I grew up watching and playing sports. football, baseball, soccer, and (my favorite) basketball. I loved being a part of a team because I got to spend more time with my friends. Outside of practice, we were always going to the rec center or playing pick-up at school. When we weren’t playing, we were meeting up for pizza or getting together for a movie.
When I was 16, my dad asked me if I wanted to coach an Under 12 soccer team because he could not find anyone willing to do it and these kids who signed up late were not going to be able to play. I hated soccer, and my dad knew it, but he was desperate. I was amused at the thought and then inspired by the challenge. I was only a few years older than my team members, but we had a lot of fun together. It probably didn’t hurt that one of the kids’ parents was a former professional soccer player and helped me at all my practices. We started out losing everything, then ended the season with a win streak that brought us to .500 on the season. The more significant part was how much better we became as we grew and bonded as a team.
When basketball season rolled around, I stepped up to coach a 4th-5th grade team (still only a sophomore in high school myself). I was all in. I loved coaching as much as I loved playing. It wasn’t the same as playing, but I was able to mentor young guys and help them in ways that my coaches and teammates had helped me as a player. As the coach, I could see the skills where my players needed the most work, but I could also see the areas where they needed help to mature as young men and become better human beings. And just like all the teams I’d been on as a player, we ate pizza and watched film and hung out together outside of the sport.
There is nothing like being a part of team. except, now that I have 4 boys who play team sports, I realize the best thing about being a part of a team, is not just contributing my part or playing my position on the team, but getting to be in closer relationship to other people. Being a part of a team means getting to experience something in community. The best teams are more like families.
As a player, coach, pastor, small group leader and father, I am always looking for ways to encourage, support, mentor, and strengthen anyone who is in my community. I don’t care if my boys play professionally (I am pretty sure they won’t), but I care that they learn the fundamentals of the game. I care that they improve, and I do what I can to support them. As a youth minister, I was thrilled to find out that I had volunteers who could teach better than I could. I simply put them in the teaching rotation or gave them the responsibility for our mid-week program, and several have gone on to be full-time youth pastors. To God be the glory!
Helping someone find the things they are good at, encouraging someone to reach higher, run farther, and dream bigger, these things rarely just happen. We have to listen, ask questions, and provide honest assessment without fear of loss or control. Making others better, spurring one another on, team-building, encouraging–these are essential to the effectiveness of our own ministry.
In Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
A neighbor loved becomes family. family is the best version of a team. If you want to be effective in family-building, love God first, then love your neighbors–those whom God has placed in your circle of influence.
Never stop growing and learning and serving. There is room at the table, or (to stay with the theme) there are roster spots still open! Here are some questions you can use to get to know your family:
1. What would you be doing if you weren’t working with students? (for leaders you are mentoring)
2. What more are you wanting in your ministry right now?
3. If you knew that in one year you would be gone, would you change anything about the way you are living right now?
4. Describe your biggest relationship failure (not romantic).
5. What energizes you / what fills you up (don’t just say “Jesus”).
6. Who has helped you more than anyone else to become the person you are today? How?
7. Who do you most identify with (fictional or real)? Why?
8. What makes you truly happy?
9. What is something people know about you when they REALLY know you?
10. What is at the top of your bucket list in life?
11. What do you most admire about others?
12. What kind of impact do you believe you have on people? What would help you have greater impact?
13. What’s the most powerful lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
14. What stresses you out? How do you act?
15. Is there anything that is holding you back in ministry? in relationships? in pursuing your goals?
Feel the love!