Inoculating Kids to the Great Commission
I help teach a Mix Martial Arts class at my church. It's a free activity that we sponsor on Monday evenings. We've been running the course for a little over a year and have found that we've collected a wide variety of men. Some are Christ-followers. More are not. We've got middle aged men, teens, and a bunch of medical students. I love the class because of its potential to collect an eclectic group of men and to have faith conversations with them.
I went home disturbed, though, after Monday night's class. One of the younger fighters, Dan, informed me that he intended on fighting at a cage match in a few months. Pennsylvania just legalized MMA fighting and several fight cards have been quickly developed and promoted.
Dan's declaration to fight bothered me. Dan just graduated from high school and doesn't have a real plan for "what next." Dan skipped his graduation ceremony to come to the church and train. He wants to become a chef but isn't taking steps to get into a culinary school. We have good school in town and a great one in Pittsburgh. I suspect that his dad isn't in the picture and that his mom is just too exhausted to help fill out his financial aid. So when Dan told me about his desire to fight, I tried acknowledge him, but then asked about school. I offered help him fill out those financial aid forms.
Dan thanked me, but then changed the topic back to the cage fight.
I have all kinds of mental reason as to why this is a bad idea. We offer a free class twice a week. We're not a training camp, or even a "real" school. Dan needs to be training four hours a day to have a chance in the cage.
MMA is, well, dangerous. Even at our low level of training, I've managed to fracture my jaw and a bone in my right hand this summer (both hairline fractures, gratefully). When I fought Tae Kwon Do I had my nose broken during training. Once I was T.K.O.'ed in a tournament by an amateur boxer. I have no intention of ever stepping foot in a cage to fight. There's a fatherly instinct in me that doesn't want to see Dan get seriously hurt as he figures out what he wants to do with his life.
This weekend I'm going to be writing an article for Children's Ministry Magazine on how we inoculate children from obeying the Great Commission. I think we do ministry to children a lot like I'm training Dan. I'm willing to teach him all the pieces of the game, the striking, the redneck ju jistsu, and the clinch-- but I don't really want him to use those tools in a real life situation. I suspect that we parents and pastors approach ministry to kids like that. We'll talk about loving people who think differently than we, about sharing our faith with those people in a conversational, manner. But deep down we are worried about them ever trying it.
Someone might get hurt.