Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reminders from "Friday Night Lights"

About a month ago I got hooked on the TV series "Friday Night Lights". I know I'm a little late to the party but...

With good acting and great writing it's well worth your time, especially if you're interested or involved in high school culture. And oh yes, I live in Texas where high school football and mums are king. (show is set in a small west Texas town)

I'm in season 2 and being reminded of many issues. Friday Night Lights isn't a "Christian" show and there are themes that should concern those of us who care about students. It does a descent job depicting the highs and lows of high school culture. The series explores deep issues on parenting, marriage, friendships and integrity. It also gives great reminders for those of us who care about high school students.

Here are a couple that have struck me.

1. There is always more going on underneath the surface.

When a student "acts out" and displays bad behavior they're probably doing what makes sense.

Matt Seracen is the senior QB 1 of the Dillon Panthers and a very responsible kid. Out of the blue he begins to drink heavily and become irresponsible. In an effort to "sober" him up and get his attention Coach Taylor gets in his face and chews him a new rear end.

As Matt breaks, it becomes obvious there is a lot going on underneath the surface. Matt's dad is in Iraq and has left Matt with the responsibility of his grandmother struggling with dementia. At least 4 people important in his life have left him. The scene ends in a climax of Matt saying,

"everybody leaves me, what's wrong with me"?

If I were 17 and dealing with the pressure Matt was dealing with I'd probably act out the same way and worse. It makes sense that he is angry, hurt and stressed. Why wouldn't he want to medicate that kind of pain?

When dealing with struggling students we must always be willing to take the time and energy to "drill down" and find out what's going on. When confronting students let's do it with a heart of compassion and a desire to understand issues of the heart driving behavior or attitude. Then and only then can we apply the truth and love of the gospel to the heart.

Are you relating to a student right now that is difficult to deal with? Look beneath the surface.

2. Sometimes you have to pursue the individual

I'm very impressed and challenged by the Dillon Panthers head coach Eric Taylor. Sure he's rough around the edges but he often takes time from his ridiculous schedule to support and help his players.

Brian "Smash" Williams was a highly recruited star tailback. After injuring his knee in the playoffs it seemed his football career and chance to go to college was over. Coach Taylor met with Smash one on one to help him get in shape. He called college coaches and finally got Smash a try out at Texas Tech. He went way above the call of duty. He cared.

I love one scene in particular when Coach Taylor drives to Smash's house late at night to tell him he got the tryout. Sometimes a phone call or facebook message isn't sufficient. Presence is important.

What amazes me is his interest in the individual and the desire to sacrifice time and energy to be there.

Student ministry is a ministry of presence. No, he's not a youth pastor but Coach Taylor understands the power of relating one on one with high school students. He is able to see potential they can't see and cast vision for what they can become.

I want to be more like that.

By the way, it seems the only way we can see what's happening beneath the surface is to pursue the individual. It's very difficult to know what's going on in a students life if we're not taking the time time to invest.

So for all of us who lead some kind of student ministry, is our focus and attention on getting as many students as possible in one place at one time? OR do we work, plan and pray in such a way that gives loving adults an opportunity to invest life on life? Depth and life change happens more often from across a table than from a stage.

Something to think about


  1. Loved Friday Night Lights. Coach Taylor is a molder of men. The final season came to Netflix streaming a few weeks ago and we got lost in it for a few evenings. I actually cried towards the end. I'm miss them already.

    Enjoy. We need to catch up on it when you get finished.

    Joe Kirk

  2. FNL is the greatest show I've ever followed. Sally and I got totally hooked two summers ago. Since then we've hooked lots of friends. And most of us agree we'd run through a wall for Coach Eric Taylor, love to have Tim Riggins as a teammate and Matt Saracen as a friend. Keep enjoying it. Season 3 and 5 are just as good as season 1 in my book. And please give some more thought here. I could re-live that show over and over again.


  3. Hey Guys, Joe, I cry on about half the episodes. Last night Smash got the call from Texas Tech. I about lost it.

    Thanks Hace - I'm on vacation this week so my guess is I'll be watching a lot.