Put on Your Shoes and Socks

John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach, startled new players with a lesson on how to put on shoes and socks. Sensing their confusion, he explained: “That’s your first lesson. You see, if there are wrinkles in your socks or your shoes aren’t tied properly, you will develop blisters. With blisters, you’ll miss practice. If you miss practice, you don’t play. And if you don’t play, we cannot win.”

From day one, Wooden taught his players the importance of paying attention to fundamentals. As church leaders, we need to do the same. However, our goal isn’t to win basketball games. It’s to make more and better disciples – to accomplish the Great Commission.

But first we have to put on our shoes and socks.

Yes, it’s important to think about the big picture, but it’s also essential not to overlook vital details. Here are some simple basics to remember in your church leadership.

  • Make Incremental Improvements. Commit never to “arrive.” Growth and development may sometimes be rapid or at other times laborious, but never settle for being stagnant. Develop a culture that is always pointed toward doing better.
  • Focus on continuous learning. Cultivate a culture of evaluation and application. This requires great courage from you and your team. You must be secure in who you are in Christ to be teachable in spirit.
  • Find the fear and name it. We all have some level of fear motivating us at times. Fear is distracting. But too often people fail to recognize they are operating from a place of fear. If you can name your fears, you will be in a position (with God’s help) to overcome them.
  • Measure success in terms of where you are headed. Church work is highly subjective. So are its measures of success. Avoid evaluating success based on feelings, preferences, or comparisons to other churches. Instead, evaluate your success based on the church God is calling you to become.
  • Keep the outsider in focus. Clamorous voices of “old guard” members, other staff, or the siren’s call of success may often distract you from this priority. Focus on who you aren’t reaching and design a strategy to reach those people. Keeping the primary newcomer in focus is crucial.

Just as in basketball, it’s easy to want to leap past basic principles in order to be in the thick of the game. But remember these simple ideas. Don’t forget that your “championship” and highest goal is to go into the all the world and make disciples, teaching them to do the same.

What are other fundamentals we could all do well to remember in our church leadership?

Bart Rendel

About Bart Rendel

Bart was an executive leader at Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington, KY and Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV for over eighteen years. Bart’s passion for serving churches comes from his upbringing as a pastor’s kids where he learned about the intentionality of reaching and growing people in Christ from his mother and father. His conviction runs deep. Bart and his family remain connected to Central Christian. He is married to Catherine with two children and finds the occasional time to play a round of golf or take in a Kentucky Wildcats game. He has been helping churches and leaders around the country increase their Kingdom Impact since 2004.