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“This Is A Football”

 —  January 24, 2013 — 3 Comments


The great football coach, Vince Lombardi, was known to start practice drills and instructional talks with five simple words: “Gentlemen, this is a football” as he held an old pigskin in the air for all to see. He was known for his insistence that it was usually being really good at the fundamentals that separated winners from losers.

In junior high ministry it can be tempting to get overly concerned with pretty important stuff:
– Do I have a well developed theology of JH ministry?
– Do I have a clearly articulated purpose statement and goals for the year?
– Does our ministry have a well structured volunteer recruitment, interview and placement process?
– Have I thought through the sociological implication of calling it a “student ministry” instead of a “youth ministry”? (yes, I recently read a THREE page article on this very topic.)
– Etc.

While all of these issues, and many many more are worthwhile, I often wonder what Vince Lombardi’s approach to junior high ministry would be? My hunch is he would try to get folks like you and me to be really good at the fundamentals….the “footballs” of junior high ministry. Stuff like:
– Do I notice when a junior higher has missed a couple weeks in a row?
– Do I remember names?
– Do I ever follow up with one of their prayer requests? “Hey Brianna…last week you ask for prayer, how are things going?”
– Do I ask open-ended questions and truly listen to the wonderful answers they come up with?
– Etc.

Today’s NFL teams are pretty complex and millions of dollars and countless hours are spent to outwit, outsmart and outplay the opponent on a given week. But at the end of the day, it’s a simple game: “We have three or four plays to move the ball 10 yards and they have three or four plays to stop us.” After all…it’s just football, and if you can’t move the ball 10 yards or prevent the other team from doing so, it doesn’t matter what else you do well.

Questions To Ponder:
– Are there seemingly important things that are taking your time and attention away from some of the basics in your ministry?
– What junior high ministry fundamentals are you really good at? What have you neglected?
– Is there stuff you do really well that doesn’t really matter…even though it may look impressive?

Kurt Johnston

Kurt Johnston


Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

3 responses to “This Is A Football”

  1. I have this funny image of leading an adult volunteer meeting, picking up a jr high kid (like a 6th grader who only weighs 80 pounds), and saying, “This, ladies and gentlemen, is a middle schooler.” :)

    What may be a great method of helping leaders remember the fundamentals would be developing a “play card” that says, “Middle School Ministry Fundamentals” that says things like:

    1) Learning and remembering names communicates WORTH and RESPECT.
    2) Sharing your own life experiences shows them that faith is REAL.
    3) Savor the squirreliness, because it’s their way of discovering themselves.
    4) Keep pointing them to Jesus, even if they seem to focus for just a split second. MSM is about seed-planting.

    Make it the size of a credit card and laminate it so they can fit it in their wallet.

    I might have to do this for myself, too.

  2. Kurt Johnston

    LOVE that idea! Maybe a “deck” of 52 cards that you give your leaders (not sure that there are 52 “fundamentals”, but…) and ask them to put a different one in their pocket each week.


    Good stuff.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Youth Ministry Value Reminders: Play Cards | Youth Ministry Ninja - February 19, 2013

    […] couple weeks ago Kurt Johnston wrote about getting back to the essentials of youth ministry. That post inspired me to come up with some play cards (little reminder cards that can fit inside […]

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