Posted tagged ‘Joe Paterno’

Lessons from JoePa

January 25, 2012

I’m sure that all of you who are college football fans, and many of you who are not, have heard about the death this last weekend of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno, affectionately called JoePa, was truly a living legend. JoePa was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 years, held the record for the most wins by any NCAA division one football coach, and is the only division one coach to have over 400 victories. JoePa lead the Nittany Lions in five undefeated seasons, and in 2007 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In addition to these accomplishments JoePa was well known for his emphasis on high moral conduct among his players, as well as encouraging their academic success. JoePa was also well loved off the football field and held in very high regard in his community.

There is no doubt in my mind that JoePa was one of the greatest football coaches that ever lived. Yet despite all of his success on and off the field, there will always be a shadow hanging over his name. In November of 2011, JoePa’s longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on allegations of child sex abuse. As the story unfolded, we discovered that JoePa was made aware of these allegations. According to reports, JoePa passed the information along to two university officials and then did nothing more concerning the situation. The report was apparently swept under the rug. After these details came to light, Penn State University fired JoePa for his inaction. No matter how many great things JoePa did, his name will forever be remembered as the man who only did the “minimum.” The allegations against Jerry Sandusky were not fully exposed and addressed as they should have been.

The point that I’m trying to make is that all the great things accomplished by JoePa were dwarfed by one poor decision.

This makes me think of a quote that I heard several years ago, “it can take years to build a good reputation, and only one poor decision to ruin it.” This principle is greatly magnified in the world of Rural Ministry. In urban areas, it’s much easier to remain anonymous, and poor decisions can often times be easily hidden. In contrast, when you live in the sticks everyone knows everybody. In addition to everyone knowing everybody, they also tend to know everybody’s business. As I said in my first Rural Ministry blog post, “You know you’re in a rural church if there is no such thing as a secret sin.” I meant it as a joke, but there is a lot of truth in the statement as well.

As rural ministers, we need to make sure that we do everything we can to maintain a good reputation. This doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect, but we do need to be cautious. We need to make sure that we do not allow ourselves to be put in potentially compromising situations. We need to conduct ourselves in ways that honor God and show His love to others. We need to be honest in our dealings, and transparent in our lives. We need to live our lives as if there was no such thing as a secret. And, if we ever find ourselves in a situation like JoePa, we need to make sure that we do everything within our power to protect the innocent.

What are some ways that we can make sure we maintain a good reputation? If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation like Joe Paterno, how did it make you feel? Leave a comment below.