Lessons from my time at the Manchester United youth academy

I want to share something with you that not a lot of people know about me. If I was a less modest person it would be one of the first things I told people upon meting them, but because I am so good at being humble I tend not to brag about it. Until now. Ok, here goes.

10 years ago I trained at the Manchester United youth academy. Yeah that’s right. Manchester United. One of the leading football teams in the world. Winners of the English league more times than any other football team. Champions of Europe three times. Home at the time to stars such as David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy. And about 10 years ago I was there, training at their youth academy.

I should probably point out that I wasn’t there because of my football talents. I had won a competition that included getting to spend a day taking part in a training session at the Manchester United youth academy. It was an incredible experience, living the pro-football star dream for the day, wearing the kit, using their changing room, playing on their indoor artificial grass pitch, eating in their canteen, being instructed by their coaches. But at the end of the day that was it. The training session ended, I left and I haven’t returned. I keep waiting for my phone to call, waiting for them to ask me back to join the first team, but for some reason that call is yet to come through. I guess they lost my number…

Here’s my point – one day experiences are all well and good, but after they end it can be all too easy to go back to normal with no change having happened. Weekend conferences, youth retreats, monthly Saturday night worship services and summer Christian conferences are all very good, but if we just go to the big event and then come home and back to our everyday normality it is just a waste. I don’t know if it is just me, but so often I can come home from these events on a big high, and then the next morning I have classes to go to or an essay to write and suddenly everything is very quickly back to the way it was before. We need to carry what we experienced home with us. Like Moses we need to come down from the mountain top encounters with God and let the people see us shine (Exodus 34:29).

Also don’t pin all your hope on a ‘big event’ to radically transform your faith. Maybe you will go to a conference and during a worship session God will move powerfully in your life and you will never have doubts or troubles again. Maybe during an intercessory prayer session you will get a sense of what you need to do with each day of the rest of your life. But for most of us that won’t happen. For most of us God doesn’t transform us suddenly in an instant in one big event but over a lifetime of many small moments. Yes the big events can act as a kick-start, but Monday morning bible reading and Wednesday evening prayer time is just as important to growing close to Jesus as what happens at the big event. I had my big moment training with the Manchester United youth academy, but if I was to have had a serious shot at a professional football career that one session wouldn’t be enough. I would have needed to have been training at home every day, gradually honing my skills and making sure I was constantly ready. Likewise we need to constantly sharpen our sword of the Spirit and daily “put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that [we] will be fully preparedEphesians 6:15. Don’t just live for big events, but seek God daily.

It is a bit of a cliché that God loves you as you are but loves you too much to leave you as you are. But maybe we need to stop looking for overnight quick-fix transformation and be prepared for gradual reshaping.

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Learn more the author of this post:

Pete McM
The original founder of All4God, Pete is 26, lives in Northern Ireland, is a junior doctor, Ulster fan and is passionate about Jesus