Do you feel like your church has been going through a long period of losing seasons? Do your councils, boards, and committees feel defeated and discouraged? Is there a lot of complaining about what you don’t have enough of to build on: people, money, resources? How do you build a winning team when there is so much negativity? There is a way: you have to believe! Let me tell you a true story.
Once upon a time in a mountain kingdom far away a poor school district asked the local pastor to coach the JV Football team. (Well, it wasn’t as simple as that – but I’m trying to keep it short.)
He wasn’t a very good head coach because he had never played football, he was a trumpet player. The first year they won a few and lost a lot. The second year, they lost them all; they were miserably unvictorious. But realizing he had a lot to learn as a coach, he asked to help the very successful girls’ volleyball and basketball coach whose teams were winning championships. He watched, he learned, he read books, and he changed.
When practices started the next year, because of the misery of the previous season, there weren’t enough kids to even form a JV team. With two weeks to go before the opening game, he went out and recruited more kids. We ended up with 12 kids in a league that played eight-man football, and one of our 12 was a girl. (The school office and the league office begged me to cut her from the team. It meant we and the schools we visited would have to open up the girls locker room and have an attendant there so Tina could dress out for games.)
We practiced hard for a week and at the end of the week I announced that everyone had made the team, we would go with all 12. Before they could bark about Tina, I said to them, “Is there anyone on this team who has worked harder, taken more abuse, been knocked down more and gotten up quicker than Tina?” After a short period of silence, I asked, “Then would it be fair to anyone here for us to cut Tina just because she’s a girl?” After a short period of silence, I said, “Good, then this is our team.”
Then I said this, “Now, before I announce that practice is over, I want to invite everyone to a non-school meeting. You don’t have to attend, but if you want to know how we are going to win this season, meet me in one minute at the east goal post. Now, practice is officially over.” And with that I walked down to the east goal post.
At first they sat there looking at each other. Then a couple got up and started for the showers. But the core group rose up and followed me east, and after a minute they were all there.
This is what I said:
“Last year we got beat. We went Zero for fall: We were unvictorious. Every game we played we got whopped. But looking back on it, we could have won half of those games. We had better, stronger, faster players, but we beat ourselves.
I want this year to be different. So, I propose to you that we have five core beliefs. I firmly believe that, if we adopt these five beliefs as our team values, we can win some games. I am going to tell you what they are. When I finish you can ask questions. Then we will vote on them. They have to be the core beliefs of the whole team, not just mine.
- We believe in God!
I told you this wasn’t a school meeting. If it were, I couldn’t talk about God. You all know I’m a pastor, so you know I have a bias here. The thing is I don’t care how you define God. You can be Jewish, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Mormon, Muslim or Native American. I don’t care. But, at your core, the number one value has to be God, that you believe there is a force in your life that is greater than you, that you believe this force cares for you and roots for you. In moments of weakness it can strengthen you. In moments of loss, it can hold you together. This is a spiritual force and it transcends and permeates all of life. When you take the field, you know that this force is with you. When you are exhausted and tired and feel like quitting, this force can give you the strength to carry on and do your very best. This force, this God, wants you to be the best person you can be and it will help you if you let it. So, number one, we will believe in God.
- We will believe in our team.
Look around you. This is your team. We will win as a team and we will lose as a team. So, everyone on this team is important. Each of you must commit to doing everything you can to uphold every member of this team. You cannot let anything defeat them. You cannot put them down, not even once. Every word from your mouth, every action you take, every gesture you make has to be uplifting to each and every person if you are going to lift up the whole team. So, if the guard misses a block and the running back gets stuffed, the running back gets up and says to the guard, “Don’t worry, you’ll knock him on his ass next time. I believe in you. You can do it.” If the quarterback throws an interception, everyone on the defense says to him, “Don’t worry, we’ve got your back and we’ll get the ball back. Next time you’ll throw a touchdown. We believe in you.”
This counts for other times too. If someone on the team is getting harassed in the halls, you back them up. This is your team, your family, 24 hours a day. You can’t put someone down in the lunch line and expect him to block for you on Friday afternoon. You must believe in all of your teammates, all of the time.
- We will believe in ourselves.
I know there are times in life when we get down on ourselves. There are times when we feel like we aren’t ready or we think we are going to fail. But, remember, everyone on your team believes in you. I am your coach and I put you into the game because I believe in you. It is critical that you believe in you. Whatever it is we ask you to do on the field or off, you can do it. You are strong. You are smart. You know the plays. You know what is expected of you. You can do it. Even if you fail at it three times in a row, I want you to go at it the next time with the expectation that this time you will succeed. Everyone will pick you up. But the bottom line is you must believe that you are here in this moment and you will succeed. Believe in yourself.
- We will believe in our coach.
God gives us people to lead us. In life you will at some point be asked to lead and sometimes you will be asked to follow. On this field you are asked to follow, and I am asked to lead. Last year there was a lot of second guessing and a lot of back talk. The team did not respect me or follow me. I understand it wasn’t easy, we were losing all the time and some of it was my fault. I will accept that. But, to win you must believe in me. When I send in a play, you must believe that there is a reason and that, if you run the play to perfection, you will move the ball and your chances of winning will go up. If you allow yourselves to become negative, you will not believe that the plays I call will work and then guess what – If you don’t believe in them, you won’t run them well, and then they will not work. But if you believe that every play will work, you will run them well, and those plays will work, and we will do very well. Believe in me, and I will lead you.
- We will believe in winning.
Winning can be controversial. Some people say “Winning isn’t everything.” I understand that. But there are two aspects to winning I want you to understand and believe in completely.
First, I want you to understand that the score board doesn’t make you a winner or a loser. Your attitude makes you a winner or a loser. If you play your best and you lose to a better team, there is no defeat in that. You can walk off the field and feel like you are a winner, you played your best. Last year we played a team with 65 kids on the team, and we were playing 11-man football with 12 kids eligible on our team. They killed us, 55-7. They rotated fresh players into the game all the time while our same guys were out there on offense and defense. But, when we scored in the fourth quarter on a 90 yard quarterback sneak, everyone felt like we had won something big. When the referee came to me and spoke to me at the end of the game, he said, “You should be proud of these kids, they played great the whole game and never gave up.” You can be a winner even when you lose.
Second, and I hate to admit this because you are all Charger fans, but I learned this from Al Davis of the Raiders. Some of you remember the Holy Roller play that beat the Chargers a couple years ago. After that game Jack Murphy was interviewing Al Davis about the Raiders ability to win close games and Davis said something like this; “We believe in winning. We believe that, even when you are behind, at some point the opportunity will present itself, the ball will bounce your way, and you can grab that opportunity and win. If you don’t believe in winning, you might not grasp that play. You might just let it pass. So, we believe in winning, and usually we win.”
Team, this is just as true in life as it is in football. So, I want you to believe in winning.
First, that no matter what the score is, you conduct yourselves like winners at all times. Second, any time you take the field you believe that we will win.”
When I finished, I looked around the group and they were quiet. “Are there any questions?” I asked.
Everyone looked around the group and no one spoke. If this is your wish for this team say, Yes.
Everyone said “Yes.”
“Ok!” I said, “Then this is the way we will remind ourselves. Every day at the close of practice, and every game day before we take the field, we will do our chant. This year it’s not “Go, Fight, Win!” This year we will say “Believe! Believe! Believe! Believe! Believe!”
We went undefeated!
The same five beliefs work in a church:
- Believe in God
- Believe in your Team (Church)
- Believe in yourself
- Believe in your coach (Pastor)
- Believe in winning (growing)
Instill that belief system in your team and you will begin to win, too.
© 2016 Steve Petty