After I wrote my last post about church (I use the church in its broadest and best sense) being a place to practice those things that nurture our best values and our best selves and expand the circles we draw around our lives, I recalled a lecture I attended a number of years ago. The presenter was a sports psychologist who worked with the New York Mets baseball team. His presentation was not on professional baseball or professional sports, but on the changes that were happening (and have continued to happen) in the sports programs in which our children participate.
He noted that the change that was taking place was most children’s sports programs were now being organized, run and managed by adults. Whereas a generation ago, most sports activities in which children participated were organized by the children themselves. Kids would show up at the ball field. Sides would be chosen. The rules agreed upon. When a disagreement arose it would be worked out often by agreeing to a do over. While the skill level today might be greater with semi-professional coaches who oversee practice and training, children’s love of the game and the negotiating and conflict resolution skills they learned by playing together on their own are diminished.
I thought about that lecture quite a bit as my children grew up and participated in organized sports, but after my last post I began to think about it in terms of the church. Longer than children’s sports programs, the church (in its most traditional sense) has been organized by a group of “adults” who organize, run and set the rules for the game. If you want to “play” you have to play according to our rules. What is now happening, it seems to me, is that more and more people are saying we don’t want to play the “game” in that way anymore. We want to show up at the playground and whoever is there we will organize the “game” and negotiate the rules and work together to figure out the best way forward.
Which makes me wonder…
If we (and our children) have lost something in overly organizing their sports activities, is there something to be gained by individuals and groups of people reclaiming their own initiative in redefining church or community or spirituality? It will certainly look and feel different than what it does today, but it may end up being more thoughtful and more vital than what we have known for some time.
What do you think?