the weblog of Alan Knox

The church as a team of player-coaches

Posted by on Nov 29, 2012 in community, definition, fellowship | 9 comments

As I was thinking about my post yesterday (see “How specialization harms the church“), I also thought about how my understanding of the church had changed over the last few years.

I remember when I once saw the church as a team with a coach (or coaches). The coach(es) trained the players, helped them learn their roles, then sent them out to play. Of course, in this view, the leaders among the church are the coaches while everyone one else is a player.

Later, my view changed slightly. I began to realize that among the church the coaches were also players. They still played an important role, but they were not just coaches; they were player-coaches. Of course, in this view, there was still a distinction between leaders (who were now player-coaches, not just coaches) and everyone else (who were still players).

Now, though, I see the church in an even different light. All are players and all are coaches. Yes, there are certainly different specializations (to use the coach/team analogy) and different levels of experience/ability. But, this doesn’t change the fact that all have the ability to coach others, and all are responsible for playing.

When we see the church as a team of player-coaches, it emphasizes several important aspects of our life in Christ that we share together.

1) We’re all equal in Christ; all are important; all are necessary.
2) At any point in time, any follower of Jesus could be a coach (leader).
3) At any point in time, any follower of Jesus could need a coach (leader).
4) Leading (coaching) is not about position or even function (since there can be leadership in different aspects of life).
5) Leading (coaching) is about helping others follow Jesus (in whatever aspect of life that is needed).
6) We all play the same game (which is not a game, but is life in Christ).
7) We all play for the same team.
8) We all play for the same owner.
9) We all take our directions (plays) from the same owner.

Obviously, every analogy fails at some point. But, what do you think of my analogy of the church as a team of player-coaches? Or do you prefer one of the other analogies that I mentioned (players with coaches or players with player-coaches)?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-29-2012

    It’s a great analogy, Alan. One that people can only really understand when they’ve experienced it. My latest blog is about making sure all the “players” get their hands on the ball – I’ve used the coach analogy for the facilitator, but in practice everyone in the group contributes to facilitation, ie. everyone is both a “player” and a “coach”, as per your analogy. You can find my post at

    One thing I’m sure of is that God’s people were never intended to just be spectators.

    – Kathleen

  2. 11-29-2012

    This post helps clarify what you were saying yesterday. Yes we are to be player-coaches but there will still be some specialization. I am a musician because I can play an instrument but I am not all that good so I let others that are better handle that task. I love to read and study the Bible and spent the last 40 years doing so. I pray a lot as I study and God has revealed a great deal to me. In my mentoring, I also teach others the methods I use. So in that, I am a player-coach.
    I feel that exposition is gift he has given to me and I spend my time utilizing what God has given me rather than trying to acquire more talent as a musician. However, if I were I would also try to teach others to play and would be a player-coach.

  3. 11-29-2012

    I have long said that in church everyone should lead and everyone should follow. See this post from four years ago –

    We so easily think we must do something in order to be accepted by the Father. But his nature is to love us and there’s nothing we can do to make him love us more than he already does.

    We are all leaders and we can all work hard to build one another up in love. We each have something to give and all the others can receive it if they are willing.

    We are player-coaches – I like that phrase. Thanks Alan!

  4. 11-29-2012


    I remember reading your post when you published it. I should have commented then, because I had been thinking about this player/coach analogy. Thanks for the great post!


    I wasn’t really thinking about activities like playing instruments or reading/studying the Bible. But, if we think about your illustration about playing instrument, I think my point holds. Among the church, I think it’s dangerous and unhealthy for only the “best musicians” to play. When we only allow the “best,” then we teach people (even unintentionally) that only the best are welcomed by God, or only the best need serve in any area – only the best teachers, only the best evangelists, only the best servants. Plus, we teach (even if unintentionally) those best musicians that they do not need others (less musicians).


    I like this statement: “We are all leaders and we can all work hard to build one another up in love. We each have something to give and all the others can receive it if they are willing.” You could even say, “We are all leaders when we are working hard to build one another up in love.”


  5. 11-29-2012

    I totally agree about allowing all who desire to play even if not the best. My point is, that if I have several talents, perhaps I should concentrate on that which I can do well. I should encourage excellence. Not comparing my talent to others but comparing myself where I am to myself where I can grow to be. No one should ever be excluded for lack of beauty but we should strive to present our work as it can best be and become. So there again we become specialized simply for efficiency. And if I am achieving my best, it is likely that that is because someone helped me get there. I need to put back and therefore I need to mentor (coach) another. Human nature is to keep what I have so that it can give me a power position. Jesus chose to give away all that He had to His disciples. So I should be.

  6. 11-29-2012

    I do want to add that the player-coach paradigm is one of the most important principles of disciple multiplication that we can discover. Infants learn from elders, but they also learn from each other. I can sometimes gain just as much from a discussion with a peer that I can from reading an “expert”. And I think that is what you are really getting at.

  7. 11-29-2012


    Your last comment almost encompasses what I’m saying here. If we have only two “levels” – infants and elders – then I would say 1) the infants can learn from the elders, 2) the infants can learn from each other, 3) the elders can learn from the infants, and 4) the elders can learn from each other. Why? Because “learning” is a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of the individual(s). And, the Spirit may choose to work through elders or infants or a combination. Of course, in reality, there are many different “levels” and different people are at different levels in different aspects of their lives.


  8. 11-29-2012

    great analogy!

  9. 11-29-2012


    I’m glad my analogy was helpful.