Ethos Education

Moneyball: How important is each individual member of a church?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of biblical teaching on the nature, role and purpose of the church.
  • Awareness of different roles within the modern church.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the importance of every member of a team.
  • Reflect upon the similarities and differences between the baseball team in Moneyball and the workings of other groups or teams from real life.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine what the Bible says Christian churches should be like.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a short summary of a Bible passage.
  • Analyse the various roles taken up by individuals in a real-life modern church.
  • Synthesise learning writing a conversation between the Apostle Paul and the fictional Billy Beane from the film Moneyball.

STARTER:

This activity requires you to brief one volunteer in advance of the lesson. Choose somebody who is reasonably popular with the class and who won’t be likely to be picked on by the other students. Explain to them that their real role in the task will be to mess things up for their team.

Pick two teams of five students (you could have more than two teams if you wanted, but you should have more than one). Explain that the teams are going to race against each other to deliver a message to you. Each member of the team can only do one part of the task, and nobody can do another person’s task. The tasks for the respective team members are as follows:

  • One student looks up the Bible passage and reads it to the scribe.
  • One student writes out the Bible passage on a piece of paper and gives it to the folder.
  • One student folds the paper into four and gives it to the deliverer.
  • One student delivers the message to the unfolder.
  • One student unfolds the message and gives it to the reader.
  • One student reads the message to the teacher.

The undercover student can be given any of these roles, as long as they can find a way to mess it up. They could read the wrong Bible verse, or write it down incorrectly. They could tear the paper when folding it, or repeatedly drop it when delivering and so on. With both teams, be strict in your interpretation of the rules – make teams go back and repeat a step if someone makes the slightest mistake. Be fair in your treatment of both teams, and trust your mole to make sure that his or her team makes by far the most mistakes.

You could have a succession of messages for the team to pass on, or just do a single message. The following Bible passages would be appropriate messages for this exercise:

There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:6, TNIV)

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12, TNIV)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:32, TNIV)

So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5, TNIV)

If you use more than one verse, you could give the next verse reference to the looker-upper only after the reader has successfully delivered the message.

Debrief the teams and ask the losing team (presumably the one with your mole) why they think they lost. Draw out that one member of the team didn’t do his or her job properly, and that affected everybody else. At this point, reveal that your secret agent was acting on your instructions and wasn’t just being useless.

Make the point that in a team, everybody has a different role to play, and everybody is important. Ask the students to remember that thought in the rest of today’s lesson, which is going to be about the church.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Show the clip from Moneyball (Sony, 2011, certificate 12) Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team. In this scene he is meeting with Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who is starting work that day. Ask the students to pay particular attention to how Peter plans to build a winning team:

Start time:       0.24.25 (in chapter 4 of the DVD)
End time:        0.28.16
Clip length:     3 minutes and 51 seconds

The clip starts with Billy arriving at his office. The first line is Billy greeting his secretary with, ‘Morning Suzanne. Coffee on?’ The clip ends when Billy asks Peter, ‘That it?’ to which Peter replies, ‘Yeah’.

Ask the students what lies at the heart of Peter’s statistical scheme. Draw out that they manage to see the value in players that other teams have dismissed for a variety of reasons. Explain that their plan is also based on recruiting these undervalued players and then allowing them to play to their individual strengths for the good of the team. You might want to remind them of this quote from Peter in the clip:

‘We will find the value in players that nobody else can see.’

Ask the students to think of other groups of people where different skills and abilities, strengths and weaknesses, can be combined to make the unit stronger and more effective than everyone working alone. Possible examples might include: other sports teams; television news teams; and business teams.

Ask the students to read the following Bible passages and to identify some features that they say the church should have: Acts 2:42-47 (or Acts 4:32-37); Romans 12:3-13; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31.

Possible answers could include:

  • Time devoted to learning from the Bible and praying (Acts 2:42)
  • Generous with property when others are in need (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32; Romans 12:13)
  • Made up of people with different gifts and abilities (Romans 12:4 and 6; 1 Corinthians 12:14-20)
  • A willingness to include and value weaker members as well as stronger ones (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

Take feedback from the previous exercise, and ask the class what parallels they can find between a team of baseball players with different strengths and the Christian church, as described in these verses. Ask them to point out any differences they can find as well.

Ask the students to look again at 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. Set the task of writing (either individually or in pairs) a short summary (20 words or less) of the passage – one or two sentences to convey the whole argument. This exercise would work well as a snowball discussion – each student writes a summary, then pairs up with a partner. The pairs compare answers and either decide that one is better than the other, or write a new summary that improves on both. Repeat this process, turning the pairs into fours, then the fours into eights, until you are left with just two or three finely honed summaries which can then be shared with the whole class.

Whether you use a snowball discussion or not, you will need to have a summary prepared yourself. We suggest the following:

In the church everyone has different gifts, and they all work together for the same purpose: God’s purpose.

Explain that while most people think of church as somewhere that people (probably other people) go to on Sundays, most churches have many committed members who give a great deal of their time, energy and money to the work of the church. To illustrate this, give out the Volunteers handout, which is a list of volunteers’ jobs at Coney Hill Baptist Church, West Wickham, London. Ask the students if they are surprised at the kind of things that volunteers do. Ask if there is anything on this list that they thought would only be done by the full-time staff. At Coney Hill Baptist church, there is one pastor who is the only full-time paid employee of the church.

A good follow up for a subsequent lesson would be to invite a pastor or clergyman from one of your local churches to come in and talk to the class. Encourage the students to think of some questions in advance. Remind them that their aim is to find out as much as they can about how the church actually works – what the minister and other full-time staff (if there are any other full-time staff) do, and what is done by volunteers. Students should then write an account of a day or a week in the life of the church, stressing the different roles played by different members of the church.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to imagine a conversation between Billy and the apostle Paul (you may have to explain to the students that Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians that the earlier Bible passage was taken from). They should discuss the similarities and differences between the way the Oakland A’s became a winning team and the way Paul believes that different members of a church community work together.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Bibles.
  • Pens and paper for the starter game.
  • A copy of the film Moneyball and the means to play it.
  • Volunteers handout.

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