It’s hard to believe that we’re halfway through our inaugural soccer season. It is going GREAT! Every Saturday morning, about 400 people crowd into our softball-turned-soccer field. This week we had our built-in “bye week” since it is Fall Break. Things will pick back up this week for the second half of the season. I am frequently asked by various people, “Pastor, how do you think its going?”
The best example I’ve heard is that it is much like a duck swimming across a pond. Above the water, the part of the duck that you can see, things are smooth and coordinated. Under the water, however, there are two little orange feet that are vigorously paddling to make the duck move. For Upward Soccer, the above water part is the cheering fans, the running kids, and the fun on Saturday mornings. The feet are the men and women who work hard to set up the concession stand, stripe the fields, and coach kindergarteners about how to score goals. In other words the “feet” are very thankful that the duck has taken a week off!
I can say, however, that we have learned some things through these last few weeks:
- We have learned that our church can do ANYTHING. This ministry has tested us. It has put a strain on our infrastructures like parking and electrical. It has involved a lot of sweat, a few tears, and even a couple of trips to the hospital. But in the end, God has accomplished something GREAT through our church!
- We have learned the blessings of an entire church body coming together to make something happen. There are people serving in our Upward program from every age – from the children playing on the teams to the retiree who is serving as a host; from the teenager working in the concession stand or refereeing a game to the stay-at-home mom who became a Northside Soccer Mom; from the guy swinging a hammer to build a concession stand to the college student helping to coach a team. This is the most unified outreach effort ever attempted by our church and the UNITY shows every Thursday evening and every Saturday morning.
- We have learned that the lost & unchurched will come to church if we are offering something of value to them. Athletics are valuable. But we must remember that athletics are simply a platform for evangelism. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” not “Go and make soccer players.” We have always had great discipleship tools in place for children through AWANA, TeamKID, and our children’s music programs. Now we actually have a viable source of disciples just waiting to be “made” if we can funnel them from the soccer fields into our disciple-making factory.
- We are learning that we’re in trouble if God DOES decide to send an increase our way. On any given Sunday, we’re pretty packed (today being an exception). Statistically, if a room is 80% full, it might as well be standing room only. Our adult Sunday School classrooms are bursting at the seams. God has given us a great problem, but it is time for us to seriously begin thinking about how we open the doors to more people.
These are just a few of the lessons we have learned by playing soccer for Jesus. There will certainly be more as we get to the end of the season. If you’re not actively serving with our Upward program, let me encourage you to drop by on a Saturday morning, have a chicken biscuit, and cheer on a team. It is the most fun I’ve ever had serving Jesus and you’ll be glad you did!