The Total Football approach to service & appointing employees

Yesterday, I wrote about our desire to get a second full-time worker. I outlined some of what we were looking for and why we are taking such a broad view. You can check that out if you want to know more.

I wanted to consider, in light of that, why we were taking such a broad view. I explained in practical terms why that was yesterday (so check that out if you want to know specifics). But, more broadly, there seems to us to be wisdom in getting the right people onboard before deciding where they sit.

The analogy often given is of a bus. There is sense in getting people on the bus before deciding where they are going to sit. Which makes a neat point, but the analogy breaks down a bit if you press the details. Ultimately, if your get everyone onboard but you don’t have a driver, you aren’t going anywhere. Similarly, if you have a driver but no passengers, your bus is making a pointless journey. At some point, you have to identify what you actually need to get your bus going and doing something valuable. Whilst that analogy might make a particular point that is valid, it doesn’t serve our particular position very well.

The reason for that is obvious enough. We are looking to grow and expand the work of ministry, and there is no one way to do that. It is possible that our ministry might grow and the kingdom be expanded by adding a third service on a Sunday and employing someone ostensibly to oversee that. If that is what we determined to do, we would be looking for a particular kind of person with a specific set of skills. But it is equally possible that the ministry and kingdom might grow by adding no more meetings on a Sunday, but starting some form of discipleship training in the week. That would potentially warrant a different kind of person with different skills. Similarly, we might expand and grow the ministry by adding some evangelistic outreach, making us look for someone different again. Or, it might grow and expand by not adding any extra formal ministry at all, but simply by making a person available who is able to meet up and speak about Jesus with people regularly, which is another set of skills again.

That doesn’t mean there are and aren’t particular things under those broad categories that would or wouldn’t work in our context. There are forms of discipleship and outreach that would be contextually inappropriate. But it is to say that expanding the work of ministry for the glory of Christ and the sake of the kingdom is a fairly broad remit. Which means we don’t want to narrow down what that looks like to someone with a particular set of skills, rather we want someone with a particular approach to the church who will be freed up to serve in whatever ways they think they can achieve the broad remit.

That being the case, it is less like arranging the seats on a bus and more like working out which kind of player you want to add to your football team. Whenever you add to your football team, you are looking to improve and become better. Sometimes, improvement will come because of a particular deficiency. So, you may have no centre forward and determine that you need one otherwise you won’t score any goals. It is necessary to be very specific sometimes otherwise you won’t be able to achieve the basic at all.

But other times, all the positions are filled. It’s not that you need someone for a particular position, you just need someone who can improve the overall quality of the team. Which might mean getting a world class centre forward who can stick it in the back of the net more frequently, it might mean getting an upgraded midfield playmaker who can create more chances, it might mean getting a better defender to make you more solid at the back or a new goalkeeper. There may be areas you are stronger or weaker in that push you in one or other direction, but sometimes the actual role is less important than getting someone in who will fit with the overall style of play and will be a qualitative improvement to what you are already doing.

In the same way, sometimes a church might just need a full time pastor. They need someone who can be set aside to do the bulk of the formal teaching and visiting because they currently don’t have anyone to do that. This is like the team that just needs a Goalkeeper. There is a need to fill a particular position without which things will be a struggle.

But other times, all the roles are filled. People are doing what they can and they’re doing it well. Your pastor is pastoring, your elders are eldering and your members are serving. But to improve and grow, you can bring someone new in. Their particular role and position is much less important than the person getting the overall team ethos. Getting the right person and then giving them a free, roaming role may be far more important to your overall performance than attempting to find someone who is available and shoehorning them into a position.

Our church, at the moment, is take something like the Dutch total football philosophy. We aren’t looking for people who will fit predetermined roles and positions. Rather, we are looking for people who, understanding the overall structure and philosophy, can effectively play anywhere as required. We are looking less for people who will fit a perfect mould and more for someone who is adaptable and able to serve as required and, more to the point, have the vision to see where they need to be to improve things overall. Just as total football requires intelligent and technically able players, our approach (I was about to say total church before realising the connotations!) requires people with the vision to see what is needed, the adaptability to do slide into all sorts of different things, being happy with rapid change, and the technical ability to do a variety of things well.

In that sense, it is important for us to get the right people onto the team rather than search for someone who might fill a particular position. We aren’t looking for someone to come into a defined role, but someone with the adaptability and technical ability to see the needs, to have the vision to see where improvements and expansions can be made and to have the drive and ability to self-start those things in order to the serve the work of ministry where the Lord has placed us.