Posing at the Plate

I was listening to sports radio the other day. The topic of posing after hitting a home-run was being hotly discussed.

In baseball, if someone can knock balls out of the park with some reasonable consistency, they usually can get the “feel” of when a hit is going to go long enough for a home run.   When that “feeling” occurs, some might strike a pose around home plate. They admire their own prowess as the ball soars over the outfield fence.

In youth ministry, it occurs to me, we might do a similar thing as well.  There is a “feeling” of when stuff is really working in youth ministry.  We have discussed these feelings before on these pages, but let’s take another look.   Here are three reasons why it is bad form to get caught “posing at the plate” in youth ministry.

It is Bad Sportsmanship.  Mixing sports metaphors, there is a football classic quote worth sharing in this regarding.  Coach Lou Holtz among many other coaches is credited with reminding us of this advice.

Once, Holtz’s Minnesota Gophers scored four touchdowns in a game. He stated, “I don’t let my players do those crazy dances in the end zone because I want them to act like they’ve been there before.”

You preening around the plate is not only calling attention to your accomplishment. It calls attention to others’ failures as well.   The pitcher might have lost control and not placed it where he had intended. The catcher and / or coaching staff might not have scouted well or called for the wrong pitch at the moment.  Your posing looks good for the home crowd. It plays well on TV replays and video games. In the game of youth ministry. it reeks of show-off-iness

It is Bad Gamesmanship.  Sometimes your feelings do not always play out into facts.  This is what was burning up the radio waves recently.   The callers were complaining about a batter who thought that he had felt that he had hit a homerun, but he had not.  First he posed for a second or two, and then he broke into a home run trot around the bases.  Yet, the ball hit the top of the wall just inches out of the reach of the fielder and bounced back into play.  The poser’s choices all proved to be inappropriate.

Had the batter hit and then ran at the fullest of speed, he would have had a stand-up double.  Instead, he ended up at the first base. This was close enough to where the first base coach let him have an earful. The lecture, likely laced with some colorful language, regarded lack of hustle. It was neither helpful to his team nor appreciated by the coach.

I know a guy who would use baseball metaphors when asked to evaluate his recent efforts at a youth ministry program or training. He always claimed to have hit a home-run.  (Actually, on a rare occasion or two, that assessment was upgraded to a grand slam.) My guess is that maybe his perceptions did not always play out into facts. That is true for me and probably you as well. Do we automatically break into a trot in our efforts and fail to hustle?  Remember to always play out each moment of the youth ministry game with fullest effort.

It is Bad Discipleship.  Posing is calling attention to you and your efforts.  Our role as disciples is to collaborate in the works of the Spirit and offer glory to the Lord.  Our celebration does not need to come in the immediate moment.   We should share in the “feelings” that Paul expressed in his second letter to Timothy:

I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day,
and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

Are there other things that we do as youth ministers that reflect the “selfie” nature of our culture rather than the selfless nature of our vocation?

Here are three reasons why it is bad form to get caught “posing at the plate” in youth ministry.

D. Scott Miller

D. Scott Miller is the dean of Catholic Youth Ministry bloggers which is a polite way of either saying that he is just plain old or has been blogging for a long time (since 2004.)

Scott recently married the lovely Anne and together they have five adult young people and also grandparent three delightful kids (so, maybe he is just plain old!) Scott presently serves at Saint John the Evangelist in Columbia, MD as the director of youth and young adult ministry.

He has previously served on the parish, regional, diocesan, and national levels as well as having taught within a catholic high school. He is one of the founders of RebuildMyChurch and has returned to posting regularly (keeping regular is important to old guys) at ProjectYM.



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