"Jeremy Lin’s basketball game is very unselfish. He is always looking to make others on the team look good, setting them up with assists and passes so they can score. That’s what great leaders do. They make others on the team play well and put them in positions to succeed. They don’t need to be the one scoring the most points or being out front all the time."
- Steve Adubato
My youngest son, Ephraim, starting playing basketball in middle school this year. Most of the boys on his team are playing for the first time and that was clearly evident during their first game.
Each time they brought the ball down the court offensively, they sort of bunched up around each other, unsure of where to be. A couple of boys on the team, whenever they got the ball, would always take a shot. They never passed. It was painful to watch. (Although my son led all players on his team with a whopping 5 points. #ProudDad).
Recently I took Ephraim to watch our local college team play. They are leading their conference and are said to be one of the best squads the college has ever had. The gameplay was completely different.
These young men spread themselves out on the court and passed the ball around with precision. It wasn’t unusual for each player to touch the ball on every possession until one player finally had an open shot or was able to drive to the hoop. The teamwork was remarkable.
When I look around at the state of the local church today, one of the things that is a constant discouragement to me is the number of pastors I see flying solo - and struggling.
The majority of churches in North America today are small churches (under 200). Economically, it is unusual for a small church to be able to afford more than a single staff member. Occasionally, he or she might be assisted by a part time secretary. But other than that, the pastor is on their own to lead the small church community.
Chances are, you are one of those pastors. Chances are that if you are one of those pastors you are tired, frustrated and possibly even considering a new career.
Don’t quit pastor. Just repent. Change your mind. Change your thinking. Let’s work together to build a team around you.
I love Steve Adubato’s quote about Jeremy Lin’s attributes as a basketball player because it describes, so well, how a great pastor can and should be leading his spiritual team.
Here are 3 characteristics of a leader who will lead a great team:
There are times when the lane is clear and the obvious choice for the leader is to take the shot himself. But many times in a church context there are opportunities for a leader to share ministry opportunities with a teammate. Responding to church member’s needs, leading a new outreach effort, organizing an event or coordinating a Bible study. These are just a few examples of things that can often end up on the pastor’s plate. Often times, there might even be someone better gifted to take the role or the responsibility than the pastor, but he does it anyway because he’s “paid to do it.” Just Michael Jordan was the highest paid player on his team didn’t mean he took every shot. On the contrary. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman (Jordan’s teammates in Chicago) are both in the Hall of Fame because they played with a guy who knew when to shoot and when to pass the ball.
The most underrated skill of a basketball player is his ability to set a screen for another player with the ball. He unselfishly plants his body in the way of a defender, expecting to be body checked. This move enables his teammate to take an open shot.
When we as leaders pass the ball to a teammate, especially one who might be less skilled, or an up-and-comer, we will do well when we allow ourselves to take a hit to enable them to get open.
When empowering others in your church or organization to have opportunities to develop their skills, there will always be critics. We’re going to have to take a few hits to enable our teammates to feel the freedom to try. If they are receiving criticism or are victims of envy or jealousy, it may hinder their development. It might make them fearful to take risks.
Don’t be afraid to jump in their, leader. It might sting a bit, but the benefit will be greater loyalty from those whose backsides you are protecting.
When Ephraim and I were watching the college team play, the starting point guard (who is also the team captain) was continuously giving direction to his teammates to set them up for success. His role was not to score a lot of points, but to set his teammates up for the highest percentage shots. A big strong forward loved the underneath pass. His fellow guard wanted to the 3-pointer. The captain’s job was to get them the ball when they got into the position where they knew they could be successful.
As a leader, it gives me great pleasure to watch someone exercising their God-given gifts and talents in a way that blesses others. We all benefit from those wins. My job is to keep moving people around until they find their sweet spot.
To do that I’ve got to know where they are. I need to get them the ball often and let them take shots. It will be through the process that we will find the place where they make the greatest contribution to the team.
Bart Blair is the founder of Make More Discisples. He has more than 20 years in corporate, church and non-profit leadership experience. Bart lives in Frisco, Texas with his family where he serves as a Church Growth Consultant and Strategist.
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