I have always loved sports. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t dribbling a basketball or throwing a football or swinging a golf club. Sports came natural to me. I was pretty good at them too. Sports were my life.
I also can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in church, going to Sunday School, attending youth group, or having a belief in God. In a sense Christianity came natural to me. The Christian faith has always been my life.
What does this have to do with coaching or pastoring? Well nothing in a way, just a background for myself as I think about where I am currently on my journey.
I have been a pastor for 4 years now; during my schooling at seminary and now as my full-time job/vocation. If you know me well, becoming a pastor was a long struggle. Even today, I sometimes struggle with the title pastor, to be identified as pastor. I guess I am still in the process of accepting that call more fully.
This past semester I had the incredible opportunity to be a 7th grade football and basketball coach at the local middle school. When I was first asked about a year ago, I immediately said yes; quite opposite of my call to ministry. Or was it? As I said earlier, the Christian faith/ministry has always been a part of my life just as sports have been, but it was this past fall of 2012 that I’ve seen these two worlds collide like they never have before.
As a pastor, I have the wonderful blessing of inviting people into the story of God. I get to share the Gospel story of a God who created us to live in relationship with him, to be a part of a community of faith much bigger than any one individual, a “team” that is striving for the HOPE of resurrection, the goal of Jesus Christ! Along the way I get to have conversations and encourage people to play their role, their part in the story. Young people have a wonderful sense of creativity and honesty. They ask sincere questions and truly desire to know more about God and what it means to live in this world. At different times during the year and through the course of many years I get to see people mature in their faith, to be called into ministry and even in small ways, like learning about Moses, Abraham, King David and the early disciples. Transformation takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet teenagers are still very young and immature and they like the rest of us have a long way to go. As “pastor” I have the call to pass on the faith to the next generation; to shepherd–to coach! It is a big responsibility. I have the overwhelming, tough, rewarding, and privileged title to be called PASTOR.
As a coach, I have the wonderful opportunity to be a part of a sports team again and to encourage these young athletes to work hard and be a part of a team that is much bigger than themselves. In sports, especially football and basketball, the players MUST work as a team for them to be successful. Along the way and in between games, I have the wonderful privilege of coaching in practice, to teach and run drills, to pass on the knowledge of the game to these young people. Throughout the course of a season you begin to see progress and different people stepping up and getting better. The long hours of practice begin to pay off. The game becomes more fun. But 7th graders are still so very young and immature and their bodies are still growing. You realize they have a long way to go and lots of room for improvement. And so I have the privilege to pass on my knowledge of the game, my insights, and the things coaches have taught me over the years. I have the awesome privilege of kids walking by and saying, “hey coach.”
Coaching and pastoring. Quite different in many ways, yet very similar. Both on the sports field and in daily Christian ministry, I have responsibility to lead people, to guide, to encourage, and to point to something bigger than themselves.
I have seen coaching as an extension of my youth ministry. Some of the young boys who started coming to ROOTS call me coach instead of pastor and I think that is ok. I think our great Saint from the past who wrote much of the New Testament wouldn’t have minded to be called coach. Paul writes in Philippians 3:14-21:
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)
Fellow youth pastors, youth workers, and followers of Christ, let us enter our different fields and become coaches and ministers of the Gospel, training and equipping our young people to grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Pastor “coach” Aaron