You have heard the statement “A chain is only as strong as the weakest link.”
In terms of building a sports team, the cliché challenges leaders to be concerned with the weakest player on the team, to be concerned with raising their skill. Some coaches and leaders live like this is true and focus their energy on developing the weakest links. Others place their energy on recruiting and keeping the strongest links on their teams.
Which approach is correct? Well, it depends what the sport is. Malcolm Gladwell, in a Revisionist History podcast, has articulated that soccer is a weak-link game and basketball is a strong-link game. His thinking comes from Chris Anderson and David Sally’s book about soccer strategy, where through statistical analysis, they articulate that a soccer team filled with good, but not great, players has a better chance of winning than a weak team with one superstar. Basketball is different. Because there are so many chances to score, compared to soccer, a superstar player makes a bigger impact in basketball. According to the data, wise soccer owners are concerned with the weakest link and wise basketball owners are concerned with the strongest link.
Which approach is correct for staffing in ministry? Convictionally, it must be to develop all the people and not to focus on superstars. Practically, it must be to develop all the people and not focus on superstars. Here are four reasons superstars hurt ministry in a local church:
1. Superstars in ministry turn the church into an audience.
Howard Snyder wisely stated, “If the pastor is the superstar, the church is an audience, not a body.” Focusing on ministry superstars robs the people of the ministry they have been given.
2. Superstars in ministry build supporting casts instead of equipping others.
The role of a ministry leader is to develop others for ministry, not do all the ministry. Ministry leaders are to be equippers, not entertainers. Ministry superstars recruit supporting casts to help them thrive, not staff they can develop and deploy.
3. Superstars in ministry build ministry around themselves.
When a superstar leaves a basketball team, the team can go from the top of the league to the bottom very quickly. When ministry leaders position themselves as superstars, they are not serving the church well for the future.
4. Superstars in ministry steal attention and affection from Him.
Ministry is not about us but is ultimately about the One who has rescued us. A ministry superstar can unintentionally, or intentionally, become the focus.
As much as I love the game, in terms of staffing and developing a team, church staff should not be like basketball.