My random, sometimes insightful thoughts on life, God, family, and everything else


Free Agency and Church Staff!

colts-movingI am an unabashed fan of the NFL.  Since the day that the Mayflower trucks rolled out of the ingrate city of Baltimore (yeah, I said it!) to the current day I have been a Colts fan.  When we lived outside of the state of Indiana and the Colts weren’t particularly good I would often frequent sports bars so I could catch the game.  Then in year 5 of my absence from the greatest state in the world, came this new fangled thing called NFL Sunday Ticket (insert hallelujah chorus)!  I was now able to watch my team play each and every week, albeit with terrible announcers because quite frankly the Colts were fairly terrible.

So, when the NFL season is over, like all rabid fans, I begin to wonder what my beloved Colts will do during the off-season.  Today, March 10th, is the official beginning of what is called Free Agency, I’ll explain that knowing that some people reading this post have no idea to which I am referring to.  Free Agency is when veteran players contracts with their current team are up, they become a ‘free agent’, in essence they are now free to sign with whatever team will pay them the money they want.  Some teams (I’m looking at you Oakland) are typically overspending on players that are flashy and fancy, and they never quite work out.  Each and every year teams are lauded for making the ‘bold move’, for signing the ‘difference maker’, for catching the one person who could make them Super Bowl contenders.  The problem is, it RARELY works out that way.  Michael Schottey of Bleacher Report wrote a fantastic article yesterday that chronicled the teams that ‘won’ free agency the last several years and balanced that against their resulting record.  Suffice to say, it isn’t pretty (Winning Free Agency Hardly Equates To Winning Games).

Now, you might be wondering, “What in the world does this have to do with the church?”…well I’m so glad you asked!  For years and years the American church has been participating in it’s own brand of free agency.  One church signs another churches ‘star’ player and plugs them into their programs expecting blazing results and championship caliber play.  What happens more often than not is terrible friction, mediocre results, and an overall discomfort for the whole team.  If the senior leader is worth his salt then he can usually rectify the situation but it takes precious time and valuable energy to do so and it ends up being the church and the other staff who pays the price.  I’m not saying that it is never worth it to bring someone in from the outside, but you had better make sure it’s the right person you’re bringing in.  Otherwise, you will at best move sideways for a while and at worst your ministry may regress.

Many years ago I heard Rick Warren, pastor/founder of Saddleback Valley Community Church, say something like this, “Building your staff from within is always preferred when possible.”  That statement has resonated with me over the years and as I have thought about it more and more, it just makes sense!  The people in your church are already passionate about what you are doing.  They get your vision, they hear you talk each and every week, they are already known commodities.  You may be thinking about the ‘professional training’ that outside ‘free agents’ may have, and there is some truth to that.  But if I’ve learned anything about hiring staff over the last 20 years it’s this, you can teach people the ins and outs of ministry, but you can’t teach passion, you can’t force them to get the vision, and you can’t know someone you’ve never worked alongside of.

Of the 5 additional full/part time staff we have at Friendship all but one of them are homegrown.  This doesn’t mean that we will never hire from outside, in fact at some points you’ll need to, but I will say that when you hire from the inside the learning curve is much less steep and the failure rate is infinitesimal in comparison.

I thank God almost daily for the staff he has allowed us to assemble at Friendship.  They make what I do easier and a whole lot more fun.  Pastors, your staff can either make you or break you, make sure you choose wisely!

I’d love to hear back from you on this, even if you are not hiring in the ‘church’ world.  What has been your experience with this?


Five Things the Spurs Can Teach Us About Teamwork!

I was really rather amazed this year by the San Antonio Spurs.  In spite of havingSpurs Championship the best record in the NBA they were rarely mention by sportscaster and prognosticators alike.  They were the forgotten powerhouse.  To most, they were to old, to boring, and to…well not the HEAT to win.  Now, as much as I would love to make this a blog, blasting the HEAT and Lebron James, I just can’t.  In spite of my disdain for them, did I mention I’m a lifelong Pacers fan, you can’t ignore that they’ve made it to four consecutive NBA Finals, and won two of them.  That’s impressive, plain and simple.  But, compare it to the Spurs, who since 1999 have won five titles, that’s a 33% title winning percentage over a 15 year period…Now that is amazing!

So, what can we learn from this ‘blue-collar’ team, that have been in the playoffs 24 of the last 25 years, captured 20 division titles, won 50+ games for 16 seasons straight, and had the same head coach for nearly 20 years?  Well, here are five things:

