Once upon a time, there was a girl named Karen whose parents signed her up to play baseball. Both of her parents loved baseball and lots of kids in their community played baseball so it seemed like a good idea.
Karen started going to practices and the games. Some of the kids were nice, but not all of them. The coach was not. Most of the time he yelled. He yelled at Karen and her friends to run faster, swing straighter and stop dropping the ball. When they didn’t run faster he made them run more. When they didn’t swing straighter, he kept them late at practice . When they dropped the ball, he threw it harder.
Karen played baseball for years. Partly because her parents liked the game and enjoyed watching her play. Partly because she had some good friends on the team. Karen played baseball for years. Karen got yelled at for years. She ran extra laps, stayed late at practice and tried not to drop the ball. Karen played baseball for years and learned to hate baseball. She just felt like she was never good enough.
Eventually, Karen stopped playing baseball. She stopped watching baseball because it reminded her of how unhappy it had made her feel. In fact, she pretty much gave up on all sports. The idea of being on a team with a coach just brought back too many unpleasant memories. She had friends who played sports – some baseball, others football, soccer, volleyball, but not Karen. No matter how much they told her about the fun they had, the health benefits, parties afterwards…Karen wanted nothing to do with it. She had been hurt too much.
Some people’s experience with church has been similar to Karen’s experience with baseball. They’ve been yelled at. They’ve been hurt. They’ve been made to feel like they are no good. They’ve given up.
For those of us who have discovered that we can love the game again, how do we share that love? How can we show them that there are coaches who don’t yell and teams where all the kids are nice? How do we let them know that practice can be fun, not hurtful?
How do we convince those who have given up to give it another try?