Most Tuesday nights this winter, our family heads across town to watch our 6-year-old play on her first-ever basketball team. With only a handful of games under her belt so far, it’s still unclear what Lucy’s specialty is on the court. Her hands are a little small yet to dribble easily, and the lowered hoop is still too high for her and most of her teammates to reach. She’s also too polite to play aggressive defense.
Where she does excel is on the bench—her preferred perch for most of each game. There she sits, chatting with teammates and sipping from her water bottle, usually with one leg crossed over the other. But don’t let her casual pose fool you. She keeps a close eye on the scoreboard and is often one of the first to cheer loudly when her team takes over on offense.
In basketball parlance, she’s a “glue guy,” her encouraging uncle noted recently. Players like her are focused on helping their team move forward together. They’re dedicated to the group’s progress. They help hold things together.
Can you think of a time when we needed glue guys and girls more than right now? As divisions deepen and the pandemic drags on, their encouraging voices from the sidelines help fragmented communities stick together. In our churches, they’re like the ligaments Paul describes in Ephesians 4:16, keeping the body connected as it grows and builds itself up “by the proper working of each individual part.”
Glue guys are more concerned about the team’s progress than their own glory. They understand that a teammate’s success is theirs too because they’re working toward the same objective. I’ve recently watched one such teammate, a gifted teacher, take a backseat so others can explore their God-given talents.
When disagreements do arise, glue guys employ graciousness to help the larger group move to the other side. They defer to their teammates and choose to believe the best about each other. They don’t ignore differences of opinion, and they keep the lines of communication open. They’re often able to disarm conflict with good listening skills and humility.
Glue guys often aren’t a team’s marquee players, on the basketball court or elsewhere. But in the church, they’re issuing a vital reminder of our shared purpose and the call to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Meredith Day Flynn is a wife and mother of two living in Springfield. She writes on the intersection of faith, family, and current culture.