On Mother’s Day, Dionne and I attended worship at Crossroads Church in Conyers. During the Children’s Moment, Pastor Zack Martin held up two signs that read “TEAM” and “CHURCH” respectively. He mentioned that there wasn’t an “I” in the words “TEAM” or “CHURCH.”
As he spun the signs around for visual effect, the sign labeled “CHURCH” was turned on its side and one of the kids mentioned that the “H” becomes an “I” when you turn the CHURCH sideways. She shouted see; there is an "I" in CHURCH. After a brief chuckle, I realized that the young girl was correct: There's only an "I" in church when it's turned sideways!
I’m sure that you’ve heard the phrase that there’s no “I” in the word “team” before. But you probably haven’t heard the phrase “but there are two ‘I’s’ in the word in loco parentis.” No, this isn’t a typo; there is such a word. It's a Latin term, and it means "in the place of a parent." As funny as it sounds, it ought to be a phrase. Perhaps I'll begin a campaign. Could you help me to spread it: #inlocoparentis
In loco parentis is another way of talking about teamwork, a concept that is often in short supply. And yet working as a team, however, does not mean that teammates are expected to be superstars, or perform superhuman feats, like the new Avengers movie that came out last week. Nor does it say that the team will win every game and that everyone on the team will get equal playing time or a trophy for effort.
Despite the messages that everyone is a winner and deserves a trophy, a good team is made up of the best players who are willing to take a back seat to personal accomplishment for the more substantial prize of a team win. Winning one for the team stands in stark contrast with teammates who believe that they are entitled, and deserve to win at everything.
Below is an e-mail that I found when cleaning out my inbox. It's from a parent of an incoming freshman that I received when I worked as a college administrator and chaplain. Rereading this email some seven years later makes me think more about what creates the “entitlement mentality” of students that everyone is writing about these days. The parent writes:
I am the very proud mother of a senior player on his high school football team. His nickname has been Super-Man because he makes over-achieving look easy. Please understand I feel no shame in my adoration and love for my son. At the end of my life, the only thing that will matter to me is that my son knows above and beyond all else, I loved him. I gave him my all.
Though this was a heartfelt confession from a caring Mom, as I read this e-mail I couldn’t help but think that this was a classic example of a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child’s experiences and problems.
Before responding to this Mom, I wanted to get more information on her student, just to a get a little distance from his mother’s perspective of her so-called “Superman” who makes over-achieving look easy. To my surprise, I learned that there was another side to her “Superman” who was not as mild-mannered as Clark Kent. As it turns out, this student had a bad temper and even had a restraining order put on him by another student.
Now that I knew the story of the Superman student, I began focusing my attention on what makes a Super-Parent. I pondered whether or not this parent’s kryptonite was the fear that she wasn’t a “good enough” Mom. Had she ever considered the consequences of her son’s drive and over-achieving nature, that athletics rewards, but if left unchecked might cause problems off the field? Additionally, I began to wonder if a more in-depth, unspoken and unacknowledged force that drives so many well-meaning parents was influencing her. She wasn't a bad mother, but an unrecognized effect drove her.
This unacknowledged force is so dominant that it causes us to project the mask of Super-Parent to the world and our families. Underneath this force is fundamental fear parents have of whether or not their sons or daughters will continue to care about them and their life before college (marriage, children, etc.), or will they abandon everything they learned and become an unrecognizable person.
This force can also cause us to turn the church sideways from its mission so that there’s an “I” in CHURCH. And while we may not see it at first, we all suffer from the “super Christian” mentality where we must defend and do God’s work as the hands and feet of Jesus. Now, don’t misread me here, I believe that the Church is the body of Christ, but sometimes instead of service, what comes out fear. It's a fear that we're not the center of attention, a fear that leads to a need to have power and control of something, the fear of displacement during a time of constant change, or the ultimate fear that somehow that God will not provide for us. These fears are just a few ways that we turn the church sideways.
In keeping with the Superman motto, there’s an unstated assumption that plague so many parents and church members that goes something like this: Truth, Justice, and doing things the right way. When left unexamined, all of this leads to the entitlement mentality and the “no boundaries” rules that drive so many people.
If we're going to the be a church that is relevant to next generation, then perhaps we need to acknowledge that while there's no "I" in team, there IS an "I" in CHURCH when we turn in sideways to meet our agendas.
On the Journey,