A number of years ago I was traveling through Kansas and found myself in a hotel full of families in town for the Little League World Championship. There were license plates from all across the country with cars totally decked out supporting their favorite player. Excited kids and parents filled this hotel and their exuberance was palpable.
As I observed, I found myself marveling at the commitment of these families. It was 104 degrees the day of the championship and families gladly gathered in a dusty field to watch their kids, hopefully, bring home a win. No one seemed to mind the extreme temperatures, they were happy to be there. I even found myself learning a thing or two.
1) Sports seemed to bring people together otherwise separated by various social lines.I sat back and observed how families were all engaged in conversation across what appeared to be various social and academic lines. Even in the church "like attracts like" and we tend to run in the same circles as those we are like. Blue Collar-Bill was uniting with White-Collar Wally and were thoroughly enjoying the company of one another. Why were the normal walls we've erected to easily broken down in this situation and what can we learn from this?
2) Seeing families doing something together made me excited. Moms and Dad , brothers and sisters, all uniting for a common good. Yes, I like that. What can we, as the church, learn from this?
3) Parents who were devoted to cheering on their kids. To see parents paint their cars with shoe polish and to wear shirts that bragged about being Jr's mom. That's really something. Yes, I like that. What can we do to equip parents to cheer their kids on at home on a regular basis? How many kids lives could be changed just knowing that mom and dad are their biggest cheerleaders?
As a pastor and a parent, I was in awe of the commitment level of these families and their attempt to support and encourage the athletic endeavors of their children. In some ways I found myself thinking, "wow, I've never been able to pull anything together at church that even comes close to obtaining the same sense of allegiance or commitment". I have wondered over and over since that day in Kansas what might happen to our churches and our country if we, as parents, could dedicate the same sort of passion to sharing our faith as we do to the amount of time we spend cheering our kids on from the stands?
I have experienced an imbalance for years in ministry. "No, we can't have VBS that week because little league." "Sorry, we can't attend mid-week things because Jr. is in football". "No, we have cheerleading and gymnastics so we can't be there." Parents can't commit to helping with a mid-week ministry once but will sit in 104 degree heat, take time off of work, and drive across four states to happily cheer a ball team?
As pastors, what do we do with this? What sorts of struggles do you have with the sports mentality in your church/ministry? Why do we not have the same sense of dedication and commitment that things like sports or 4H garner from parents?
To be continued...part 2 & part 3