When I was in high school tennis was my life. I tried football in junior high but quit after the first season. I did not enjoy it all. Aside from getting run over by mammoth 13 year olds twice my size I also suffered from severe asthma – I would literally hide an inhaler in my shoulder pads and pull it out while face down in the grass to sneak a puff or two without anyone noticing. Yep. That was me.
Somewhere during that time period I picked up a tennis racket and immediately fell in love. It fed my introverted spirit by being a one-man sport and also eliminated any possibility of ever getting tackled again, unless of course a match got wildly out of hand. I figured the odds were in my favor though.
I got pretty good. It seemed to come naturally. I’d spend every spare second of my week on the court practicing (often alone with a wall – hence, introvert) and many weekends traveling to compete in tournaments.
It’s been said that tennis is “90% mental and 10% physical”, meaning it is the type of sport (like golf) that is so technical in nature that if you lose your mind you will most likely lose the match, no matter how good your skill is. This was true for me – my problem most days was not my forehand but my head, not my physical stamina but my mental stability. I would get overly frustrated, anxious and outright angry when I felt the techniques of my game were off. I was even known to break a racket or two (or three!) against the ground, a fence pole or even a tree. I know – not good. It was in the height of my mental frustration that my coach would motion me to the fence, and in an extremely slow, calm, quiet manner and say: “Here’s the goal of tennis…hit the ball over the net, make sure it lands between the white lines, then do it again.”
This would infuriate me even more. What kind of coaching tip was that? Don’t you think I already know that? Clearly that’s why I’m frustrated – I know what the purpose of tennis is but I’m struggling to do it as well as I think I should. Tell me how to fix my swing or adjust my footwork. Correct my technique. Give me something more than just the basics. But in those moments he kept it simple – frustratingly simple. During mid-week practices he would teach the techincals and the fundamentals – footwork, grip, strategy, technique. But in the heat of the moment his approach was very different. Just keep it simple. Do what you know you’re capable of and the rest will take care of itself.
Not until later in life did I grow to appreciate what he was doing with me. He was reminding me of the simple objective of the game – to hit the ball over the net, keep it between the white lines, and then do it again. If I wasn’t at least doing that, then nothing else I did on the court would matter. I would lose sight of this and overcomplicate the techniques leading to frustration and a breakdown of my game as a whole. He was encouraging me to calm down, take a deep breath and to most importantly, keep it simple. Start with what I already knew how to do, then go from there.
Caring for orphaned and vulnerable children is a complicated thing. Compound that with starting and leading ministries in our churches that connect, resource and support families in this ministry and things can get especially nuanced and tricky. Yet, sometimes we can make ministry far more complicated than it really needs to be. We can get overly concerned with technique that we lose sight of a certain simplicity that comes with loving kids and supporting families. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be well versed in principles and best-practices of ministry strategy and implementation. It is to say, however, that sometimes we just need to be reminded of some simple things that, when done well, can make a significant difference.
And sometimes in order to do that effectively we need someone to motion us over to the fence and very gently remind us to calm down, take a deep breath and to most importantly…keep it simple. To provide clarity, direction and insight that helps us take the best next steps for our church, our ministry and the families we are serving. To help us get out of our own head and remind us what the ultimate goal in all of this is – to love well, to be faithful and to continually invite others in our church into this journey together.
That is why, through CAFO’s National Church Ministry Initiative, we have formed the National Church Ministry Coaching Team. This coaching team is comprised of CAFO church and organizational member leaders who are actively serving and leading in their own churches, ministries and communities. They are real-life practitioners that are experiencing positive outcomes in their ministries and have made themselves available to help encourage, equip and guide other leaders no matter where they are in their ministry – either just getting started or leading and growing existing ministries.
They’re fantastic with the fundamentals, the principles of ministry development and helping to form strategic plans moving forward. They’re also great at encouraging you to slow down, take a deep breath and keep it simple. Wherever you are on your journey, they are here to talk with you, walk with you and ensure that no matter what you don’t have to be on that journey alone.
To schedule a coaching time with one the National Church Ministry coaches, simply click the button below and fill out the form. We’ll follow up and connect you with the best coach for you.
Check out what one of our coaches is doing this fall! Steve Gillis is the founder of Patch Our Planet, a CAFO member organization committed to equipping and mobilizing churches with a customized orphan care strategy. Steve and Patch Our Planet are touring the country to visit and work with churches in August, September and October. Check out their website to see if your church is in their path and consider taking the next steps to host them at your church for a training with your leadership.