Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bringing the Red Wings to Church

In this NHL playoff season, one of the most remarkable stories is the playoff run of the Detroit Red Wings. This organization has achieved a run of making the playoffs for twenty-three years in a row. In a league where "parity" is seen as the norm, the Red Wings have risen above parity to be successful year after year. This is the fifth longest streak in NHL history. Over these twenty-three years, the Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups. Of the four teams in history that have had a longer streak of consecutive years making the playoffs, only one has won more Cups (the Habs, with 8 Cups in 24 years). Of the remaining three streaks, these teams combined for 82 consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance with only two Cups to show among all three teams (the Blues, 25 years, no Cups; the 'Hawks, 28 years, no Cups; and the Bruins, 29 years, 2 Cups). It is an amazing story of long term success. 

But how did the Detroit Red Wings organization achieve this? They achieved it through building a culture of success and winning across the entire organization, from players to coaches to management.

In an article for the Detroit Free Press, "Long playoff streak a product of players, coaches building culture," Jeff Seidel tracked this culture of success across three categories that led to the streak of consecutive years in the playoffs. The three categories are: good coaches, role models, and hard work. The coaches outline the vision of success and winning and hold the players accountable; the veteran players act as role models and mentors to the younger players; and the younger players work hard, earning their spot on the team and their playing time. These factors working together create the culture that leads to long term success.

In this system, everyone has a part to play. Coaches coach the culture; veteran players live the culture and serve as mentors who model sacrifice for the greater good; and younger players learn and work hard. All contribute to this so the organization will be great from one generation to the next.

Does it sound as though you could apply these principles in your church or ministry? Don’t we all want to build a long term culture of spiritual growth, spiritual success, and faithfulness? A survey of the letters the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus reveals some overlap between the principles in this article and the principles Paul shares. 

Mentoring and Role Models
Just as Red Wings players model the right behaviors, attitudes, and actions of successful and winning teams, so leaders must model the behaviors, attitudes, and actions of the culture you envision within your church. Over and over, Paul exhorted Timothy and Titus to set an example and to teach (i.e., cast the vision of the culture you wish to create). For example, Paul urged Timothy: "Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:11-12).

Being a role model and mentoring others is time consuming but is also the most effective way to bring people on board with the spiritual culture you are creating. Spend time with people, teaching and coaching them towards the behaviors they need to grow in Christ. Give them access to your life so they can see how the things you teach have taken root in your own life. 

Sacrifice for the Greater Good
In the article, the Red Wings' general manager, Ken Holland, is quoted as saying, "It's not about personal statistics [but] about finding a way to contribute to the hockey team." In the Red Wings system, a selfish player who scored the most goals in the league would not be celebrated if the team failed as a result of his selfishness. Former player Steve Yzerman is held up as an example of someone who was willing to make a sacrifice for the team by accepting less scoring points and making more blocks. He found a way to contribute in ways that helped the whole team and not just himself.

We each need to examine our hearts to see if we are willing to sacrifice to help build the team and the culture around us? If you preach about going out on mission, is your life so busy that you don't have time to interact with your own neighbors? If you hold out simplicity as a spiritual value, are you encumbered by your debt and your materialism? In a discussion about wealth and the evils of the love of money, Paul taught Timothy that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6). He further challenged Timothy to "flee" from the temptations associated with the love of money and instead to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:11). In other words, Paul challenged Timothy to make a sacrifice for the greater good, to be a leader for the long haul who kept his integrity.

Long Term Focus
The Red Wings are successful because veteran players make sure they model the culture of winning to younger players. The focus is long term; it is from "generation to generation." As Seidel wrote in the article, "You start to understand this is bigger than one person, that the organization is more important than anything else." We must keep focused on the culture we are building. Beyond mentoring, modeling, and sacrifice, we must equip future generations to carry the culture forward with them. We must train and develop leaders who will carry on with, and after, us.

Paul told Timothy, "What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). This is where Paul discussed the development of culture. He taught Timothy, who is told to teach others, who will then be able to teach others. The culture will be understood, assimilated, and passed on, successively and successfully. 

By focusing on the long term, sacrificing ourselves for the greater good, and modeling the culture before others as we mentor them, we can build a culture of spiritual maturity and faithfulness in our churches and ministries.

Jeremy Hoover is the minister at the Otisville Church of Christ in Otisville, Michigan. His website is at He is an avid sports fan who enjoys biographies about athletes and books by coaches. His favorite sports are hockey, where he roots for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and football, where he pulls for the New England Patriots.

1 comment:

  1. Derrick Webb Good article... I always love the quote on the Wall of the Montreal locker room.
    18 hours ago · Like

    Derrick Webb

    18 hours ago · Like · 1 · Remove Preview

    Derrick Webb I think the toughest thing for any organization to do is say good bye to great players that have produced and give new players a chance. The Red Wings have gone through a difficult transition of Lidstrom retiring and saying good bye to Maltby, Draper, Osgood and Holmstrom. All outstanding players but, were not helping the team. Many teams would keep rolling out the same team until it completely crumbled.
    18 hours ago · Like · 1

    Derrick Webb Another thing the Wings do is find players to fill roles. Take for example Luke Glendening a third or fourth line center that scored one goal this year. He was a free agent out of college that played wing in college and converted himselft into an excellent checking and penalty killing center.