  1. ‘Superstars’ can’t do it alone: Often we fall prey to the idea that if we just get this amazing guy on our leadership team, or on staff, or as a volunteer, that will make all the difference.  And, for sure there is almost always an immediate impact.  But, if you’re looking for sustained, long-term impact, it can’t be about just one guy.  In 1997 the Spurs looked completely lost.  Even though they had one of the best big men of all time in David ‘The Admiral’ Robinson, a perennial MVP candidate, they were consistently getting bumped out of the playoffs in the first or second round.  It wasn’t until they drafted a young guy named Tim Duncan, that the Spurs began to take shape.  David Robinson now had a teammate who could shoulder the burden alongside of him.  In fact, Robinson made it his mission to mentor this young guy and help him become a top tier player in the league.  Robinson even lessened his role intentionally so that Duncan could begin to flourish.  Just two short years later, 1999, they were the NBA Champions for the first time.
  2. Old doesn’t mean finished: I honestly wish I had a dollar for every time that I heard the Spurs were ‘too old’ this year!  The three main guys on the Spurs, Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, are past ‘their prime’.  But, just like David Robinson before them, these guys had been mentoring the younger, fresher legs on the team.  Taking a few less shots, allowing them to experience what it was like to carry more of the load.  Just because you may be past your prime, doesn’t mean your ineffective.  Might your role be changing, would you be more effective as a mentor than a major player, maybe.  The bottom line is stop thinking you’re too old to be useful on a team.
  3. Teamwork beats star power every time: It was said that the Spurs offense was old, outdated, and boring.  Their main offensive philosophy; pass the ball to the open man, in spite of who it is.  Their belief was that the open man has a better chance at making a shot or a play than one of their big three in a double team.  So, on any given possession you would witness 3,4, sometimes even 5 passes before a shot was taken.  It was a completely unselfish ideal that every guy on the team had to embrace for it to be effective.  In a league where isolation and one-on-one play is the course of the day, this type of offense seemed almost foreign.  But to me, it was beautiful!  You see when you play as a team, it’s not about your individual stat line as much as it is how the team did.  Sure Lebron averaged a bazillion points and rebounds in the series, but the Spurs hoisted the trophy!
  4. Longterm success demands stable, consistent leadership: Greg Popovich may be the most boring interview in the history of sports!  But, what makes him boring to a reporter makes him invaluable as a coach.  He knows exactly what he wants to do, teaches it ad nauseum to his players, and demands that they run it with ruthless efficiency on the court.  His players buy in to it because he’s proven it works.  Sure, he makes tweaks here and there, takes input from his players, and makes in game corrections.  But, his players know and trust him because he’s always headed in the same direction.  As a leader sometimes you feel like you need to be perfect, but what is actually more important, is for you to be consistent.  If as a leader of a team you are all over the place emotionally, or with ‘new ideas’ or vision every couple of weeks, you will quickly fatigue your team and they will quit trying, not because they don’t care, because they just don’t know where your going!
  5. Talk less, do more: There’s an old expression that goes something like this, “Those that talk about it rarely do it; those that do it rarely talk about it.”  Basically, all of the hype, the fashion, the bling was all one-sided during the NBA Finals this year.  The HEAT were the talk of the town, ‘Can they three-peat’, ‘Did you see what Lebron/D-Wade was wearing’, ‘Just how many tattoos does Chris Anderson have’.  While people actually poked fun at the Spurs for their lack of fashion sense.  The Spurs simply went about their business, no one talked about winning their fifth championship, or that if they won again that Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili would have won four championships together.  They simply played their boring brand of basketball and won.

So, congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs, and thanks for the lessons in teamwork!



Week 2 Playoff Predictions (let the bashing begin)

I sat on the sidelines last week, still licking my wounds for being a Colts fan.  I haven’t felt this uncertain about my team since I was back in High School and Captain Comeback (aka Jim Harbaugh) was our quarterback.  I wasn’t a fan of the coach then (Jim Mora aka Playoffs?) and I’m not a fan of the coach now (Jim Caldwell)…hmmm maybe I just don’t like Jim’s?

Okay, so here are my predictions and my reasons:

Saints & 49ers: This is going to be the game of the weekend.  These two teams which are the yin to each other’s yang when it comes to style, will bludgeon it out.  The Saints will come out of this with the victory but, will not come out unscathed.  Winner: Saints

Broncos & Patriots: I hate the Patriots!  As a loyal Colts fan, it is a test of faith.  The Broncos defense is finally healthy again, and I believe that they will make enough plays (turnovers, sacks, tackles for loss) that will turn the tide for them.  The Patriots (Oh, how I hate them) will keep it very close  but Tim Tebow will have a game ending drive setting it up for a winning field goal in the closing seconds.  Winner: Broncos (did I mention I hate the Patriots?)

Texans & Ravens: I think that the Ravens are going to come out flat, and show their age in this game.  Texans will come out quickly and put up a two touchdown lead on them and never look back, which means that Ray Rice, there only hope for winning, becomes a non-factor. Winner: Texans

Giants & Packer: Okay, this game I could legitimately go either way.  I like the Packers because they went after history and made no bones about it (16-0), Rodgers has been playing lights out, and the defense often does just enough to secure the win.  On the other hand, the Giants have turned it on over the last few weeks, Manning has been playing near perfect in the 4th quarter, and the defense has looked like the 2007 defense that won them a Super Bowl.  In the end I think it comes down to which defense makes the biggest play, and in this I trepidatiously  pick the Giants to do just enough.  Winner: Giants

I’d love to hear both your thoughts and your picks!

Turn out the lights, the party’s over!

As I was driving the other day in the car I heard a familiar refrain from my teenage years come across the airwaves.  No, it wasn’t Bon Jovi or Huey Lewis crooning out some rock ballad, it was one of my favorite sports announcers poorly singing, “Turn out the lights the party’s over!”

Now, he was singing it as a close to a game that the home team had solidified with a winning basket, but my mind immediately connected a whole bunch of thoughts (minds tend to do that) and began to think about when I checked out of this life and entered into eternity.  Not in a morbid, brooding, foreboding way, but more of a I wonder what that will be like?  My mind then shifted to those I would leave behind, and I began to wonder what they might say or think about me.  Will they miss me?  Will they say I was a good man, a great man…just a man?  Then I realized that at that point not only would it not matter to me what they thought, but even if it did there wasn’t anything I could do to change it.  This next thought is what really made my mind come alive,

“What if I lived my life in reverse?  Start with what I want people to think about me, remember me for, and miss me for; and then live in such a way to achieve that end result!”

In other words, if you want people to remember you as a great husband/wife, start doing things that will make you a great husband/wife.  If you want to be idolized as the dad of all dads or mom of all moms, you better start spending a whole lot more time with your kids.  If you want to be remembered as a great spiritual mentor, you better start mentoring people…I think you get the picture.

The bottom line: Once the lights are out, the party is truly over.  And whatever people think about you won’t change, but as long as the lights are on there’s still time!