College Football and Your Church: Lessons about Systems and Process

Man, I love college football!! It is, by far, my favorite spectator sport. The energy, excitement and yes, even the controversy, is unmatched by any other sport.

As we head into the final weeks of the college football season, there’s going to be a lot of debate about who deserves to be in the National Championship game. Though my loyalties lie with the Georgia Bulldog Nation, I still appreciate the way coaches like Nick Saban (Alabama) and Chip Kelly (Oregon) have lead their teams to get to this point. Have you noticed that their teams are in the top 5 national rankings every year? As you analyze their leadership, there’s one principle that has helped define their success which also has tremendous application in the local church:

The church systems and processes you implement as a leader directly impact the behaviors and outcomes of those you lead.

Goals without defined processes and systems are nothing more than pipe dreams. While focusing on the weekend experience is very important, it’s not enough to engage people in real relationships and authentic community. None of this just happens; there must be a method behind what you want to accomplish.

For example, maybe you want to raise up more leaders and volunteers. But the only system you have in place to accomplish that goal is to make more announcements from the pulpit. That is not a purposeful strategy, and it won’t create more volunteers. Quite simply, it won’t do anything to move the ball down the field.

The best college coaches in the country don’t make it to the National Championship game by focusing solely on some motivational speech they give before each game. They have a detailed strategy, from how they recruit to how they practice to how they create a game plan each week to accomplish their goals.

As church leaders, we must approach our work in the same way. A solid process will actually help us reach our goals by influencing and dictating the behavior of the people who help us get there. Here are a few ways that effective processes impact outcomes:

  • Effective Processes set expectations
  • Effective Processes offer clarity
  • Effective Processes help people self-select or opt out based on their “fit” and “passion”
  • Effective Processes equip and train
  • Effective Processes identify the right tools to support people.
  • Effective Processes evaluate success and offer accountability

Let’s use small group leadership as a practical example. As a small group leader, my end goal is to create and facilitate a healthy small group that is engaging in community and experiencing life change. But you can’t just trust my abilities to make that happen. Church leadership must provide process for me to operate in if they really want to see consistent success.

  • Set expectations for me that eliminate ambiguity about what is expected. For example, make sure I know I am expected to turn in individual attendance each week. Be sure I understand why it’s important.
  • Train me to be effective. Give me practical tools which help me better facilitate communication and community.
  • Support me by telling me where to go if I hit obstacles or situations I am not equipped for.
  • Give me tools that help me meet expectations in an easy and efficient manner. Preferably, they are online so I can access them from anywhere.
  • Hold me accountable to the health of my group by evaluating results. Good leaders (and I try hard to be one) desire accountability and seek to know how they are doing.

In the end, the process you establish and follow will guide my behavior and help me create a healthy small group.

Inspiration alone will not create the Kingdom impact we desire. Hope is not enough. You must start by creating systems and processes that will help you get wherever it is your feel God is leading you. It may not be perfect at first, but as you begin to implement it, you can identify what’s working, what’s not, and be able to make the adjustments moving forward.

Nick Saban won a National Championship at Alabama in his first season. He did this with the very same players who finished 6-6 the year before. When he was asked how he did it in the post game interviews, he referenced the word PROCESS every single time!!

How have you seen this principle play out in the work you do? What encouraging words would you have for someone looking to create processes that lead the life change?

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Steve Caton

Steve Caton

Steve Caton is part of the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder. He leverages a unique background in technology, fundraising and church leadership to help local churches decentralize their processes and equip their people to be disciple makers. Steve is a contributing author on a number of websites, including the Vision Room, ChurchTech Today, Innovate for Jesus and the popular Church Community Builder Blog. He also co-wrote the eBook “Getting Disciple Making Right”. While technology is what Steve does on a daily basis, impacting and influencing the local church is what really matters to him……as well as enjoying deep Colorado powder with his wife and two sons!

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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