Discipleship and Mountain Biking: Who Needs a Coach?

A few years ago, my doctor didn’t tell me to begin mountain biking, but he did say, “You’ve better find some type of exercise program that you like or you’re going to die.” (I’m not sure those were his exact words, but they’re close.) Then, I was dumb enough to tell my wife what my doctor said and she told me, “If you don’t find an exercise program you like, I may kill you before you have a chance to die.” So, with that external motivation I sent an email to some mountain bike-friends and asked if anyone had a spare bike I could borrow to get me started.

Fast forward to today: I now own a bike (I bought one from a buddy), I have a helmet, shoes, clothes, gloves, and most of the gear that is “required” for this sport. Basically, I have everything needed except for…the needed skills and the personal coaching.

After my first ride I realized mountain biking is not like the type of bike riding I did when I was a kid. It’s not “jump on bike and ride all day.” It’s much different! In addition to the extreme terrain, there are so many moving parts that add to the confusion: 3 front sprockets, 5 or 6 back sprockets (I can’t remember), 2 brake levers, and 4 shifting systems. I’ve developed decent cardio conditioning, but I desperately need coaching to get answers to my questions.

Even as I ride these days, I think about how little I know about this sport/hobby. I really need a coach/mentor. I have so many technical questions. I’m not always sure when is the best time shift on different slopes. I apparently have a tubeless tire that I wouldn’t know how to fix if I got a flat. I have front shocks that need to be adjusted based on the terrain and I don’t have the slightest idea what to do. I know I’m supposed to clean my bike, but there are so many different products at the bike store that I’m not sure which one to use. Basically, my list of “how to” questions could fill pages.

As I was riding and thinking about my need for a coach/mentor, I began to think about the teenagers represented in our ministries. What are we doing with all their questions? Do we even know the questions they’re asking (or not asking)? Or, do we assume they’ll catch everything about Jesus as they begin their “ride with him”?

Much like I need a riding coach, teenagers (or new followers) need a “Jesus coach.” While mountain biking is much more complex than “jump on a bike”…so is following Jesus much more complex than a simple “come to church.”

I still try to ride a couple times a week, tinkering around at the local bike shop, reading magazines and websites to try to find coaching tips, downloading trail guides to my iPhone, and asking a lot of questions…AND, I’m still confused, frustrated, and wanting someone to coach me. I want someone else to care enough to care about me.

Could it be that we have become good at getting teenagers to come to church…but we’re not so good at coaching them on how to walk with Jesus? Then, if they don’t know how to walk with Jesus, they graduate from our ministry and graduate away from church.

  1. Do the kids entrusted to your care (as a youth pastor over several or as a volunteer over a few) know that you want to coach them in the ways of Jesus?
  2. Do they leave your youth ministry knowing that there is a caring, loving, and available adult who wants the best for them?
  3. Do they know they can ask the dumbest and most simple questions and have a confidence that there are people who will care enough not to laugh at their questions?
  4. Do they know they will have someone to “ride with” even though they struggle and occasionally fall?

If you answer yes to these questions… way to go! Those teenagers are blessed.

If you’re answer is “no” or “I’m not sure”…what might need to change within your youth ministry and your personal leadership style so teenagers will know that they’re not a number to be counted or a seat-filler?

How do they know that they are a valued, young follower of Jesus who needs a little help with the call of Jesus to “follow me”?

Jesus spent most of his time with the few. Yes, he spoke to and fed the masses, but his most common audience was the few. Who are the few that need you right now?

They don’t need to be invited to church, they need you…a coaching, listening, loving, and caring you.

Walking with Jesus is an adventure… but it’s one that requires more help and coaching than we’re probably aware of. I know it does for me.

Help us reach the next generation of families

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Doug Fields

Doug Fields is the senior director of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of leaders, teenagers and parents each year. He’s also the author/co-author of 50+ books including: Parenting in a Screen Saturated Culture; Intentional Parenting; 7 Ways to be Her Hero – the One Your Wife Has Been Waiting For; and To Have and To Hold. In addition to Doug’s speaking and writing, he is also the co-founder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and the youth pastor at Mariners Church. Doug has been married for more than 35 years to his wonderful wife Cathy, and they live near their 3 married children and 3 grandchildren in Southern California.

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