Scaling is not failing: CrossFit and the church.

When you walk into a CrossFit box or you google ‘what is CrossFit?’, you’ll probably see videos or pictures of lean, muscular women and men lifting stupid amounts of weight or doing incredible gymnastic movements from rings or rigs. While that is indeed a part of our sport, the vast reality is those people are outliers. The average box will have people who can deadlift 400lbs or snatch 225lbs, but it’s also full of people who are not able to do pull-ups or have mobility issues limiting their overhead ability. In the three years I’ve been at my box, I hear a lot of my friends say something to the effect of ‘yeah, but I didn’t do the actual movements’ and my response is always “scaling is not failing.”

I think we’d all like to look as cool as someone lifting the super heavy weights or doing the cool muscle ups on the rings or rig, but just because that’s not where we’re at does not mean we aren’t working hard and bettering ourselves to get to where we want to be. There are plenty of people who are okay with not doing chest to bar pull-ups or doing toes-to-bar; there are people who are okay with scaling those options to chin-over-bar (or even chin ups or ring rows) or knees to chest. As a CF-L1 trainer, I am more worried about you preserving the intended stimulus of the workout, and that you’re able to get a solid workout in and that you’re able to do the things you need to do the next day.

Scaling a workout does not mean you’re doing a lesser workout. You’re not some decrepit waste. Scaling means you are able to adapt to what is thrown at you and you recognize your limits. Adapt and overcome. While this is common in the box, it is not so in the church, although my argument is that it should be.

Not to take anything away from the difficulties that Senior Pastor’s face in their job, I think the most difficult staffed position is the youth pastor. Senior Pastor’s, for the most part are seen as someone who has gone through their seminary education, they ‘know’ things, they’re decision makers; they’re seen as the ‘adult’. Youth pastors, on the other hand, no matter how much education they have, are often thought of as a ‘lesser called’ pastor. They ‘only have to work with kids’, they ‘only play games and spend money’. But by far, in my 6 years as a youth pastor, the worst part of being a youth pastor is finding volunteers.

I’d say most churches, at least in my area, skew toward the older side of age. I love serving aging populations and I think they bring vast experience to every church. The downside is, a lot of the aging population within churches feel as if they ‘have done their time’. They’re retired and therefore they see themselves as checked out regarding volunteering. As a youth pastor who needs volunteers to serve in his department, and with limited number of people who will approach me about volunteering, this mindset or attitude makes it extremely difficult to find people willing to serve Christ and serve our younger people. This is where scaling comes into play.

I tell every potential volunteer: “I do not need you to play touch football or dodgeball with the youths. I’ll do that. I need you to love them, get to know them, and show them that God loves them and the people of our church see them and care for them.” In effect: I need you to love kids and share Jesus. Just as CrossFit wod’s are infinitely scaleable, the level of activity for each volunteer is infinitely scaleable. It can be playing dodgeball, it could be eating with students during supper; You could help provide a meal or you could help clean up after one. You can pray for them or you can write them note cards on their birthdays. There are SO MANY ways to help out your local youth pastor AND show the youth of the church how much they matter.

Take some time today and do some evaluating. Are you not volunteering or serving because you see images or videos of crazy activities, dodgeball-type games and you’re worried that’s what you’ll be doing all the time? Are you REALLY too busy to take 10 minutes out fo your day to write a student in your church a ‘thinking of you’ card? Maybe you’re not the best chef, but could you give a donation to sponsor a meal? There are SO MANY ways to scale down the volunteering for youth ministry or serving in the church, and just because you are scaling, it does not mean you’re failing. In fact, I bet your youth pastor would appreciate it even more.

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