Qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and as Sunday School Teachers

Saturday 9th May, 2009

Today my youngest son, Jordan who is nineteen, and I drove north for "Pole Day" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I had received two free tickets (only $10.00 each anyway)--most likely because Yvonne and I attended the race on our twenty-third anniversary. Anyway, Jordan had never been to a race. I had gone several times to the time trials and race as a teen and young adult connected to a Scout and a church group. We decided to make it a "guys day out."

We left at 6:40 AM in order to arrive in time for practice which began at 9:00. We were able to park close for $5.00 in a gravel lot. It was a bit cool and windy. In fact, it never got above 65, and the wind affected the racers during practice and early qualifying. Today's "Pole Day" was to determine who would qualify to win the "Pole" position--who would start first in the race. Along with the "Pole" position, the next ten positions would be determined by their average speed on four laps around the 2.5 mile track. The fastest eleven racers would qualify to line up in first to eleventh position on race day.

Because Pole Day is general admission, Jordan and I moved around a bit. We ate lunch as soon as the morning practice session ended around 11:00, and we finally settled five rows up on infield bleachers (Tower Terrace) next to the Pagoda. We were overlooking pit row and were able to see lots of pit crew action with their cars and drivers, driver interviews, the flagman, the Pole position tower, and the start and finish line (main stretch). On top of all that, we were close to food and bathrooms.

At Noon, qualifying began. Each racer was able to complete a practice lap followed by his four qualifying laps which would be timed. With the cooler temperatures and wind conditions, early qualifying times were hampered a bit. But times got a bit faster and many racers took risks late in trying to improve their qualifying positions.

One thing I noticed is that no racer was alone. He was surrounded by a team. The team, including his pit crew, helped make adjustments to the racer's car that enabled him or her to get the most out of the car and his/her ability as a driver. That is (or should be) true in the church as well. Sunday School teachers who are most successful recognize the team that is around them. They take full advantage of each person's abilities and get more from their own abilities than would be possible otherwise.

Another thing I noticed is that only the best qualified. There were two cars who are disqualified--the second for being 8/10 of a pound too light! Some drivers who qualified early during the afternoon were bumped from the top eleven spots by faster drivers. In the end, only the fastest and best drivers qualified for the top eleven spots. Here the church can learn something from the race world. God deserves our best as teachers. Teaching should be a passion and a call. At the same time, we should not hesitate to remove a teacher who has disqualified himself/herself. We should never enlist "warm bodies" to serve as teachers. Only God-called teachers need apply or serve!

Finally, the drivers and teams who worked hardest, often were the ones who were most rewarded and had the most fun. Helio Castroneves took a late risk, giving up his sure third spot to try to win the "Pole." His successful effort will enable him to start first in the race later this month, and it earned him recognition and reward--over $100,000. When teachers and Sunday School teams give their best, they too often have the most fun and the most reward. People are invited. Leaders are developed. Jesus is accepted. Lives are changed. And the hard work is fun together. The rewards are on earth and eternal.

Remember what James said, "Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment; for we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:1, HCSB). Make sure you qualify. Give your best and surround yourself with a great team. Don't disqualify yourself. Serve out of your passion. Have fun. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about giving your best, check out these blog posts:

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