Everything I Needed to Know about Leadership I Learned Umpiring Youth Baseball

I’ve got a little one playing 7-8-year-old baseball. They hit off of a pitching machine. They are improving. That is fun to see. The umpiring is not improving. There’s no use in getting upset about it. If well paid professional referees can miss a call that alters the chance for the Super Bowl, then teenagers making minimum wage are going to miss some calls. I would be willing to take up for them a little more if they would at least take their hands out of their pockets and appear to want to be making their $10 or whatever it is.

Watching these umpires takes me back to my high school and college days when I spent my summers umpiring youth baseball. I hope I was better than these guys I am seeing today. I have often said that umpiring helped me become a pastor and a leader.

With apologies to the great little book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum, I offer “Everything I Needed to Know about Leadership I Learned Umpiring Youth Baseball.” Well, maybe not everything, but a lot.

As a Leader . . .

  1. You cannot play favorites. Teams demand fairness. Those you lead will expect fairness.
  2. You are not going to be liked by everyone. Close calls upset people. Difficult decisions upset people. Close calls are viewed through the lens of your team’s perspective. Difficult decisions as a leader are seen through personal bias.
  3. You quickly realize that some calls are really close. In umpiring, these close calls are called “bang/bang.” As a leader, you get some “bang/bang” decisions.
  4. You are going to make some mistakes. Enough said.
  5. You have to make a call. Umpires don’t get the option to delay a call or not make a call. The same is often true for leaders.
  6. You must get help when you need help but from the right people. Umpires call this “getting together.” Perhaps one umpire had a better angle than another. Leaders are not afraid to get help when they need it, but then have to own the decision as their own.
  7. You must keep things moving. The role of the umpire is sometimes to just keep the game moving. They want players hustling in and out of the dugouts. They keep coaches from spending too much time giving instructions so as to delay the game. Leaders learn how to keep things moving.
  8. You must learn that some people are going to argue with you about everything. Know this, as a leader, but never start the argument. Umpires get themselves in real trouble when they invoke the argument. Leaders should learn from them.
  9. You must always consult The Book. Umpires have a rule book. As Christian leaders, we have a rule book—the Bible. The Book has the final say!
  10. You must resist the temptation to be persuaded by the voices from the other side of the fence. As a young umpire, this was the toughest part of the job. The voices on the other side of the fence argued. They called me names. They accused. They were sure of things that I was equally sure of the opposite. In that moment, I had to learn which voice to listen to. Really, I was learning who I was going to please and what I was willing to do to please them. Really what was happening was that God was teaching me to be a leader.

My Seven Hopes

Dear Louisiana Baptists,

I am humbled and honored to be elected as your Executive Director. I am excited about God’s call and the call of the Executive Board. I cannot wait to get started.

Though I have much to learn and analyze before major decisions are made, I want to share with you my hopes for the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

As I have prayed about my role, I want to share seven hopes for us as a Convention.

Jesus will be exalted.
If we can agree on anything, we should be able to agree that Jesus should be exalted. Jesus is the Head of the Church. If He is the Head of the Church, then He is the Head of the LBC. I look forward to times of gathering when we will together exalt Jesus. Let me offer the challenge now that we strive toward the largest attendance in years to our Annual Meeting. Make attending this year in Alexandria, November 11-12, a real priority. Yes, we will conduct business and hear reports, but let’s gather to exalt Jesus.

Since churches are essential to our work, churches will be equipped.
Baptists are different. As a cooperative body, no church has to participate. I envision that churches will want to be a part because they will recognize the value of the excellence in equipping that they will receive through the efforts of our Convention.

Pastors will be encouraged.
Churches are essential to our work, and spiritually healthy pastors are essential to healthy churches. I have been a pastor of four churches. Each church was a different size and had different strengths and weaknesses, but all required hard work. I want to encourage pastors through public ministry to them and private friendship with them to be all that God has called them to be. This will be my daily prayer, daily goal, and daily evaluation.

Louisiana will be evangelized.
I love Louisiana! I was born in North Louisiana and grew up visiting relatives in Olla, Jonesboro, and Monroe. I was raised in South Louisiana. I went to Seminary in New Orleans. My first two pastorates were in Southeast Louisiana. My last two pastorates were in Acadiana. My Louisiana roots are deep, and my love is strong. I resonate with the Apostle Paul when writing to the Romans about his people, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.” (Romans 10:1) We will build on the work already established and work tirelessly to call our state to call on the name of Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

The Cooperative Program will be emphasized.
I make no apologies here. This is why we are Southern Baptists and Louisiana Baptists. My last two churches gave over 10% through the Cooperative Program. I know that this level of giving is possible without sacrificing effective local church ministry.

I like to tell the story of Mrs. Barbara Moncrief. Until her death, she asked the same question every year during our annual meeting to present the budget. When we would come to the area of our budget addressing our church’s investment in the Cooperative Program, Mrs. Barbara would raise her hand. After being recognized, she asked, “Is this the best that we can do?”

I came to love that question. It’s a great question for all areas of life. We should always be willing to ask the question, “Is this the best that we can do?”

This is the question that we must continue to ask at every level of Louisiana Baptist and Southern Baptist life. Every Christian must ask this question about his or her personal giving. Every church must ask this question about their giving level to the CP in relationship to their other ministries. Every entity must ask this question as they develop a budget. The Louisiana Baptist Convention must ask this question continuously in our operations.

I will be a champion of the Cooperative Program, challenge our entities to be together in our appeals, and oversee the LBC staff to be the best stewards of the Cooperative Program receipts that the LBC keeps.

The Louisiana Baptist Convention will be efficient and effective.
This is the expectation. This is the area that I have most to learn, so be patient with me, but I pledge my best efforts at leading us to be effective and efficient. I will soon be visiting every corner of our state listening to Louisiana Baptists. I will meet with all of our other Louisiana Baptist Convention partners. I will seek to understand our work better. I know we will be at our best when we are confident that our Cooperative Program money is being used with great effectiveness and efficiency.

I will seek to serve as an example.
I will never ask you to do something that I am not willing to do. I will seek to serve as an example in these other six areas. For example, I will not only be engaged in evangelism through preaching, but in personal witnessing encounters. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention has a challenge of “Who’s Your One?”. I have used this same strategy on multiple occasions as a pastor. This is a simple but effective strategy. I will need to find quickly a “one” in my new city of residence.

So, come on Louisiana Baptists. Make plans now to join us in Alexandria in November for the Annual Meeting. Let’s work together to make a difference in the great state of Louisiana.

To view the Baptist Message’s article regarding Dr. Horn’s election, click here.