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So if you are like me, I am soaking in the latest installment of World Cup matches and of particular interest, the Netherlands match against Costa Rica. The whole tournament has been filled with lots of intrigue and upsets. For example, who would have seen the past champions Spain, getting knocked out of the tournament so early?

For me, there was an interesting moment in the Saturday game when in the last few minutes of extra time, the Dutch coach made a substitution that shocked many. Instead of a forward, or midfield player being changed earlier in the match, he changed his goalkeeper for one who had not seen any action (played in any match) throughout the entire tournament! Many commentators on this subject called his action brilliant where others claimed it could have failed big time and if it did, he would looked like a fool.

It was a huge risk.

But it begs the question, when did this change actually happen? Was it a predetermined outcome if the game had gone that far or was it a "change for the sake of change?"

Keep in mind that,

  • this coach was new to the national club and brought along new ideas and philosophies.
  • this also was an edition of a national team many analysts claimed would not do well this tournament.
  • the Dutch had never won a World Cup match determined by penalty kick.

The Dutch have not won the tournament and may not win but they have given us some food for thought. Is there something to be learned in this sports metaphor for us in ministry? In youth ministry we need a game plan to help us navigate the tournaments and not just a match. Perhaps a balcony view for us to look at the big picture that will help us lead on the floor or the pitch.

How do you prepare for the tournament and how do you prepare for each match? When and how do we make changes? 

Ephesians 5 says, "Be careful then how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."


I wonder about "what" change?  It seems to me that there is so much change is desired? talked about? needed? in almost every area of youth ministry - it is a little daunting.  The perceived exodus of young adults have pushed most youth ministers to examine the programmatic way we have been doing youth ministry - change!  Recently Mark DeVries in his article in Group Magazine has suggested that we need to change the "youth pastor" model in most North American Churches - change!  Many churches continue to struggle with the rapid transitions often associated with youth pastors tenure in the local church - change!  I don't think Ron is wrong - change is coming, always.  The question I have is where to look for guidance when it comes "what" changes and "where" to change?  As your illustration suggests - the change was a great one in the Netherlands / Costa Rica match.  Did that change have intentionality to it or was the coach simply trying to "throw something at the wall" to see if it would stick?  What if the Dutch lost? Would the change still be praised?  Likely not.  I think churches need to have the same type of "stones" as the Dutch coach - to take a chance, to risk criticism.  Often the safe place of "normal or usual" shows up when the pressure is on.  Youth Pastors & Directors need to take risk change within their own walls - which might bring the critics, but it might bring a win - you might look like a genius!

Change is inevitable! Every moment things are changing. We are getting older. Some are closer to death. Others are getting closer to their birth. In a day, a week, a month, a year, five years... every single one of us and our communities will be different. Made up of different people... though the names may be the same, their experiences in life are different! We can help to direct change or we can sit back and let change happen. I not saying we dictate our destiny. But we have some control over how we will be getting there. If a person, a council, a church isn't actively talking about change, then change will dictate who and what they are going to be. Let's be bold and activate a little bit of change every time we can in order to tweak and correct what is going on in order to help shape and lead us in the direction we need to go. Just like riding a bike... if you don't turn the handle bars every so often, you will follow your dominant hand into something unpleasant.

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