I'm sick of going to Youth Ministry Workshops just to hear attendees bemoan their feeling of helplessness in the face of secular dominance.
It usually goes like this: "Sports are fun. Sports get you into college. Coaches can bench your kid. Coaches hold all the power over our kids and our parents. HOW COULD CHURCH EVER COMPETE WITH SPORTS?!?!?!"
First, I'll write in a later post about how I don't actually think church and sports are mortal enemies, but let's put that aside for a moment.
Because there is truth to this idea that church now faces competition in a new way. Church time is no longer protected time. Church no longer has a monopoly on community-building or meaning-making. The way we've operated as church needs to change. But that doesn't mean it's the end of church, and that doesn't mean church is helpless. Unless you ask the question: "How could church ever compete with sports?!" then your church is helpless. Asking that question is starting from the assumption that Church is powerless, and if you as a spiritual leader believe that Church is powerless then it's a simple matter of self-fulfilling prophesy.
It's the same pet peeve I have in committee meetings. I can't stand it when I propose an outside-the-box idea to the response, "It won't work for these reasons…" You're right. It won't work because you're starting from the assumption that it won't work. That kind of fatalism is the great virus infecting the church bloodstream.
It's not just a matter of personal pet peeve; it's actually about the heart of our Christian faith.
Over and over again, the Bible tells stories about people seeing death and God seeing life,
people seeing the impossible and God seeing opportunity.
Ezekiel sees dry bones, God sees building blocks for breathing human bodies.
Peter says, "I'm drowning;" Jesus says "Ye of little faith."
Moses says, "But I have a stutter;" God says, "I'll give you the words. Plus, here's Aaron and Miriam to help."
Sarai says, "HAHAHAHAHA! I'm too old to get pregnant;" the angels say, "SURPRISE!!! God can do anything!"
So I propose this shift in mentality:
Rather than responding with "It won't work for these reasons…"
Try this: "These are the challenges we'll face…"
This mentality shifts the focus from a question of "Will it work?" to the question "What will it take to make it work?"
"Will it work?" is a boring "yes or no" discussion that all too often tends toward the "no."
"What will it take to make it work?" turns our discussion into an exercise in imagination.
With this subtle shift we go from a church of Fatalism to a church of Possibility.
"How could church ever compete with sports?!" can only be met with the response, "We can't."
"What can we learn from the success of sports in our modern culture?" has endless options, limitless degrees of strategies to address the problem.
My quest to finally figure out the answer to that second question "How can we learn from the cultural dominance of sports?" has its origin in another one of those Youth Ministry Workshops.
In the Q&A session, a fellow Youth Ministry Director posed the lament,
"There's no competing with sports when you can put sports on your college resume, but you can't put church on your college resume."
AND MY GUT WANTED TO SCREAM!
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!?!?!?! OF COURSE YOU CAN!!!!!
Church was ALL over my college resume, which might say something about me always being destined to be a minister.
Or maybe it says less about my nerdy love of church and more about the strength of Youth Ministry Program that raised me.
And that's when I started thinking… let's leave the fatalism behind.
What can we learn from the success of the sports culture?
How can Church be a more kinetic experience?
How can Church be playful and fun?
How can Church instill the feeling of achievement?
How can Church offer our Youth sincere leadership opportunities?
How can Church be a space for people's passions and talents to shine?
How can Church feel worth waking up for?
These are all questions I will address at length throughout this blog.
For now, suffice it say, you can leave your Fatalism behind here.
As Jesus said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well!"