A Place For You On The Team
March Madness ended less than a month ago and every year I find myself sucked into filling out a bracket and trying to predict a winner. This year, unfortunately I didn’t win my bracket contest, but it got me thinking about the family unit in a different way, so I’ll consider that a win!
This past weekend we began a new series at Open Door called “Show and Tell”. The series developed based on various discussion among our staff on an issue that has bothered me for some time. The issue is near to my heart because I live it every day as my job. It’s the issue of the role of the parent in the spiritual development of their child and the involvement of others in the process.
North Carolina is famous for a lot of things, but Michael Jordan has got to be near the top. Practically everyone in this state knows who he is and has some sort of story revolving around him. Even though I grew up in Virginia, I know who Michael Jordan is. I was just a kid in the 90’s when he was really in his prime. I had a Chicago Bull’s jersey. In my grandparents backyard I would dream of “being like Mike” and hitting a game winning shot. That dream would never come to fruition, much due to the fact that I have topped-out at 5’8”. Even in their heyday, the Chicago Bulls needed more than Michael Jordan. They needed Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley. They were really a good team, because they let everyone do what they were good at. Phil Jackson had the right players in at the right time. Steve Kerr passed the ball. Dennis Rodman rebounded like no one else in the league. Scottie Pippen did a little bit of everything, but played defense really well and Michael Jordan well he hit the shots. They all did their job and the results speak for themselves.
So as I sit here and ponder the great teams of sports, it has me thinking about what makes a great team. What if the answer to leading children and teenagers to Christ is as a team. A team that reaches beyond parents, grandparents and even pastor’s. I’m talking about a team that includes, neighbors, small group leaders, coaches and friends.
So like any great team, we must identify a few roles and who can fill those roles. Below are some roles I see when you compare the spiritual development of a child to the roles we see on a basketball team. The list may not be complete, but hopefully it’s a start as you build your team and get people in the right roles in your child’s life.
Coach (mom and dad)- To me this role has to be mom and dad (or the primary caregiver). This is the person who comes up with the strategy, the game plan, makes the decisions. They can feel the energy of the game (life) and know when they need to make a change. The coach doesn’t play a minute of the actual game, or take any of the shots, but they almost always have an impact on the outcome of the game.
Assistant Coach (Scouts and knows the opponent well)- It seems like every team has a plethora of assistant coaches. Sometimes as I watch games, I think “Why so many assistants?” Probably because they have a specific role for a specific job. Some of the greatest coaches, in fact probably most head coaches, got their starts as an assistant; learning the in’s and out’s of the game before taking over themselves. They have the time to focus on the opponent and the details of the game to help the team win. In the right scenario, this could be someone without kids who decides to invest their life into a family, child or student.
Waterboy (Refuels the team)- Adam Sandler made a decent amount of money around the whole idea of the waterboy. All joking aside, every team needs someone that takes this role, even as minuscule and even embarrassing it may be – seriously. As a game goes on, players need to stay hydrated so they can compete at the highest level. The game of life and spiritual development is no different, we need people who can give us the refreshment we need from time to time.
Doctor or Trainer (Helps keep team healthy)- Throughout the course of the season it is inevitable that somebody is going to get injured. It may be serious or minor, but the doctor and trainer are there to advise and oversee the health of the team. Who can be that for your family in their spiritual development? This may be the best role for a pastor who can equip and advise you in your spiritual journey as a family.
Center (get’s things started)- Every basketball game starts with a jump ball. Usually the 2 tallest guys stand at midcourt and jump to get possession of the ball first. I don’t know that there is much strategy to it, but they want to win, they want to start the game with the ball and set the tone. Who is it in your child’s life that can help get things started right in your child’s life?
Rebounder (cleans up the mess)- Life is messy, parenting can be extra messy, can’t it? Helping a child navigate the first 18 years of their life (and beyond) can be tricky. Every family needs someone who isn’t scared to get dirty and help clean up the messes of life. Someone that can bring that outside perspective. Most of the time they weren’t the ones who shot the ball, but the have to clean up when someone else misses. Who can you get to be there that isn’t scared of the mess of life?
Defensive star (keeps things from getting out of hand)- Since I lacked the ideal height to play basketball, defense was where I thrived. Playing defense isn’t about being the tallest or even quickest person out there, it’s more about doing whatever it takes to protect and prevent the other team from scoring. In the spiritual development of a child the other team can be identified as a lot of things, but primarily it would be Satan. The defensive star does whatever it takes to make sure Satan doesn’t win! Who’s got your back and will prevent the opponent from scoring at all cost?
Bench player (comes in when necessary)- Every year as I watch the NCAA tournament I see more and more bench players helping their team. On a basketball team only 5 people can start or even play at the same time, but they often have 12-15 people available. That means 7-10 people will not have their name announced pre-game on the speakers and come in to loud and thunderous applause. But a good bench player realizes, yet again, this is about the team, I am going to embrace my role and do what is necessary. Maybe I’m just coming in to give a player a breather, maybe I’m just a distraction, but I have a role! Who’s comfortable with their role whenever they’re called up in your life?
Clutch (comes through when the pressure is on)- Anyone who loves sports anticipates and hopes for the game winning shot as time expires, or a walk-off homerun to win the world series, or a field goal to win the game as the clock hits zero. The pressure is on in those situations and every team needs that person who will come through when the pressure hits. Life is full of those moments when it feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders and we need someone to come through. Who seems to be the person who always comes through when your family most needs it?
As good as Michael Jordan was I am fairly certain he wouldn’t have won any of the NBA championships he did without his team. I am just as certain that unless parents build a team to help raise their kids and teach them about their spiritual disciplines, they won’t win either. It’s time the church begins to help build teams for families. You may not be a parent or a pastor, but I promise, you can be on the team.