January 4, 2010

How Leadership May Be Changing

A few stories in college football over the last few days got me to thinking about how leadership is changing. Once upon a time, success in college football meant paying your dues at a small program, building your resume' until you got maybe an assistant coach position at one of the big time programs or a head coach at a slightly bigger program. Ultimately, your goal was to be the head coach of a program like Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, or Florida.

The same has generally been true in ministry. Leaders had to pay their dues. That meant things like Bible College or Seminary, usually both, ministering in small churches, building a resume' until you got the chance to go to a bigger church or a better paying position. Success was often defined by serving at churches like FBC Dallas, Bellevue, FBC Atlanta, & the like.

However, the winds of change are blowing, both in college football & in ministry. While there will always be coaches & ministers who leave their current positions in order to be a part of a more "prestigious" or "glamorous" organization, it appears as if there is a group who have embraced a different paradigm for their leadership. Just this weekend, Chris Peterson of Boise State extended his contract with the school through 2014. In 4 seasons at Boise, he's had 3 undefeated seasons. He could walk & make big money by getting a job at a "big time" program, yet he stayed & seems content in Boise. Gary Patterson of TCU also just extended his contract, spurning the speculation of a possible move to Notre Dame, & elected to stay at TCU long term. Bobby Bowden did the same thing when he went to FSU. The Seminoles were terrible when he went to Tallahassee, but he turned them into a winner. After having some success, he thought of applying for the Alabama job after Coach Bryant retired, but he elected to stay & continue to build the FSU program. We know what happened at FSU after that. For some reason, these guys don't want to go to those "big time" programs. They want to stay & build something from the ground up.

At the same time, there are a group of men & women in ministry who are adopting a similar approach as these leaders in the coaching world. Instead of aspiring to climb the ladder of success that leads to North Point or Saddleback or whatever mega-ministry you like, they have asked the questions, "Why not allow God to do something just as revolutionary in & through me right here? Why jump ship to be a part of something 'great' when I can partner with God in building something great right here?"

It's a different approach to be sure, & neither way is necessarily superior. In fact, we need leaders who will take both approaches. We need people who work their way into positions of leadership in places that have traditionally had influence in ministry. At the same time though, we need people who will buck that system in favor of joining with God to blaze a new trail in a place where the church may not have much influence.

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