Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


I have several roles I strive to lead in that lately share one common dilemma: what do I do when those I’m leading won’t listen or don’t seem to care? Ie:

  • AS A DAD: what do I do when my child won’t own up to a responsibility at home?
  • AS A YOUTH PASTOR: what do I do when a students refuse to listen even casually and simply text message all through a service?
  • AS A COACH: what do I do when a kid is passive aggressive and only gives me the bare minimum in practice?
All of these are real leadership situations of the past 2 weeks, but recently, that last one has really got me thinking. I’ve had conversations with my assistant coaches particularly on my U14 team about what to do when our players stop listening to the coach. I coach on a field that has several other teams being coached on it at the same time, and the answer to that for many of my peers is “make them run”.
But I have a problem with punishment leadership. It’s not that I don’t believe in consequences, but I think that every time I have to call on my title and force a child, student, or player to do what I say… there is only one thing we can be teaching: submission. When I make a student run, we are no longer coaching soccer, I’m only coaching them in one thing: “I’m the coach, and you’re the player, and now we can’t do anything else until you get that straight.” There is a time for that, but I hate it… and it ALWAYS takes a lot of time to recover to the place of relationship. For a while, I’ll be simply “coach” and they’ll be “player”. It’s hard to be friends, mentors, or even to laugh together. Some will argue that the relationship will be better afterwards and that it is weak sauce to avoid it, but my experience says “punishment leadership” has a high price tag with it.
So, I have a few “rules” I’m trying to lead by before passing out punishments:
  1. DON’T ASK OTHERS TO DO WHAT I’M UNWILLING TO DO. If I ask my kids to keep their room clean, then I need to. If I ask my players to give me their best effort, then I need to do that as a coach. If I ask my students to turn off their cell, I should unplug too.
  2. AVOID SURPRISE CONSEQUENCES. I don’t want to ever surprise my kids, students, or players with a consequence for their actions. My kids should know clearly what is expected of them and what the consequences will be for not doing it. I can’t pass out a restriction without first making sure they clearly understood the expectations and what would happen if they ignored them. If I’m going to make my players run for not paying attention, I should have told them clearly that’s what I was going to do before practice even officially started.
  3. PUBLIC STUFF GETS PUBLIC CORRECTION. PRIVATE STUFF GETS PRIVATE CORRECTION. If you make a big deal of something in front of a crowd, I’ll correct you in that crowd. If you make a mistake as a player in a drill, I’ll pull you aside and correct you quietly. If a player says something disrespectful to me in front of the team, I’ll correct them in front of the team. I rarely if ever call anyone out from the stage as a youth pastor. I default to private confrontation and use public settings only when I seem to have very few if any other leadership options.
  4. OFFER CONSTRUCTIVE SOLUTIONS FIRST: Before punishing, I try and offer alternative solutions. Before telling a player to run laps or taking away a privilege from a child or whatever, I try and tell them that there is another option. The consequence then to some degree become their choice. This isn’t avoidance of leadership on my part, I think it’s a way for me to keep leading instead of simply punishing. Thus, “If you do ___________”, we can continue our relationship and I don’t have to stop leading so I can simply be a cop.
  5. ONLY AS A LAST RESORT, LEAD FROM POSITION: If I have to say, “because I’m the dad and I said so”, my leadership level dropped to the lowest common denominator. I try and avoid it at all costs. If I have to use this one, it is me throwing in the towel and saying, we can’t do anything more until you realize this. I’m the coach, and you will listen to me. I’m the pastor, and you can’t behave like this. Period. There’s a time for it, but I try and only use it as a last resort.


  1. i really respect this about you, brian. i hope i can try and be a mom/ leader/ whatever better by remembering this philosophy in the future. :]

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