Over the past couple of months, I’ve talked with friends and colleagues about differing aspects of their ministry. For some reason, it seems to have been a particularly difficult time for some of them. Either a staff member has gone and done something rash or a congregation member has made an effort to draw them into a confrontation. In each of these cases, the ordeal has been relatively minor but my friends have wanted to leap into action to either defend something or someone and turn a molehill into a mountain.
My advice — ministry is often more like baseball than football.
Yes, yes, I’m using a sports metaphor. I’m a guy and it’s often what guys do. But really, here are the comparisons:
1) Baseball requires much strategy.
Football is very simple — move the football from here to there and you score. It’s mostly about brute force and quick action. While it can be those things, baseball requires a bit more finesse. Example — do we swing for the seats or bunt to move the runner? Church work is much the same way. Like the home run ball, you will want to plan and execute the big moments of ministry and knock it out of the park. But, mostly, it’s the day to day moments of simply trying to get a single congregation member to make that connection to God via the word — i.e. the ministry “bunt.” Simple, but calmly spectacular.
2) You don’t have to swing at every pitch.
In football, you have to continually move the ball, time is rigidly kept, and other than TV time outs, the game moves strongly forward. In baseball, the batter will wait for his pitch. In the church, people will often try to goad you into reacting to a point — swing at a pitch. But, for the maximum impact or to execute a plan, you have to wait until the pitch is just in the right place to bring your point (runner) home. Don’t be baited. Calmly wait until it’s the right time.
3) Read the signs and signals.
In football these days, plays are relayed in via headset. In baseball, the insiders give a series of rudimentary signals and such to keep the players informed but also to keep the other team a bit off balance. In church ministry, once your team (staff) know what pitch is coming, they can be ready to deal with action and reactions of those you are trying to motivate and move. You get your team on the same page and the game moves along smoothly and chances are, you will be on the winning side.
Church ministry: mostly, it’s baseball and not football.