Plastic football buzz moments

When I was in middle school and high school, the cheerleaders would occasionally do this thing during football games where they would come up into the stands and start throwing out little plastic footballs. I’m sure you’ve seen something similar to this.

Every single time this happened, people who weren’t paying the least bit of attention before were completely engaged. Then, for the remainder of the game, little plastic footballs were flying all over the stands. Some of them even made their way onto the field.

I’ve always wondered why this was a win in the minds of the cheerleaders. Now, quick disclaimer, I won the superlative for “Most School Spirit” my senior year of high school, so I was always the guy yelling at the student section when they weren’t supporting the team the way they should have been. So, it always bothered me that the cheerleaders, who are supposed to be responsible for leading cheers, were instead distracting the crowd from why they were all ultimately there… to cheer on the team.

In the minds of the cheerleaders, they were generating excitement and energy. They were getting the crowd’s attention. That’s a win, sure. But at what expense? For the rest of the game, the crowd was distracted by the plastic footballs, and the janitors had a lot more clean up. Did the plastic footballs enhance the experience of the crowd? Of course. That probably is the goal at a high school football game, though I wish it weren’t.

Now, that’s a long rant if I’m just talking about plastic footballs at Rossview High School. But I say all of that because I think there’s a principle there.

Never create momentary engagement at the expense of long-term commitment to the ultimate goal. 

Opportunities will constantly present themselves to do something “cool” to grab people’s attention. But if that momentary engagement is a distraction from what you’re ultimately wanting people to do, don’t do it. If cheerleaders truly wanted to lead people in cheers, they wouldn’t be passing out plastic footballs.

How does this look for you? What are you tempted to do that will create a buzz, but ultimately be a distraction? Is it always bad to create a buzz? Absolutely not. Should you evaluate the long-term effects of the buzz-item? Absolutely.

What are you worth?

This is what the Lord says: What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves? Jeremiah 2:5 HCSB

A few semesters ago I was reading through the book of Jeremiah and was amazed at some of the principles there are. I shouldn’t have been amazed, it is God’s Word after all, but who knew you could find wisdom in the middle of God’s judgment of Judah? 🙂

Here’s an incredible principle I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about: Your worth will be determined by the worth of what you pursue. 

If your ultimate pursuit is…

  • Money, your worth will be equal to how much money you have.
  • Image, your worth will be equal to how good you look in a bathing suit.
  • Raising good kids, your worth will be equal to your kids’ behavior (now that’s scary).
  • Sex…
  • Social status…
  • Being a good cook…
  • Being a teacher…
  • Being good at preaching…

You get it. Isn’t that weird? I eventually become worth what I thought was worthy of my devotion. And we know it’s true. And we’ll think we’re worth a lot as long as we’re successful at whatever we’re doing. But the moment we’re no longer successful?

What’s so cool is God offers us the invitation to pursue Him. And when we do, we find that our worth is forever secure, because God alone is worthy.

Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created. Revelation 4:11 HCSB

The question, then, is what are you worth? The answer… however much whatever you’re pursuing is worth.

A huge mistake when picking a name

Recently I got a mass email from Moody asking for help in naming a new campus program. They have this cool new idea they’re implementing, they just needed help picking a name.

Now, I don’t mean to throw Moody under the bus with this post, but they just provided me with an excellent case study I couldn’t pass up. Here’s a principle for leaders of anything:

You never ask a large group of people for help in branding a cool idea. Never.

This is especially pertinent for church leaders. Our thinking typically goes like this: “Well, this ministry isn’t even for me! They’re the ones who are gonna have to live with the name… not me. So we might as well let them decide what it’s called.”

That is precisely why you can’t let them be the ones who name it.

Here’s why:

  1. When given a voice, people become attached to their idea. Consequently, when their idea is not picked, they no longer buy-in with the same commitment they would have if they had never been given a voice.
  2. You lose your edge of confidence. The goal of branding is to sell. In order to sell something, people must think you’re confident about what you’re selling. When you ask a large group what to brand something, you automatically lose the ability to stand up with your idea as if you are absolutely confident it’s the right idea. That won’t sell.
  3. You forfeit the opportunity to ride the wave of momentum. When you hand the branding over to the market, you miss a chance to stand up with the new and final idea and get people excited about how great it is. Why? Because they’ve already heard about it before it had a name! Now you’ve defeated the purpose of naming it well in the first place!

When I was in high school some friends and I were starting a band. Whenever you start a band, you have to come up with a name for the band. I made the mistake of asking a big group of people on a road trip for their opinions. To this day, people tell me we should have named the band something else.

If you ask a large group to name something, the first thing they’ll think about when they hear its name won’t be the cool idea the name represents, but will be the other names left on the table.

Don’t make that mistake.

2 questions an audience wants to know

One of the coolest parts about my internship at Seacoast is getting to spend some time with Greg Surratt. He’s an incredible leader, and it’s a huge privilege getting to hang around him occasionally.

Recently we were discussing worship services and he made an interesting statement.

“When people walk into a room they want to know two things. 1) Who’s in charge? 2) Where are we going?”

The more I think about, the more I think he’s right. When I enter an environment, subconsciously I want to know those 2 things. So, what are the implications?

1. Who’s in charge?

  • In our environments, we need to have volunteers in place who are clearly ‘in charge’. In the parking lots, in the foyer, in the kids’ check-in, in the service. This makes it easy on people. They’re not left asking, “Who do I need to talk to?”
  • The people with a microphone need to understand their role, and develop a presence of leadership. Just because a worship leader is the one singing a song doesn’t mean he/she is leading people. That’s another post for another time.

2. Where are we going?

  • Our environments need to be easy to navigate, and people need to be there helping the ‘audience’ know where to go.
  • The purpose of the service needs to be clear. Why are we here? What are you expecting of me as an audience member? What are you hoping God does in this service?

I’m all about bringing clarity and organization to church environments. I think these 2 questions help steer things in clarity’s direction. What are some other implications of these questions? Do you even agree people are asking these questions?

Theology and church practice

My systematic theology professor last semester gave us an assignment that forced me to think critically about my theological convictions. The assignment was to take our view on a particular subject in systematic theology, and then analyze how our particular view should inform our ministry practice.

For example: If I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, how should that inform the way I teach the Bible?

I think this discipline is critical for church leaders. Why? Our ministries should be shaped by our theological convictions. 

Because of this, I think it’s interesting to consider why churches do church the way they do. What beliefs are informing their practice?

Here are some questions for consideration:

What theological conviction leads your church to do…

  • Small groups or Sunday school?
  • Seeker-sensitive or Insider-focused services?
  • Contemporary or Traditional music?
  • Verse-verse or Topical preaching?
  • Multi-site?
  • Missions the way you do it?
  • Church membership the way you do it?

I think we’re doing a lot of stuff in the church just because we think it “works”. But what theological conviction helps us define what it means to “work”? You owe it to yourself and your ministry to think about these things. Unless you’re clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re setting yourself up to waste a lot of time and energy, and even worse, to lead your people and your ministry away from the truth that should be shaping your people and your ministry.