Once spring finally rolls around, it’ll be time for me to start what will be my 7th year of refereeing youth soccer games. My dad got me into it when I was in high school, and I’ve loved being a referee ever since. I really enjoy the travel that’s involved- I get excited when I have a chance to visit new fields and meet new referees. I get a chance to represent myself and the other referees well by acting in a professional manner. It’s an area of my life where I can see growth over time, and I know that the time and effort I’m putting in is making me a better ref. Tournaments give me the opportunity to really put my skills to test with an all-day marathon, and as exhausting as they can be, they are also really rewarding. There’s something satisfying about getting to the end of the day and knowing that you did your best, and that you were appreciated for what you brought to the game.

But you know what the worst part is? It’s not the missed calls, or the angry parents and coaches. It’s the recertification. Every year, you have to sit through a 4 hour course, reviewing rules and procedures that you already know. It all leads up to a test that, if you fail, means you aren’t able to referee that year. It’s a long, boring, stressful process.

Or at least that’s how I viewed it, until I got certified last weekend. Our instructor told us not to view this as just a boring class you have to sit through just to take the test. We had 38 refs in the room, and he pointed out that this is a perfect opportunity for us all to grow. Ask questions. Admit what you struggled with. Lean on the others for help and guidance. As he put it, “The goal isn’t just to pass the test. The goal is to be a better referee in your first game this spring than you were for your last one in the fall.”

As I was driving back from Milwaukee after I passed the test, I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, our churches operate the same way. Sunday mornings are our recertification course. We have the opportunity to gather together, ask questions of each other, admit our struggles, and lean on each other’s guidance.

After all, aren’t we all here not just to sit through another sermon, but to be a better Christ follower on Monday than we were on Saturday?