In the past week, I’ve found a documentary that has captivated my attention called “Cheer.” It’s about the Navarro College Cheerleading squad out of Corsicana, Texas. Led by their coach, Monica Aldama, the team has captured fourteen national championships—an impressive feat for any athletic program. I got so inspired watching the show that I attempted to do a jump that I learned in middle school. I was quickly reminded why I never made the squad.
This behind-the-scenes look at their program has reminded me that as leaders in women’s ministry, we are often found coaching and leading teams that aren’t too different than cheerleading.
If you’re leading a team, here are a few things I think we can all glean from this cheerleading powerhouse.
1. You need a coach who cares, who pushes you to the next level, and is someone worth following.
Aldama has coached the team for twenty-four years. She keeps in touch with all of her current team and still has group text messages with her former cheerleaders. She not only pushes the team to be their best in the sport, but she also encourages them in life. She’s a defender of her team and many of them would take a bullet for her. In a recent article in Women’s Health, she said, “This is like actually taking care of these kids, giving them a safe place, giving them someone to talk to. You know, navigating through their problems with them and helping them to set some goals and have some aspirations in life that go beyond cheerleading.”1 If you’re leading a team, how are you taking care of them? Do you have consistent communication? Do you pray for them?
2. You need the right people in the right positions.
Watching the documentary gives you a bird’s eye view of all the different skills needed for different positions. Some are better at tumbling. Some are better at jumping. And while all of them have to be at their best, there are some guys at the bottom of the pyramid and some girls at the top of the pyramid for a reason! In the same way, you have a variety of people on your team who have various skills and abilities. Knowing their spiritual gifts and placing them in the right area of your ministry team is crucial to the success of what you are trying to accomplish.
3. Someone is going to get hurt if people aren’t there to catch her when she falls.
I watched an episode last night where one of the team members went flying and no one was there to catch her. I could barely watch knowing how hard she landed. She trusted her team to catch her, and they let her down—literally. Many times, ministry teams get so busy with their own responsibilities that they miss out when someone is hurting. Because all of us have brokenness in our lives, we need each other. As a leader, are you making sure that when someone is hurting, you rally the team to pray and provide comfort—or even a casserole?
4. You need others who can “step up” and fill an empty spot.
Good team leaders and coaches are always developing new leaders. Leaders are constantly seeking out the potential of others who can fill the shoes of someone when they are gone. Leaders have a pipeline in place so they can elevate from within. I’ve been the beneficiary of this very thing. Seasoned leaders have put their trust in me to step into roles where even I doubted my competency. But they believed in me and continued coaching me in the process.
5. The team is better together than they are alone.
Each person on the team has a story, but together the team should rally around one mission—the gospel. Each person on the Navarro squad had a unique life story in the show, but when they perform and compete, they compete as one. When each of us fulfills the role we’ve been assigned, it’s a beautiful picture of the body of Christ.
6. We all need to be cheerleaders.
While I may never be able to jump or tumble like a cheerleader, the Bible applauds those who are encouragers. We should infuse courage into the life of our team and cheer each other on to victory—not for ourselves but for the glory of God.
Kelly D. King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for LifeWay Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church.You can hear Kelly at LifeWay’s You Lead events that are held in several cities around the country or listen to her co-host the Marked Podcast with Elizabeth Hyndman.
1. Jennifer Nied, “Netflix’s ‘Cheer’ Coach Monica Aldama Apparently Has A Group Chat With All The Navarro Cheerleaders,” Women’s Health Magazine, January 17, 2020, https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a30567837/monica-aldama-coach-cheer-netflix/