5 Things Churches can Learn from the NBA Champion Spurs

I loved watching the San Antonio Spurs win the NBA championship this week.  It was so cool to see a team work as a team.  Though they had a few future hall of fame players, they did not play like a team built around superstars.  No one was concerned about personal statistics or accolades.  What was most important was the team’s success.  Everyone worked to do their part and to make each other better. They were especially focused on details.  Their coach expected pristine passing, exact defensive execution, and hustle on every play.

Because they were such a strong team with such a specific vision of what they should be doing, the Spurs were able to overwhelm the Heat.  The Heat could get on a roll for a few plays, but in the end they could not shake the Spurs.  The Spurs would just ride out the surge and continue to execute until the momentum would turn back in their favor.  The team chemistry and execution was a thing a beauty.

I hope that this Spurs team will act as a model for the future of the NBA.  I have for years now stayed at arms length from the NBA and embraced the college game.  In college, teams cannot ride one or two great players and play for only a couple of good moments in the game.  The great college teams play hard all the time.  I think the NBA will be much better if more teams would play this kind of game.  This could be especially helpful for teams that might have weaker rosters.  The Spurs have also made a blueprint for what a team could try if they do not have the star-power to take over games.

Perhaps the NBA is not the only place that needs to learn from the teamwork of the Spurs.  So many churches I see could learn a lot from the Spurs.

1. Play your own game.  The Spurs knew what their game was and dictated that the games be played in their style.  I have seen a lot of churches try to copy other churches in what they are doing.  You can certainly adapt what other churches are doing to your context, but adoption without adaption is a bad idea.  Be true to your way of doing things.

2. Play with the players you have.  Most churches long for a superstar.  They think (but don’t say it so boldly): “If only we had a dynamic pastor who was young then the young people would file into our church!”  It does not work that way.  God has given you the people that you have.  Do the best with the ones you have.

3. Play with the money you have.  Most churches wish they had more money so that they could do more things.  The challenge is to build the team with the money that you have.  For the Spurs, that meant building around players no one wanted, developing skills, and relying more on the team

4. Dig into the details.  I saw a player (Green) get pulled out of a finals game because he closed out on a shooter (Allen) incorrectly.  He ran past the shooter and allow the 3 pointer to be shot and made.  He got corrected and coached adamantly on the sideline.  Seems like overkill, right?  But it is that kind of intentional focus on every detail of the game that made the Spurs a championship team.  Churches do a lot of things (worship, dinners, hymns…) but most of them are not very intentional.  Details are often “thrown together” in churches instead of being “planned together.”

5. Function like a family.  When the Spurs won there was so much emotion between the players and with the coaching staff.  The sense of family and togetherness was stronger than any other NBA Finals celebration I think I have ever seen.  It seemed that their emotion was so strong because they felt they had won it for each other.  I wish the church had that kind of unity.  So often, we act like a dysfunctional family that are more like political parties than one cohesive team.

It is a shame to see the NBA Finals end because the Spurs’ play was beauty in motion.  I think for me, however, the impact of watching their teamwork will be long term.

Do you have any other thoughts one what can be learned from the Spurs?


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