One of the biggest stories in sports in Dwight Howard’s recent decision to turn down millions of dollars to leave the storied Los Angeles Lakers and join the Houston Rockets.  Many people are SHOCKED by this.  I mean, players grow up dreaming of playing for Lakers.  Why would someone possibly leave the glitz and glamour of L.A., not to mention the weather and Hollywood atmosphere, to play in the “smaller market” of Houston, TX?

Howard’s decision has resulted in many people questioning him.  Does he have the work ethic?  Is he “hungry” enough?  Shaquille O’Neil even questioned his ability to handle the bright lights and big city.

I was not surprised by Howard’s decision at all.  In fact, I expected it.  What I did find surprising were how many of his reasons for leaving an established franchise like the Lakers paralleled the reasons young people leave established churches.

Romona Shelburne made three specific observations about Howard’s decision in a recent ESPN article.  The following is a segment from that post:

“Howard looked at the Lakers and saw an aging roster, transitioning management and a tenacious force of personality in Bryant that he would rather run from than try to change.

You can read the full article by clicking here.  Let’s recap the three reasons:

  • Aging Roster – Howard chose to play with James Harden, a 24-year-old All-Star who finished 5th in the league in scoring, rather than the 35-year-old Kobe Bryant coming off a severe Achilles injury.  Churches that are effective in reaching and maintaining the next generation focus their services and ministries on young people.
  • Transitioning Management – Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss passing away this past year created an understandable level of instability in the organization.    A major stumbling block for Howard was new management’s decision to hire Mike D’Antoni as head coach rather than 9-time champion Phil Jackson.  Howard never felt comfortable in D’Antoni’s offensive system.  Howard has indicated that if Jackson were hired, he could possibly still be a Laker.  Young people flock to churches with stable, authentic and proven leadership who provide opportunities for missional activity (think offensive system) and community.
  • Forceful Personalities – Kobe Bryant, self-admitted, is difficult to play with.  Young people welcome truth but want it delivered with love and grace.  One of the reasons church plants are exploding and established churches struggle is young pastors understand it is easier to plant a church, establish your own core values, hire your own staff, and deliver ministry in their preferred way rather than transitioning an established church resistant to change with large amounts of bureaucracy.  It just isn’t worth the hassle.

If you are an established church with a great history, please know that I deeply desire for you to have a great future as well.  Focus your ministries on young people.  Ensure stable, authentic and proven leadership provides young people with missional activity and a deep sense of community.  And finally,Embrace change.

Dwight Howard left the Lakers.  If you do the three things mentioned above, you will have a great chance of keeping your young talent.


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