Skiing lessons for the church

February 19, 2014

Rev. David Schoen

As one who never learned how to stop while skiing except by falling down, I am dazzled and awed by the Olympic downhill skiing and snowboarding events. Watching Olympians hurl down the mountain at 70 to 80 miles an hour, flying through the air doing a YOLO (You Only Live Once) flip, and falling down only to get up and do it again takes my breath away. I congratulate all the Olympians for their incredible performance and courage.

The daunting mountain runs that change from day to day due to snow conditions made me curious as to how anyone could prepare for such a sport, so I watched some You Tube training videos.

Here's the basic advice for skiing that I discovered:

  • Before starting, visualize your course and where you are going.
  • Know the terrain. Look around for obvious obstacles.
  • Point yourself in the right direction.
  • Position your body by lining up in the direction you are going.
  • Put forward pressure on your skis to move.
  • Be ready to adapt to changing conditions.
  • Falling is part of skiing. Get up and get back on the slope.

As I reflect on these skiing skills, they also seem like good training for disciples and congregations today.

Like an Olympic mountain ski run, the course ahead for disciples and the church is daunting, full of speedy turns, surprising bumps and rapidly changing conditions. We would do well to learn from our Olympians the skill of navigating such a course for our future.

Visualization is essential, or as Proverbs says, "Without a vision, the people perish." Disciples prepare for the future by visualizing, and articulating the course that God is setting before our congregations in the world. When we visualize where God is calling us to go, we point ourselves by positioning our whole body to lean into that future. Knowing the terrain of our cultural context helps us move gracefully with confidence, avoiding obvious obstacles. Yet, as prepared as we try to be, things change. Adapting to new conditions, being flexible, even adjusting our course, are critical skills. Learning how to fall and get back up on the course is just part of the "cost and joy" of being a disciple in a community of faith today.

Vibrant congregations are Skiing Schools, equipping disciples with basic skills of visualizing, positioning, leaning forward, adapting, getting up and moving toward God's way in the world. These congregations and disciples know that when we risk getting out on the challenging slopes before us, we see and experience the power, presence, awe and joy of the God of the Mountains - El Shaddai.

Sparking Ministry Conversations
How do you and your congregation visualize God's course before you? Are you pointing toward it, positioning the whole church body to lean into God's future?

About the Author
The Rev. David Schoen equips congregations to make bold decisions for their future through Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement Ministries. This winter has given Dave ample opportunity to enjoy hiking in snow shoes.
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CONTACT INFO

Rev. David C. Schoen
Minister and Team Leader, Congregational Assessment, Support & Advancement (CASA)
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3827
schoend@ucc.org