A couple of weeks ago I was reading a book to my children called Football School Season 1: Where football rules the world. I came across a phrase I had never heard before that challenged me in a way that only God can. No, the phrase wasn’t ‘the game needed a goal’, or ‘he gave 110 per cent’ (all good phrases). The expression was to ‘park the bus’.
Apparently this term became known following a complaint by football manager José Mourinho about Tottenham’s defensive tactics. To park the bus is essentially to put ten of your eleven players in defence, with just one player in attack. This effectively shuts down the game to preserve a much-needed win or draw by making it impossible for the attacking team to get anywhere near the goal.
The mind-set of preserving what we have at the expense of gaining greater rewards is not limited to football. When telling the parable of the talents, Jesus cites a man who buried the bag of gold given to him by his master that was meant to be put to good use. Instead of being adventurous and investing in its multiplication, the man feared what he would lose and opted to simply preserve what he had. The master’s response is justifiably strong, calling him a wicked, lazy servant (verse 26).
I believe all of us face scenarios, whether we know it or not, where we have either parked the bus, or come into conflict with a leader who has a mind-set like this.
Have you parked the bus?
If you have been in ministry for a number of years you will inevitably have experienced peaks and troughs. There are seasons where everything is buzzing, your children or young people have connected with the teaching, there is clear evidence of God’s supernatural working, numbers are up and pretty much everything you touch turns to gold.
Fast forward a couple of years and those times of excitement are the stuff of memories. Key members have moved on, fallen out or don’t have time to come any more. Maybe a new influx has changed the dynamics of your group, unsettling your established members.
Maybe you’re spending a little too much time on Facebook during work hours and you’ve winged it a bit more regularly recently.
You might have unwittingly parked a bus in front of your goal. It’s easy to ride the wave of success, but if you aren’t challenging yourself to see greater gains by looking ahead things can quickly unravel.
I remember going for lunch with a mum of two girls who attended my Sunday morning Bible sessions. Thankfully she was a good friend and had the courage to ask me this question: “what has happened to Sunday mornings?”
I didn’t know what she was talking about. She said to me that her girls used to absolutely love these sessions; the creativity, the interaction and they were learning loads. But over several months they hadn’t been so engaging, things were noticeably different. It came as a complete shock to me that I had let things slip.
Unwittingly I had parked the bus, simply because I was too busy. When Thursday afternoon came around (Friday and Saturday were my days off) it was a rush to get things done for Sunday morning.
In that moment I resolved to do something about it. I would dedicate a significant part of my week to preparing creative interactive sessions that were a key part of my young people’s teaching. I learnt to get back on the attack.
Have those around you parked the bus?
There are going to be those of you who are innovating but are hindered by others who just want to park the bus. Maybe they’ve seen previous so-called innovative ideas come to nothing. Perhaps they have concerns about cost, or they simply cannot see the benefits of change as you see them.
How can you encourage your leaders to change the formation?
There’s a word that comes to mind that as a younger youth worker I disliked intensely: patience. The very thought of having to wait for things to change would fill my heart with dread for fear the opportunity would be kicked into the long grass. But any team will tell you that if you are finding it hard to break down another’s defence, you need to keep the ball and build up your attack patiently.
Sometimes people just need to see that we can do things competently and carry ourselves with integrity before they will get behind a new idea.
Other times persistence will show that you aren’t just jumping on the band wagon with some new idea and that your goals don’t fade with the passing of time.
But what if the change is urgent?
The Church was built on apostles’, prophets’, disciples’ and others’ strategy and revelation. So if you are facing a window of opportunity, what will really get people to change formation is when you share your vision. My heart has sunk when I have been in meetings where “vision” has been shared as a plan for the next five years consisting of the right words on a page, yet without heaven’s revelation. You may as well be reading the football scores out instead.
When you share the ‘why’ behind your vision, God’s kingdom vision, people are more likely to be stirred.
Living to our fullest potential means to continue to innovate. Your best times are ahead of you. As a Church we can’t be giving into the fear of what we will lose, but rather, by using what we have, let’s see what we can gain.