I have worked at The REC for four years. I can honestly tell you that when they first hired me, I thought to myself, “Boy, Dr. Garrett and Dr. Jackson must really like me if they are going to take a chance on me.” There have been some major learning curves and times when I thought, “What am I doing here?” , but the most reassuring thing that I have learned at The REC is that I am definitely called to sports and recreation ministry. Here are 25 things that I have learned from my time at The REC.
1. Focus on programs, not facilities
When I first took over as REC Director in December of 2014, most of the staff and the climate on campus towards The REC was that nothing could be done unless The REC was updated and better. If you work on giving your audience high-quality programs, they will forget about the state of your facilities (to a point). Facilities only keep people for so long. Relationships are a big deal (look at churches and community).
2. Take Risks
During the spring of 2016, Matt Jarrell and I thought it would be fun to create a Mardi Gras float (when in NOLA, why not?) and throw beads from the table cart float in the Hardin Student Center to promote our spring trivia night. The response was awesome, to say the least. People were surprised when we first rolled out before the 8 A.M. classes and we had people laughing and taking tons of pictures and videos. Part of the reason The REC is where it is today is because of the risks my staff was willing to take.
3. Liability, Liability, Liability
I did not quite get this when I first took over, but thanks to my supervisor, the great Dr. Judi Jackson, liability was drilled in my head. After all of these years, I am glad that she did that. People will sue you for just about anything, so proper signage and paperwork is key. Look up safety guidelines and see what other recreation centers are doing. Even if it is a scratch on the eye, fill out an accident report.
4. Think what’s best for the people, not what’s best for yourself
It is too easy to think about what is best for you as the leader. At the end of the day, you will move on at some point as a leader, but the people and community do not. My goal while building up The REC was, “What is best for the campus of NOBTS?” not “What is best for Brad?”
5. Be persistent
The old saying is that “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” If you ask enough, someone will eventually listen. I asked for wi-fi at The REC for three and a half years. We finally were gifted with it this past spring and it has made a world of a difference. If it is reasonable, keep asking.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask
Over the last four years, I have been told no about 8,675,309 times (did you catch that reference??). I have sent out email after email to companies to see if they would sponsor our events and/or intramural sports. Out of the 8,675,309 times I was told no, every now and then, from places such as Raising Cane’s or Iron Tribe, I received a yes. All they can say is yes or no. Don’t take it personally. So, ask away!
7. Make connections
Man, I wish I would have accomplished this sooner. Sadly, at the end of the day, it is usually not what you know, but who you know. I did not start making connections until my last year and a half at The REC. Honestly, if it were not for Dr. Judi Jackson, I would still be lacking in this region. Making connections with others in your ministry, business, or academic setting is very important, even with those that may not see eye to eye with you or those who are in a different field of study.
8. Have fun!
I cannot stress this enough! It is okay to take a break and to have fun. It is also okay to make events and participate in them as well. If you never have fun, burn out will rear its ugly head and get you. I was in charge of floor hockey and played while leading it, it was a blast!
9. Be gospel focused
If you are not gospel focused, you work a secular job. As a minister and a believer, the gospel should be the focus in everything you do (P.S. EVEN at a seminary). I really press my employees to make sure that the gospel is in our programs in some sort of way or form. During Tuesday’s basketball nights, Bobby Green leads in a devotion and a good bit of that crowd are guests that do not know Jesus. 1 Corinthians 10:31.
10. Boundaries are important
I have been on call mostly 24/7 for all of the past four years. We are not an 8-5 office, and sports and recreation will never be in that time frame. You work when everyone else wants to play. Turn your phone off sometimes, do not answer texts right away, learn to take breaks, say no to things, and spend time with your family. Your ministry is replaceable, your family is not.
11. Be consistent
Either do something or don’t do something. People will stop being interested if you are all over the place as an individual. Make sure, even as an employee/employer, that you follow through with things. Be there when you say you will be there. Work hard and let your finished product speak for itself. One of my personal pet peeves is people who are inconsistent. Inconsistent people were always the most frustrating employees and coworkers. Matthew 5:37.
Don’t think you have all the answers. You and I can always learn from others (even if they are underneath us in seniority ranks). If you are willing to listen, it keeps you from being prideful and from learning the hard way. Think and meditate on James 1:19.
13. Stand your ground for you and for your employees
This can go along with being consistent. If you do not agree with something or you have already made a choice (like officiating), stick with it and stand your ground. I also tried to stand up for my employees whenever possible. When you defend your employees and stand your ground for them, they know you are there for them and that goes a long way for them.
14. Empower, don’t micromanage (not slaves- delegation curbs burn out)
I tried micromanaging in the BCM that I was over before I came to New Orleans and it was a disaster. The biggest reason why The REC is where it is at today is that I empowered employees to lead programs. I did not tell them how to make every move. They had ownership of what they were putting on weekly or monthly. This is one of the biggest pros that I get from why employees work at The REC.
15. Creating community is hard and has to be intentional
Creating community is really difficult to create. I started out taking staff outings to Pelicans games, then taking a trip to Sector 6, and BWW’s. Since then, it has been really hard to get another staff outing down. This semester, instead of secret prayer partners, we just paired up (graduate and undergraduate) and prayed for each other after every staff meeting. You have to be intentional.
