Balance Beam Memories

My firstborn was about five and we were at the park where there happened to be a 4 x 4 balance beam about 10 feet long. It started 1 foot off the ground and angled up until it was about 5 feet high. We had watched some of the summer Olympics and when she saw the beam, she wanted to walk it. I picked her up, set her little feet on the timber and held her hand. With eyes in the air and feeling almost nothing solid under her feet, she wanted down – now!

How could I help her to overcome her fears and learn to walk that beam? Here’s what we did. First, I jumped up on the beam and walked it so that she could see how. After that I asked her an open ended question or two, then spent a few minutes answering her questions. As we talked, I emphasized a couple of critical things – you know, like it’s normal to feel fear and don’t watch your feet but keep your eye on the end of the beam. Next, I picked her up again, put her aboard and said, “Okay, let’s do it together.” Holding her hand snugly, I reminded her to focus on the end of the beam, and then very slowly we crept along. When she got to the end I lifted her up, swung her around and we began to dance and sing and “whoo-hooed” April’s amazing feat.

Well, we practiced repeatedly and celebrated everything that she did, especially when she fell. After all, it takes a lot of courage to walk up a skinny beam and mad skills to fall off without killing yourself – especially when you’re only five. Finally, she got to the point where she felt that she could do it all by herself. And she did! April had gained the confidence and ability to walk the balance beam on her own.

Now, 25 years later, I believe that that simple process is perhaps the best way to teach any function to anybody. Especially evangelism. Model outreach before your learner. Explain the process to her. Answer her questions and ask her some others. Have her watch you and listen to you as you share and then do outreach together a few times. Celebrate everything that she does well. Continue the process until she is ready to go on her own, or until you tell her that she’s ready.

This how the Master trained his men: “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He showed, he told, he questioned, he went with them, he sent them, and he celebrated with them upon their return. Finally, at the end he left it with them and reminded them to keep their eye on the end of the beam: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So, grab somebody and go to the park. And keep your eye on the end of the beam.

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About Rick Oglesby

Rick has worked as a church planter, pastor, missionary, Bible College President and teacher. He currently pastors in Wellington, Alabama.

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