The Game Within the Game

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My husband doesn’t like to sit by me at football games. And we go to a lot of football games. This year we had three boys on three different teams, which equaled at least five games a week! My husband didn’t appreciate my “silly” questions, which distracted him from watching the game. So he would choose to watch the games with the other football dads.

Until this year, I wasn’t really bothered by that. I was perfectly content to sit by the other moms and talk about life and parenthood and marriage while we drank coffee, all the time watching and cheering when the big plays happened.

But this year was different. Our oldest is now in high school, and I was surprised by how the game of football changes in high school. The hits are harder, the plays are more complicated, and the intensity of the fans is such that light conversation is hard to maintain. Our post-game family time was filled with my husband and sons reliving and analyzing each play, especially the turnovers and touchdowns.

I quickly realized that I didn’t know football as well as I thought. I found myself wanting to see what my husband and kids were seeing on the field. I wanted to know more about “the game within the game.”

But my husband still wasn’t sure he wanted to sit by me. So I started watching each play a little more intently. I began listening to his conversations with the other football dads as well as to the post-game analyzing with my kids.

I began to see the strategy behind each play — how the different positions work together to move the ball down the field. I started to see the dependence each player has on the other. How the quarterback depends on his lineman and how the lineman feel a responsibility for the ball carriers. And then there are the coaches on the sidelines … what a job they have to build team spirit while giving their players the tools and skills to move that ball down the field and put points on the scoreboard. It was all starting to make more sense to me and each game became more and more fun to watch.

This “game within the game” is also a part of every local church. I saw it firsthand in my own church for 13 years as a part-time ministry coordinator. We had a starting line-up, a second string, and a tried-and-true playbook. There were times when I had to be the defensive coordinator and other times when I would go on offense. As a staff we strategized and called many plays. We had a head coach working to build team spirit while providing the right tools to each player so we could gain yards and move down the field. (I know, all the football analogies are a bit over the top! Stick with me ...)

Now, as I work for the denomination as a regional catalyzer for both Faith Formation Ministries and the Connections Project, I have the unique opportunity to help local churches identify and appreciate “the game within the game.” Every church has one, and every game is different. So when a congregation is seeking to make a change or struggling with why something is the way it is, it can be helpful to bring in someone who can see the inside game and call it what it is.

I believe the church has unlimited potential and a great responsibility to impact people and places both near and far. The church, with its message of salvation and grace, changes lives.That’s what I love about this job. I have a deep passion for the local church; what a blessing it is for me to have the opportunity to be on the sidelines with a local congregation. I get to equip them with resources and tools, help strategize and implement new plays, and ultimately help them move down the field and change people’s lives with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I love watching my boys play football, and I love it even more now that I better understand “the game within the game.” But I really love the local church. Sometimes our playbooks need to change or our tools and resources need some updating, though. So get out there and put a game plan together!

If you need a place to start, take a look at some of the resources Faith Formation Ministries has collected and created below, or contact your regional FFM catalyzer (crcna.org/FaithFormation/coaching). We would love to hear about what’s happening in your church!  

Start looking for the “game within the game” in your church, and make sure you have the tools and resources to help your church live into its mandate to go out and spread the Good News.

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