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« Escalation | Main | The Cathedral and the Church »

The Bench and the Bull Pen

Baseball introduced some terms into the language that have broader applications to life in general, and in particular, to the ministerial organization.  These two terms, bench and bull pen are well known to baseball fans.  The MLB roster refers to twenty-five active players, and fifteen more players that are either on the 10-day injured reserve list or players who can be called up from the minor leagues at any time. Teams have nine starters for any game, but sixteen players sit on the bench, ready to go into the game if the manager gives them the nod.  The list also includes reserve pitchers who are out in the bull pen, ready to warm up and come into the game to replace the starting pitcher.  Every player on the 25-man roster is required to attend the game, even if he never gets any playing action.  Of course, the pros get paid to do this, but this rule also holds true for every level of play, little league, high school, college, or sandlot teams.  Either show up or you’re off the team.

Playing the Bench:  The Hardest Position on Any Team

 (Dr. Alan Goldberg,

“You make all of the practices regardless of how crappy you’re feeling. They, on the other hand, don’t show up if they have a hangnail! Most days you’re the first one at training and the last one to leave. They often come late and leave early. You never dog it or cut corners. Ask any of the coaches and they’ll tell you that they can always count on you giving everything 100%. They frequently slow down when the coach isn’t looking and look for ways to avoid the hard work. You maintain a positive attitude regardless of how brutal a practice is and they whine and moan that the practice is too hard. You consistently outwork many of your other teammates while they seem to just go through the motions.  

So, answer a few questions for me. Why is it that the coaches consistently start these guys in front of me? How unfair is that? Why is it that when they make mistakes in games, the coaches leave them in and the instant that I even mess up a little, I get yanked?!!!!

Are the coaches that blind that they don’t see my work ethic in relation to these other guys? Doesn’t my commitment and attitude mean anything to them? Sure these guys may be a just a little bit better than me, (sometimes not even!), but all things considered, don’t I deserve more of a shot than I’m being given?

Whether rightly deserved or not, “playing” the bench is the hardest role on a team to manage. As a result, very few athletes handle it well. A “role player” has to work just as hard as everyone else, has to sacrifice just as much, yet he/she never seems to get any of the playing time “goodies.”  It’s a discouraging and de-motivating position to be in and therefore, quite easy to fall into the negativity trap. i.e. “This stinks and what’s the point in trying?” This is just like a class where you have to bust your you know what in a tough subject and no matter how hard you work you only pull C’s, while the bright kid who never does a lick of homework or any of the readings, pulls A’s!  

So, what to do? You may not like your role on the team. You may not think it’s fair. It may NOT be fair! However, your job is to try to conduct yourself as a champion. Continue to work your keister off! Continue to do everything in your power to get as good as possible! Continue to maintain a positive, “team first” attitude! Try to play your “support” role to the very best of your ability. You may not get a chance this season to make a difference. You may even have to wait until you play for another coach. However, don’t let the coach’s not playing you, get to you. Just because the coach seemingly doesn’t believe in you enough to give you more PT, doesn’t mean that you should buy into his/her assessment of you. Keep on keeping on. Keep on working hard. Keep focused on your dream.

MOST IMPORTANT, stay focused on WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. As an athlete, you do NOT have direct control over your playing time. You can work hard, have a good attitude, etc. and that will increase the chances that you’ll improve and get more PT. However, it doesn’t guarantee it! You also don’t have any control over the behaviors of the kids starting in front of you. They may be sloths, goof-offs or “team dividers.” You can’t control what they do or who they are. Instead, keep your focus on YOU and what YOU can control in the situation that you find yourself in. Stay positive! Be a good team player and play your role like a champion!”

So, how does this relate to a ministerial organization?  There is a widespread feeling that if you are not in charge or if you don’t have any official duties, then you don’t have to go to the game and sit on the bench.  There is also a common attitude that your presence is not necessary to the life of the organization.  “They can carry on without me!”  Moreover, slightly antagonistic feelings can emerge, like “Minister’s meetings are interruptions to my work; all that happens is people sit around and talk about idiotic things that have nothing to do with nothing; they basically want me there to get offerings or get me to work at the campground; I can’t see spending money on gas, motel rooms and meals when I know it’s worthless to me personally.”

There are several truths about sitting on the ministers’ bench that need to be understood:

  • If you are on the team, you need to show up to the game.
  • If you’re not at the game, you won’t know what’s happening.
  • The less you know what’s happening, the less you care about the team.
  • When you continue to be a no-show, you isolate yourself from the other ministers.
  • You foster cohesiveness to the team when others see you as a good example.
  • Just your presence is seen by others as a positive and affirming input to the team.
  • When you show up, you can have a positive influence on other ministers. “Iron sharpens iron.”
  • You never know when your input may become necessary to the welfare of the team. 

“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:18-26 (KJV)

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