I’m not much of an outdoors person. At least I haven’t been so far. I go for walks and bike rides but I don’t ski or hunt or fish. Frankly, I prefer a nice warm house. My son, on the other hand, loves that stuff. He’ll even get up really early to go hunting. So there are two things in that sentence I’m not crazy about; early and hunting. I had hoped he would get over this and get into other things but he didn’t. He even married into a family that fishes. A lot. They do it everywhere they go. Two members of their family are even professional anglers. I actually didn’t know there was such a thing but it turns out there are. And I’ve even started paying attention to the competitions (from the warmth and comfort of my home, of course.)
I’ve have learned a lot about fishing. My son has even taken me out a couple of times. I caught a bass. I have the pictures to prove it. I have learned a little bit about lures and bait and about what professional anglers do.
Good anglers don’t just go to a tournament and throw their line in the water. They study how to fish in different conditions; they know if the water is deep or shallow, cold or warm, cloudy or clear. They watch and learn from the people who do it best. They invest time in their craft. They are open and willing to try the latest and coolest equipment, some of them even design their own new stuff. And when they get together, they talk about fishing. It is such a part of their lives that it is always there. They’re always listening to each other to learn something new.
As I was reflecting on this, I wondered what I could learn about being a good children’s ministry director, Sunday School teacher or children’s worship leader from the best anglers.
If I want to encourage faith formation in my church, is there anything that I can learn from what pros do in fishing?
- First of all, we probably shouldn’t decide that we can just show up at church and “throw our line in the water.” We need to be thoughtful about how we do our work in encouraging faith formation. That means we should study and learn about how faith grows. We should be reading what some of the experts in the field are saying about how to encourage faith development.
- Second, we should think about the different conditions in which ministry occurs. We should learn about the culture that the people we are working with are coming from. Some of those in our care come from cultures quite different from our own. Perhaps they have immigrated, or they come from a different ethnic background than we do. Perhaps they are just of a different age and engage in different popular culture than we do. Maybe we need to watch some movies or TV or listen to some of the top songs on Spotify to be aware of temperature of the water.
- The third thing we should invest in the sport, I mean ministry, both in terms of time and equipment. We should get some books and a good curriculum to help us do our best in whatever our setting is. Books can give us inspiration and a good curriculum is an important part of our work. Just as anglers have to adjust what they get from others to match their conditions, we need to adjust curriculum to fit our settings (and sometimes to match our theology.)
If we’re going to be fishers of people as Jesus commanded, we should probably take a few tips from the pros.