The final score is 59-0. You are the coach of the team that did not score. What do you say to your players after the game and over the next few days?
It would be easy to criticize and blame. You could point out all the mistakes that were made and the opportunities were missed. You could rant and rave and probably no one would blame. But would any of that help you or the team?
There are probably many other options, both good and bad, that I have not realized but there are few things I think would be helpful to say.
First of all, the dignity of every individual should be preserved. Accolades, when warranted, should be offered. Praise could be given wherever there is the slightest reason to compliment. No one should be embarrassed or humiliated.
Everyone should be encouraged to give their best and hold their heads high. The goal is to win in any game where the score is kept. But winning is not the most important thing and losing is no disgrace. When I play, I play to win. At the same time I believe that when we have done our best, the final score is of secondary importance. That logic might not hold up for the coaches at major colleges and universities or for professional teams, but the principle is solid for most everyday folks.
If I was the coach, we would consider any errors in judgment or decisions that were not helpful and we would try to see what we could learn from them that would help us in the future. What adjustments could we make that would help us to perform better?
At the same time I would acknowledge that there are some things that we did well. We don't need to scrap everything. We can capitalize on our strengths and build on them.
Regardless of what the score is, we must be faithful to the task. Never quit!
I am not a coach. I am a United Methodist preacher and have been for 40 years. The North Georgia Conference has grown in membership every year during that period of time but many of our churches have been getting smaller and smaller. Resources have become very limited and often are about depleted.
The membership of the denomination has steadily declined for more than four decades.
United Methodists continue to be engaged in wonderful ministries globally and locally but unless some dramatic change occurs the future is troubling.
All United Methodist churches are being called to become engaged in the Vital Congregations initiative. The vision is to fulfill the Mission of The United Methodist Church by equipping and empowering congregations to become vital and healthy congregations in their communities and in our world.
I encourage each individual and congregation to consider the suggestions above as you pray, set goals, and plan for the future. We may be way behind on the scoreboard but if we will be faithful to God's call, we will hear God say, "Well done good and faithful servants."
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," September 19, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]