16. Be a friend, not just a boss
To me, this was one of the hardest things to distinguish and be consistent on. Being a fellow student in class and then being the boss at work later was hard. In the end, be the boss but do not be afraid to go talk to your employee about sports for thirty minutes, get lunch with them, or play them in ping pong when it is a slow day on the job. Build them up when you can and see fit. Ephesians 4:29.
17. You can always improve
Kim Collins once said, “Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” Your ministry or job will never be perfect. So, how can you always evaluate where you are and where you want to go? Once you become complacent, people notice and your ministry or job becomes bland and no one wants that. Don’t be the person that says, “But, we have always done it that way.”
18. Don’t be afraid to cut things when they are not working or meeting the vision
This could really go with number 17, but this is something the church really seems to struggle with. We have tried programs and they peaked and we thought they were awesome. Within a year or two, we had to cut them because no one was coming anymore. This was either because the program became too large and people had to wait too long to play, the competitive people scared recreational people off, or the person over the program did the bare minimum to get by. Think of Jesus and the vine/branches in John 15.
There are always breaks in your workday or season of the year. Whether it be summer or winter break, take that time to read about your field of employment and see how you and the place where God has you can improve. I followed most of the university recreation centers around the country so I would be able to see what they were doing. I would read Atheltic Business magazine, Campus REC magazine, NIRSA, insurance policies, and whatever I could find relating to campus recreation when we had a down period like summer and Christmas/New Years.
20. Be a team player (you’re never too good to clean toilets)
Never think of yourself as too good or too high of an authority figure to not do tedious tasks. At the end of the day, your staff is your team. Clean toilets when no one else wants to, sit at the front desk to work with a co-worker, or help open/close for your staff. If you give all the tedious tasks to your staff or co-workers because you think they are too low for you to perform, evaluate your heart. I once had a student tell me that he did not want to work for a specific office because that job and its tasks were too low for him. To say the least, I am glad that I did not hire him at The REC. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in John 13. Just ponder on that for a second.
My employees always hated this, but I would tell them the same thing four times via text, email, in staff meeting, and sitting at the front desk. It might get old really fast, but that leaves no room for, “I didn’t know.” Leave a paper trail, let people know where they stand and what your expectations are of them. Bad communication is another one of my pet peeves. In no way am I saying that my communication is perfect.
22. Even as called ministers of the gospel, we still have a sinful nature
Man, if sports don’t display this, I don’t know what will. This is probably the biggest struggle with sports and recreation ministry. When overseeing a sports and rec ministry, share the gospel. Obviously, the lost need to hear it, but in the instance of the rec, when you are around fellow Christians you would be surprised how much you should share the gospel with them. Are we trying to convince them that they are not saved? No! We should be preaching the gospel just as much to ourselves, as we do others. This past fall, I had the flag football teams pray for the other team in pairs before the kickoff, and that really curbed the unsportsmanlike attitudes during the season. Basketball for some reason or another was always terrible when it came to attitudes. No one is perfect, but please do not let that be your excuse to tarnish your witness around believers and non-believers. Trust me, people are always watching (I have a two-year-old).
23. Have a vision
This is HUGE in anything you do. You never create anything without something in mind as the finished product or goal. Do you run just because you like the wind against your face with no end goal in distance or time? I highly doubt that. In saying that, one of the big reasons why The REC is where it is at today is because of the vision that I feel that God gave me regarding The REC. When the staff caught onto it, the rest was history. Everything we do seeks to fit into the vision of The REC, which is “where Recreation, Exercise, and Community happens at NOBTS.”
24. Make your passion your job
If you are still with me, thanks. I know this is a long post. If you are passionate about something, make it your job. Seek out your passions and see how you can use them to glorify Christ and spread the gospel to the lost and needy. Is it a passion for using empty lots in the urban setting as sports fields to reach the inner city youth for Christ? Is it drawing? Is it music? Is it gaming? Is it hunting? What ignites the fire in your soul besides the gospel (which I hope it does) that you can pair with the gospel to be obedient to the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20?
25. Keep Christ first
This should definitely be first. In saying that, this list is not in any order of significance. Sorry, that I did not list this first, please don’t think that I placed this at 25th to sound like a good Christian (the last should come first, right??). Make sure Christ is always first. I once heard that if you are married to your ministry, go find a secular job and make Christ first. That is a pretty powerful sentence, right? I would be lying if I said this is the easiest one out of the 25.
These are 25 highlights that I have learned from probably the 100 plus learning moments that I have had over the last four years. Thanks for all of those who have supported me during this time, worked with and for me, and for Brittni who was a constant pillar of support and encouragement when things were tough or frustrating. I am really glad that God can use passions, like sports and recreation, to spread his gospel. God is an awesome God. Brittni and I are ready for the next leg of our adventure in God’s will for our lives as we move on to Quail Springs Baptist Church in OKC. I am glad that, four years ago, someone took a chance on me. Now, I get to experience another great sports and recreation ministry at QSBC because Mr. Greenwood decided to take a chance on me. I’m ready to learn and become a better sports and rec minister from the 18 year veteran in sports and rec ministry. John 3:30.