Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

The Philadelphia Eagles Playbook for Building a Championship Youth Ministry

11 · 22 · 23

Nick Sirianni is the head football coach of the Philadephia Eagles, who I hate, as a football team because I am a Giants fan. Yes, I’m petty and a little salty considering my Giants are in the toilet this year and the Eagles are probably going back to the Superbowl.

Regardless of my feeling towards the Eagles, I like Nick Sirianni. He’s a passionate leader and loves the game of football.

Now, before you think I’ve switched this blog over to sports talk, I want to ask you, “What is your plan to change the culture of your youth ministry?” Do you have one? Do you need one? I would say you do if you want to build a championship youth ministry that wins kids to Christ and wants to disciple them into lifetime followers of Jesus.

Nick Sirrianni has a playbook for building team culture and I’m stealing it. You should too.

Let me share his five core values for building a successful team and how you can use them in your youth ministry.

Connect and Trust

Nick wants his players to know each other because connecting is step one which results in “trust, that gets built through time.”

If you’ve listened to any pre-game locker room speeches or those firey speeches a player gives on the field with its staring players, you may have heard them say something to the effect of “fight for each other” or “fight for the man next to you”.

How do you get students to fight for each other? Let me share how I do it.

Camp, mission trips and retreat are my core connection builders. These are trips which cause students to bond out of survival, if nothing else, but I design events like this with connection in mind and trust as the long term goal.

If I have success, where kids are growing, it’s because of the connections made at those three events. Grab my Youth Pastors Guide To Camp if you need help.

Compete with each other

“I think competition is such a big thing that we want to establish here and build on here.” which sounds strange to apply it to a youth ministry, but stay with me.

If your youth group is anything like mine, they love weekly games and competition, but this is not the kind of competition I’m talking about. Consider this verse,

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds – Hebrews 10:24

The word “spur” is a good word for competition. Think of the spur on a cowboy, they were worn to goad their horse in certain directions. The spurs according to Ophena,

“Spurs are made to help the rider to direct the horse better. Mainly, riding spurs make the horse react to smaller aids, thus making riding easier. For instance, many slow horses require the help of a spur or a riding crop to keep their pace.”

The word spur, in Greek, means stimulation, provocation. Competition is not just about seeing who is better but about getting better together. Competition is the sea that makes all ships rise.

Challenge your kids to out love each other, out serve each other, our be kind each other.

Accountability

“My job is to hold everybody accountable. Hold the players accountable for what they do on the field and hold the coaches accountable, but then I also want the coaches and players around to hold me accountable because we’re all in this together.”

Accountability is a two way street. Nick doesn’t believe he gets a pass because he’s the coach, he believes in mutual accountability. Just because you’re the youth pastor doesn’t mean your not accountable to your students, in face you have great accountability,

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. Luke 12:48

and

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1

Accountability is not about policing each other or gathering legalistic gotcha moments. Real accountability is really born out of love produced by Nick’s first core value, connection resulting in trust.

Build accountability in others by first holding yourself accountable for the standards you set for both your faith and the standards of your youth ministry.

Smart Football

You’ve heard coaches talk a players football IQ and how much they know about the game, the rules or the plays, and the higher their football IQ is the better player they can become. In other words, they are alway learning.

“So, if we can know what to do as far as our assignments, then our talent can shine. And then also being a very smart situational football team.” – Nick Sirianni

The more you know your assignment, the greater you can shine. Knowledge precedes success but having informational knowledge can only take you so far, as the scripture says,

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. I Corinthians 8:1

You don’t need a high IQ in youth ministry where you know history of youth ministry to be a good youth pastor/coach, I mean it wouldn’t hurt, but a youth pastors EQ (emotional quotient) or Emotional Intelligence is far more important than a youth pastors IQ.

Some examples of Emotional intelligence are

  • reading the room and knowing what to say in the moment
  • emotional flexibility
  • resilience in the face of change
  • active listening
  • compassion for others

The more you increase your EQ the greater chance your students will catch on and start to emulate it.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals

“If I can beat him with fundamentals, that’s my edge.”

Football fundamentals vary from position to position.

Defensive Linemen fundamentals include stance, techniques, block recognition, footwork, and pass rush. Which is different from Wide Receiver’s fundamentals, which are route running, knowledge of the game and hand eye coordination.

For the student following Jesus, I believe the fundamental are

  • Prayer
  • Bible Study (not Bible Reading)
  • Sharing Your Faith/Testimony

These are skills that can be learned and practiced over and over until they become second nature as students partner with the Holy Spirit for help and guidance.

In my book, The Disciple Project: Raising Up A New Generation of Doers, I go a little deeper in connecting the fundamentals of being a follower of Jesus with the words of Jesus, himself,

Core Value: Love
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must
love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one
another.” John 13:34,35
Praxis: Measured through Sacrifice

Core Value: Humility
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have
cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:33
Praxis: Measured through Surrender

Core Value: Holiness
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must
deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Praxis: Measured through Separation

Core Value: Persistence
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching,
you are really my disciples. John 8:31
Praxis: Measured through Study

Core Value: Progress
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves
to be my disciples. John 15:8
Praxis: Practice (Habits)

No coach, teacher or youth pastor has one practice or class or one meeting, teaches the fundamentals and then says, ‘Ok, I’ve taught you, now you’re ready”

No, practice is for practicing the fundamentals, honing your skills, spurring one another to excel in the fundamentals so that when the game (or the game of life) happens, the fundamentals of faith will become more evident.

I’m not rooting for the Eagles. I can’t, it’s not in my nature, but I am rooting for Nick Sirianni to build a culture of not just great football players but of great men. Now, if he can just teach his fans not to throw batteries, we’ll be good. Good luck with that Nick.

if you’re thinking, “I wish there was a playbook for youth ministry that could help me plan events, build trust and become a better youth pastor” your wait is over.

I put together the My Youth Ministry Playbook for youth workers just like you who want to build a successful youth ministry

  • using youth ministry fundamentals
  • increase emotional EQ and
  • connecting with students and connecting the students to each other

Don’t miss your chance to move the ball forward in your ministry in 2024!

Related Posts

Make Something Beautiful

It’s a been strange week and by strange, I mean God was up to something. Earlier in the week I was writing this article about how it’s really the students and volunteers who build the culture of the youth ministry. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and...

read more

A Biblical Roadmap To Clarity

What do you do when you don’t know which way to go? Which job to take? Who to date/marry? Which college to attend? Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths...

read more