by Shannon Caughey
Coach, imagine that right in the middle of a game you and all the other coaches for your team suddenly got sick – so sick that you all had to leave (hopefully this never actually happens!). Rather than forfeiting the game, you could have one of your players take over coaching the team. Would any of your players be ready to step into this role, both in terms of knowing what’s needed to lead well and also having the confidence to take on this responsibility?
Here’s another way to think about this: As a coach, are you only focusing on telling your players what to do? Or are you helping them develop into competent and capable leaders? Are you equipping them to be “coaches on the floor/field” because of the knowledge and confidence you’ve instilled in them?
In this series of devotions, we’re considering biblical images that help us understand the Lord’s desire for who leaders are to be – including those in the leadership role of coaching. We’ve seen that God-honoring leaders are shepherds, sages, servants, and visionaries. God-honoring leaders are also equippers. This goes beyond helping your athletes become leaders on the floor or field. As a coach committed to living out Christ’s mission, the Lord calls you to equip those under your leadership to live and lead according to Christ’s design themselves.
Jesus teaches and models this equipping ministry for us. Luke 9 is one example: “1 One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out demons and to heal all diseases. 2 Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” After Jesus gives them some instructions (vv. 3-5), v. 6 says, “So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.” A few verses later we read, “When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida” (v. 10).
To be an effective equipper, follow Jesus’ model in giving those under your leadership several things. First, give them the training they need to be prepared to live out Christ’s design. Jesus has already spent significant time with his disciples teaching and showing them how his ministry is done – including preaching, healing, and exercising spiritual authority. Coach, be intentional about training your athletes in how to lead, serve others, and live in Christ-like ways with Christ-like character. Even if you can’t specifically point to Jesus in your setting, you can build this type of training into the rhythm of what you do with your team.
Second, give them opportunities to put this training into practice. The disciples may have had misgivings about their readiness to carry out Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus knows that learning-by-doing is critical. He entrusts them with opportunities to do what he’d been preparing them to do. Coach, give your athletes hands-on opportunities to lead, serve, and make decisions that require them to put what they’ve been trained to do into practice. Resist the temptation to micromanage – even if they (or you!) are not completely sure of their readiness.
Finally, give them a chance to debrief about their experience. Jesus has his disciples report back on what they did (v. 10). He then wants to take them away on a retreat, presumably to use this time for instruction and encouragement as they continue to debrief about their experience. Coach, some of the most effective equipping takes place when you set aside time for your athletes to debrief after they’ve had learning-by-doing opportunities. As they process with you what went well and what didn’t go well, you can instruct and encourage.
It’s important to pursue coaching and living according to Christ’s design yourself. God-honoring leaders don’t stop there, though. They recognize Jesus’ mission is all about multiplication: helping others live and lead according to Christ’s design as well. Coach, the Lord is calling you to be an equipper. Be a channel through which Jesus can multiply his kingdom work.
For reflection: Thank Jesus for entrusting you with the opportunity to build into others. Ask him to grow your effectiveness as an equipper who helps others live and lead according to Christ’s design.