The NCAA and Gallup partnered together for a study that came to the conclusion that those who participate in competitive athletics generally do better in life than those who do not. 

Those of us who played sports certainly would agree.

Before you go there….YES, I played high school basketball at a very, very, very, small high school, although it was in the basketball-crazed state of Kentucky!

I learned a lot through my involvement in athletics, as did my children. Athletics can teach us endurance, discipline, playing through pain, leadership, and taking direction from an authority figure (sometimes a very loud authority figure!).

This is not a rant about the idolatry of athletics in America or the overindulgent parents living vicariously through their own kids. Nor am I here to dispute the findings of the study. I actually agree, and it makes total sense.

I am here to call us to consider applying just a little bit about what we know about athletic training to the development of our future church leaders.  Consider these six qualities we see in athletics:

1. Culture – It’s cool to be on the team. Teams have their our own lingo, handshakes, and their own nicknames for one other.

2. Exclusivity – Many try out, but only a certain number get selected.

3. Difficulty – Many quit during conditioning – the price is very high.

4. Belonging – If you do make the team, and the team is really good, it’s still a privilege to just sit on the bench. Just watch March Madness. Those guys belong.

5. Coaching – I’ve blogged on coaching before here. I recall my team despising our coach during conditioning, but in March, we overwhelmingly loved him. Continual evaluation, correction, and feedback are necessary.

6. Encouragement – High school gymnasiums, and huge arenas are filled to capacity with raving fans cheering their team on to victory. With this level of encouragement comes great accountability to succeed!

Something to Consider…
As I said earlier, I grew up in Kentucky, the home of the Big Blue Nation, Coach Cal, and the winningest team ever in Division I NCAA basketball. I would argue those dozen or so individuals should be some of the best humans on the planet after they grow up. We put millions of dollars into them, obsess over their every move, hold them to the highest level of accountability, and place them in an arena full of 24,000 people cheering them on to do their best!

Follow me around, and you’ll learn how to be a youth pastor is a mind set that is no longer effective; it would make about as much sense as a University of Kentucky basketball team with no leader, no budget, and no plan.

Developing a great athlete or team takes great intentionality. 

Kuddos to those who know it takes this same ingredient in developing a future church leader.