The Atlanta Falcons lost their first game of the season to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Who would’ve predicted they’d be playing in Super Bowl LI?
Even though I live in the suburbs of Atlanta, I was skeptical about the Falcons chances to earn their way to the championship game.
But they made it.
I give a lot of credit to the Head Coach, Dan Quinn. This is only his second season with the team. Quinn’s predecessor, Mike Smith, coached the team from 2008 to 2014. Under Smith, the Falcons had a regular season record of 66 wins and 46 losses.
But, like Mark Richt’s days at the University of Georgia, he failed to deliver the big wins in the biggest games. So he was let go, and Quinn was hired to take his place.
How did the Falcons make such a big improvement?
Kyle Shanahan, the team’s Offensive Coordinator says, “It all started with Dan. He has preached the culture and gotten the right people. He had a vision and he made it happen” (source: Bleacher Report).
I hope you caught that first sentence: “It all started with Dan.” If you’re the leader, improvement starts with you. Your attitude makes a difference. Your actions make a difference. Your work ethic makes a difference. As the leader, your ministry is a reflection of you.
But Shanahan also mentioned three specific things that Coach Quinn did with the Falcons that you can do in your ministry to take things to the next level:
1. Create the Culture.
Quinn wanted his team to be more like brothers than neighbors. In his words, “The challenge was how to get from a neighborhood to a brotherhood.”
He mixed up locker assignments to make guys interact with each other. He put a Ping-Pong table in the locker room to get them having fun together. He even set up a basketball goal in the team meeting room. He had everyone sign their name on a sign that said, “I will play for my brother.” In short, he created a winning culture.
Question: What parts of your culture need to change so your ministry can move forward?
2. Strengthen the Team.
In his first season, Quinn let go of established players who weren’t contributing. He didn’t ask, “What have you done for this team over your career?” He asked, “What have you done for this team this year?”
Some of the players rose to the challenge. They showed up in better shape and better prepared than ever before. He also moved some of the guys into new positions that he believed would work better for them and the team (source: The Falcoholic).
Question: Who do you need to release, move, or recruit to make your team stronger?
3. Clarify the Vision.
From his first day, Quinn used two words to express his vision: “Fast” and “Physical.” He said those two words over and over. He graded players based on those qualities. He rewarded players based on those qualities.
There was no question what kind of team the Atlanta Falcons were to become. They were on their way to becoming fast and physical. That was Quinn’s vision.
Question: Is your vision clear, concise, and memorable?
Professional football is different than youth ministry. But leadership is leadership. No matter who wins Super Bowl LI, Dan Quinn’s emphasis on building a better football team can help you in your pursuit to build a better youth ministry.
Create the culture.
Strengthen the team.
Clarify the vision.
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