Get in the Game

When our kids were younger, and too little to yet participate in youth soccer, they participated in a fantastic beginners’ soccer experience. On the last evening of a six-week class, as the children wrapped up their 45 minute session, the instructors invited the parents onto the field. 

As the parents all filed onto the field, we were immediately engaged not just with our children, but also with each other. I smiled at, shook hands with, and talked to other parents I had sat quietly next to for the past five weeks.  We were strangers to each other, hiding behind smartphones and tablets, despite having sat on the same bleachers for five weeks watching our kids ‘together.’  Once on the field together, we shared a spirit of camaraderie, community, and of course… our children and the game. We were there because our kids were there. We were in the game together. 

They ran up and down the field, chasing and kicking the ball. There was no order beyond the red and blue jerseys — organized chaos at best —  and it was beautiful. There was joy, there was fun, and we were in the middle of it with our children. 

Our job was to encourage them and cheer for them as they played. We also were instructed to form a perimeter and when the ball came near us, our job was to simply help keep it in play. 

As I reflected on this experience, the metaphor for how we journey with our students ran deeper than I could ever give words to. So let it take you where it will. 

Most notably, it seems as students grow and enter new stages of life, it can be difficult for us as parents to know where we belong in the mix. We’re not sure how involved to be, or when to listen instead of talk. We may begin to feel unwanted, unneeded, and unsure of what we’d do if we were asked to get in the ‘game.’ Naturally, we sit out. And watch. Or worse, we restrict their participation. Not because we don’t want to be in the ‘game,’ but because we’re not sure of our place, and we feel the sense of losing the control we’ve always had, or at least thought we had.

What’s the alternative? Get. In. The Game. The ‘game’ is really not a game at all but is in fact the journey of life that you have the privilege to be on with your student, and your student needs you. They need you in a way that is different from the way they needed you before, but they need you nonetheless. Rather than losing control, your method of influence is evolving. They need your encouragement, your support, and your presence as they learn and experience life as they’ve never experienced it. They need to talk through what they think about what they see. In many ways the role you play in your student’s life, although less direct than before, is more important than ever.

Your role isn’t to control the ‘game’ or what position they play, to take their steps or kick the ball for them. You role is to be there. You don’t have to be an expert at the ‘game.’ None of us is.

Get in the ‘game’…because that’s where your student is. That’s where your student needs you, and it’s where you belong. 

As we ramp up toward fall and the year of student ministry ahead, we face some challenges.  And we will need to face these challenges together as we carry on our student ministry and continue to build it as a place that brings the story of God to life for the next generation. 

A key piece to how we’re going to do this —  through weekend services, student ministry programming, and most importantly,  through your family unit itself —  is with The Gospel Project curriculum. It will equip our church community as well as adults, students, children and families to integrate and engage with one another around the story of God more deeply than ever before. It is an incredible tool that will equip you as a parent while you step into life with your student and your family in the way that God has designed.

-John Eiselt
Family and Discipleship Pastor