit and the wisdom of others around us.
4. The results may take time. Every year there are players who aren't highly recruited coming out of high school. Lamar Jackson, who won the Heisman at Louisville, was a 4-star recruit, but he was ranked 248 in the entire country. Sometimes players take time to mature, sometimes you get surprised. You never know who might be around you who will surprise you. You might have someone who's quiet, who's a new believer, or someone who's been overlooked that may turn into an incredible ministry leader. The thing that brings them out is intentional development, where you invest in them and help them grow.
So if you're a Georgia fan, congrats on finishing with the top class this year. And Cardinals fans, we've got the highest ranked class in program history. Not a bad day.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.