What Every Ministry Leader Needs to Learn from the Super Bowl Halftime Show

Super Bowl 52 was viewed by over 103 million people. Each viewer watched for their own reason: the commercials, to root for a team, to root against a team, and, for many, the halftime show.

Justin Timberlake was welcomed back to the halftime show 14 years after the “wardrobe malfunction.” As a parent, and a youth minister, I was worried. Yes, the halftime show had its share of suggestive dance moves, immodest outfits, and sexually driven lyrics. Without condoning any of those pieces, I believe that there are some key lessons ministry leaders can take away from the year’s halftime show.

(You can view the entire halftime show here, but be aware of immodesty, suggestive dance and inappropriate lyrics.)

Ministry should be about celebrating other people.

super bowl halftime show, selfie

Justin Timberlake took time to celebrate others in a number of ways. The most obvious was a tribute to Prince who passed away last year. However, if you watch throughout the entirety of the 13 minute halftime show, Timberlake strategically pauses a number of times to allow attention to be drawn away from him to showcase others. This includes other dancers, marching band performers, and an 8th grader in the stands to take the iconic “Super Bowl Selfie.”

As ministry leaders, we must seek to make our ministry work about celebrating other people.

  • Celebrate the teen who is asking to miss a sacramental preparation session because their athletic team made it to the playoffs.
  • Celebrate the parent, who is so frustrated with their child fighting them on the church stuff, that they are crying in your office. They still believe there is hope… why else would they be there?
  • Celebrate the teenager who shows up late again, but still shows up.
  • Celebrate Christ. Our Lord present in each person in your community, even when it’s imperfectly showcased.

Every day take a moment to pause and celebrate somebody. Ministry is all about people after all, imperfect people seeking Jesus.

Ministry should have an abundance of eye contact

This piece was the most pleasant surprise, and I believe this is what made this halftime performance rather unique to others in the past. Justin Timberlake was able to break the invisible barrier (between the viewer and the stage) and make eye contact with the viewer at home a number of times. Notice nearly every time he moved from one location to another he would look directly into the camera and almost appear in your living room. Kudos to JT and the production for making this happen.

super bowl halftime show, justin timberlake 2018It was intimate. It was vulnerable. And, it was effective. Eye contact is vital in fostering trust, intimacy, and connection. In your ministry, examine the amount of eye contact you have with those you serve. Is there a significant amount? As a ministry leader, you must do everything you can to make the person feel loved and cared about uniquely. In the midst of making sure that everything is in place and ready to go for your next event, do you make the time to sit amongst those you serve? Do you have moments where you can shut your mouth, look them directly in the eye, and wait for them to respond to the message you are seeking to share? Ministry must be intimate. Eye contact is vital.

Ministry should be polished and authentic

The performance was extremely well choreographed, but the sound engineering needed some work. As someone who is not all that familiar with JT’s work (as I’m still trapped in the embrace of 90’s alternative) understanding the lyrics would have been very helpful. Nevertheless, many say that words are merely 7% of communication. The other 93% was very well polished. Every step and movement was near flawless, and yet there were some built in aspects that made it seem very authentic.

When Justin Timberlake walked into the stand, it was genuine. That 8th grade kid wasn’t a plant or an actor, he was a spectator that was about to have the best selfie of 2018. Furthermore, when JT took the field and marched with the marching band, many of us were transported back to our own high school experience, where Friday nights would be filled with wonder during town’s football game.

As ministry leaders, we should seek to be polished, but not to the point of perfection. If the Holy Spirit nudges you to expand on one point and skip another, do it. Who cares that the PowerPoint doesn’t line up perfectly? Just authentically share the message. If reaching out to another student requires you to go off script or march a bit further into the stands, do it. That authentic act of love will reach more than just that student. Sharing the message shouldn’t be a specific script or performance. It should be part of who you are.

So go share the Gospel. Celebrate others as you go. Enter into their world and situation with lots of eye contact. Own the message and share it authentically. There may not be 103 million people watching, but our Father in heaven has a specific person in your audience that will be transformed by the gift of ministry leadership He has planted in you.

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