Monday, August 4, 2008

Coach or not to coach

I've got to make a big decision within the next week or two. I've already asked my prayer team to help me seek God's guidance, but I wanted to throw this out for everyone else, too. The question is "do I coach again this fall?" Before I break down the decision, I have to add the qualifier that getting hired depends upon whether there are enough kids out for football to justify Coach Brian Essex adding a 5th coach (me). But lets assume I get offered the position like last year.

Reasons not to coach
1) TFC is growing and will require more time. Many of you may not know this, but last fall I was pretty discouraged about what was happening in our church. We weren't really growing and we'd only seen one conversion over about a 9 month period. I was questioning myself as a leader and wondering whether Gardner was really the right place and whether TFC needed a better pastor. I'm not looking for sympathy, just sharing what was happening.
Coaching gave me a needed shot in the arm. It gave me a new outlet for my leadership (even pastoral) gifts. It gave me an enthusiasm that I wasn't getting from pastoring at that time. Most importantly, it strengthened my belief that God has called Erin and me to Gardner. The opportunity to coach football in this town helped me fall in love with Gardner all over again.
Now, as we're entering the fall of 2008, things are a lot different at TFC. We've got people coming to Christ left and right and new families showing up every Sunday (5 new families just this past Sunday). This means I've gotta give more time to assimilation and discipleship. As much as I LOVE coaching football, disciplining a new Christ-follower is exponentially better.

2) I could train for the KC half-marathon. Not a big deal, but if I'm not coaching 3 hours a day, I'd have more time to run. I'm getting soft around the middle. Ashley Vance's dad wants me to run it with him.

3) Coaching did not have the direct impact upon TFC as did the Gardner Musical From the Chamber of Commerce, to coaching, to the 150 Committee and other activities, I've continually tried to find ways to get into the community. My intention was to serve the community, not grow TFC. Although, if new families came into TFC, that would certainly be a bonus. None of my previous community activities have had as direct an impact upon TFC as the Gardner Musical; illustrated by the fact that we had FIVE families from the musical at TFC on Sunday. In addition to the new families that have come to our church, I just love doing it. (Music and football are the two things I've really missed from High School and College). For this reason, Erin and I have joined the Gardner Community Theatre leadership board. This will obviously take time and we'll be start working on the Best Christmas Pageant Ever sometime in the fall.

Reasons to coach
1) I LOVE it! When we ran onto the field for our first game last September, I had to fight back tears of joy. I know that sounds pathetic, but I LOVE the game of football. I'm also good at it! Seeing our team improve over the year confirmed that I've got some skills necessary to coach. Coaching a team is just like leading a church; many of the leadership skills are very similar. Substitute prayer with yelling and they're about the same job, well, maybe...
A great thought is that God's calling for our lives happens at the intersection of the world's need and our passion. Which leads me to the second pro.

2) I was able to love on some needy kids I'm thinking of one kid in particular. He was a terrible football player, but part of his lack of motivation came from his rough home life. We were able to have some really good conversations in which he opened up to me and I was able to build him up. I encouraged him in his school work and was really proud to see his grades coming up by the end of the season. It breaks my heart to see how some of these kids are treated by their parents. It's a high honor to be able to invest in them just a little bit. I also love getting to talk with them around town, like at GEHS varsity fb games.
Coaching could be like our Love Wins ministry or our service projects. We don't do it to grow our church but to spread the love of Jesus without using words.

3) It helps financially The denomination encourages churches to give their pastors an annual pay raise, the minimum being enough to keep up with inflation. Last year, I turned down a pay raise, this year we're struggling to pay rent, so we certainly don't have the money to give me a pay raise. All the money I earned (well, maybe minus the price of a Hawkeye football game ticket and tithe/ giving) is going into our Roth IRA. The few grand I get paid for coaching will have turned into a lot of money come retirement. While we don't need to money to pay everyday bills, I'd been counting on it for our 2008 financial plan.

4) It's good exercise I try to run sprints with the kids and I love being outside during the fall.

5) I get in free to GEHS events Yep, with my cool USD 231 employee badge. This probably saves us $40 for the year. Okay, so that's not a big deal.

6) I'd still be able to lead 6:00 and 7:00 meetings in the evenings Other than some crazy nights, I should be able to be home in time to continue my usual schedule of leadership and discipleship meetings. So maybe it wouldn't infringe upon TFC as much as I'm worried it might.

Sorry this is so long. I'd like to have some of your input as I work through this decision.


Anonymous said...


You do have a lot on your plate, and I understand the desire to coach. There really isn't a right and wrong answer to this one. The question is... what do you really want to do? Are you taking church time to do this, or is yoru church time in exception to this?

It's obvious you ove the musical too - so do what you love. God doesn't really care persay... just do what you think you love and God could use the most!


Donnie Miller said...

I think I CAN balance it, but I'm not entirely sure.

Great point, it's not just me doing the work. Your family is a WONDERFUL example of this truth!

Thanks for taking the time to share some wisdom. If it was just about what I love, I'd choose to coach...

Joshua said...

Quite simply, it would be a horrible decision not to coach. It's a great ministry outlet and it would help you practice delegating responsibility to others. You can't grow this church alone. . . (Reference Debbie's comment: "And besides you have a whole church full of people that can help grow TFC!") If anyone has the ability to manage his time between church and coaching it's Donnie Miller.

Donnie Miller said...

Thanks, I appreciate it.