Transitions are tricky things because they bring a mix of emotions. You’re leaving behind something familiar and heading into something unknown.
One of my biggest transitions happened four years ago. It was such an exciting time. I was getting married, moving, and starting a new chapter of my life. But as my wedding and moving days got closer, I began to look at all the things I would be leaving behind: all my friends, all my favorite places, a lot of memories. My colleagues and community were like my team. We worked together, we played together and we were on mission together.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
Some of you may be approaching the end of your senior year. Soon you will leave behind a life and rhythms you’ve acquired over the past four or so years, and will walk into some unknown.
You’ll walk away from your community, from this family you formed. You’ve lived life with your teammates day in and day out. They understood you, your sacrifices, your struggles and your experiences. You had a collective goal and purpose as well as your own individual goals. You had a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routine that was dictated by this pursuit of excellence. Some of you will continue this cadence as you go pro, but most of you will either hang up your spikes or enjoy pick up and recreational games.
Either way, you’ll be looking for a new community, and that can be a challenge. All throughout the scriptures we see the people of God in community (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1; Acts 2:1, 42-44). But before you seek out a new community, I want to encourage you to grieve the loss of your current one.
Write out everything that you love about your current community and intentionally grieve each one. This will do two things. First, it will allow you to look back and celebrate all the goodness the Lord has given you with this community. Second, it will allow you to let go of this community and embrace what the Lord has in store for you for this next season of your life.
Once you’ve had a chance to reflect on the Lord’s blessings, here are three tips on finding a new community:
Plug into a Church Community
You may have more time now that you are finished with your competitive contests. A great way to fill that time is with the local church.
In his book The Assist, Brian Smith says, “Some of the same things you came to love and enjoy through sports can be experienced at an even deeper level through involvement with the local church.”
If you are not currently plugged into a church, ask around for suggestions from people you know in the area or who are familiar with the area. Look for a church near you; it’s easier to be in community when you live closer together.
The internet is another helpful resource. The Gospel Coalition and Acts 29 websites are good places to start. You can look up churches in your area and check out their websites. You can look at their doctrine, the ministries they have, and who their pastors and elders are. This can help you to narrow down the churches you’d like to check out. Then take some time to listen to sermons if they have them posted online, and follow any social media outlets they have. Again, this can help you to narrow down your search.
Finally, take some time to visit the churches you have on your list. Unless you felt extremely uncomfortable, or really feel the Lord’s leading, visit a church a few times before you make a decision.
Once you have found a church, don’t just attend on Sundays. Find ways you can get involved. Are there small groups? Are there ways you can serve? The church is a place where we are called to give and receive. How can you utilize your gifts and your talents to serve the church body (Ephesians 4:11-13)?
What local organizations can benefit from your passions? Are you a female runner? Maybe there’s a Girls on the Run chapter near you that you can become a part of. Do you enjoy mentoring kids? See if there’s a Boys and Girls Club or a local YMCA where you can serve. Are you near a college? See if there is an AIA chapter or any ministries on campus with whom you can volunteer your time. If there isn’t one, pray about starting up ministry there through SportLinc. Do you live near a large city? See if there is an organization that ministers to the inner city.
Whatever your passions, your gifts or your talents, seek ways you can invest those gifts by volunteering in your community.
Acknowledge It Will Be Different
Your new community will be different. It’s not good or bad, just different. The people in your new community may not fully understand you from an athletic perspective, but that’s only one aspect of who you are. Since every one of us is created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), every person you come across can teach you something about the Lord and life in general. There is much you can learn from other people, and there is much you can teach others.
In this season of change, embrace and celebrate how the Lord has provided for you over the past years and keep your eyes open for how He will do the same in the upcoming years.