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Article by Mike Bonom

The primary job of a point guard in basketball is to bring the ball up the court, read the defense, and set up a play to give their team the best chance of scoring.

One phrase that highlights this vital skill is “eyes up.” Even as they are dribbling and preventing the opposing defender from stealing the ball, the point guard needs to look up, scanning the court to find an opportunity for a pinpoint pass.

The tendency is to look down at the ball rather than at the horizon. Great players make this look effortless, but it’s much more difficult than it appears.

Does this sound like your role as a pastor or ministry leader? It takes a great deal of time and effort to keep the ball(s) bouncing—all of the regular tasks and activities that must be done well in your church or ministry.

You also need to keep an eye on the opposition—whoever or whatever threatens to keep your church or ministry from moving toward its mission. But to do your job well, you must keep your eyes up—looking beyond the bouncing balls of routine tasks to see new and exciting opportunities.

This may sound impossible, but so does the job of a basketball point guard. Here are four lessons that bounce directly from basketball to ministry leadership:

  1. Knowing that a skill is important is not the same as developing the skill. Great point guards have learned through hours of practice to dribble with their eyes up. “Eyes up” leadership might be developed through intentional balcony time or interactions with forward-thinking, creative people. How are you expanding your “eyes up” capacity?
  1. Know your role. The best point guards understand their roles. They know what they must do well, and what they don’t need to do. In a sport that celebrates points scored, it can be difficult to focus on making good passes and letting others take the shot. But that is the role of the guard. Do you have the same clarity about your role?
  2. Build a great team. The point guard’s abilities are useless if they are not surrounded by teammates with complementary skills. This requires both assembling the team and building the chemistry where team members trust each other to play their respective roles. Do you have the right team? Does your team have the chemistry that leads to great results?
  1. Learn from a coach. Great point guards are developed by coaches who see their potential and help them take the right steps to reach that potential. A coach notices things that the guard will have difficulty seeing. Who do you trust to both encourage and challenge you?

The point guards that receive the most attention during March Madness have incredible skills, in the top 1% or better. That level of expertise may be unattainable for most other basketball players, but that shouldn’t keep them from improving their skills.

The same is true for your leadership—you may not become a top 1% leader (whatever that means), but you should always be eager to learn and grow. Eyes up!

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