Lessons Learned From Cycling About Aging In Ministry – Part 4

Back on Monday I began writing about some of the lessons I had learned about aging in ministry while out on a bike ride with a good friend in Lancaster.  Today I conclude those thoughts with part four, and focus on two final thoughts that came to me that day.
We All Go Through Seasons and Can’t Expect To Always Ride the Same Way
I returned to cycling back in 1997ish.  I rode a bunch in high school and a little in college but then stepped away for a while.  At the nice young age of about 29-30, a friend of mine, Walt, informed me that instead of driving to the shore with his family and ours,for the week, he was going to ride down. I asked if he was riding a bike there (about 60-65 miles).  He said, “yes.”  I didn’t know Walt to ride regularly so I asked him if he did.  He said he hadn’t ridden much in about 5 years but thought it was going to be a nice week and was going to give it a shot.  Being young and foolish and still in decent shape, I told him I’d ride with him.  We both made it without much trouble.  It was a great and my door back into  the wonderful world of cycling.  Fast forward about fifteen years.  I can’t just jump on a bike after a year or even a month or two off and throw down 60 miles. It doesn’t work that way any more.  A Similar reality manifests itself even throughout a normal season.  Some days you can ride longer and harder.  Other days you just don’t have the time or the energy.  As I’ve gotten older as a cyclist, I’ve realized that I need to stop beating myself up for not being able to do what I once was used to or even what I was able to do last week.  We all go through seasons and we should fool ourselves into thinking that we don’t change with the seasons.
The same is true as we get older in ministry.  I simply cannot run at the same pace I used to when I was 20.  Not as far.  Not as long.  Not as fast.  And that’s OK.  They key is learning to read and understand the seasons we are in so that we can properly pace ourselves and still get to the finish line.  There are always seasons that are crazy and hectic in ministry, certainly there are in youth ministry.  And there are some that get that way for your family, too.  We need to learn to read them and run them properly.  For instance, I’m learning that I can run in ministry at an almost full-out sprint for about 4-6 weeks straight.  But after that, I need to rest, take it slower, exhale for a week or two or three before I can pick up the pace again.  So I build those seasons into our calendar – slower ministry times or vacations follow fast-paced, leave-it-all-on-the-table periods of ministry.  In fact, our youth calendar is just now hitting a slower pace after the start of the new year and before the holiday schedule begins to consume life again.  As I settle in for a few weeks while I recover and prepare for the next sprint, I will head off for a few days of vacation with my son and my brothers and then a week with my wife.  Seasons require run-walk-run-rest . . . We weren’t designed to sprint the entire race anyway, and as we get older in ministry we need to learn how to read and manage these seasons well if we are to keep from burning out.
The Right Accessories Make Riding Better
OK, moment of complete honesty: cycling clothes are not flattering, especially on guys, especially on older guys, especially on guys who are ripped.  Spandex is not flattering on most people.  But, if you want to ride better and longer and with a lot less pain, discomfort and other side effects, you’ll ride in those spandex cycling short with the padding, you’ll wear a goofy helmet to protect yourself, and you’ll wear those weird shirts so you can actually stuff things like snacks into those pockets so you can easily access them while riding.  Can you ride without the right clothes?  Yes.  Can you ride better (overall better) with them? Yes.
What are we “putting on” as we grow older in ministry?  Are we “putting on” God’s Word? The Fruit of the Spirit?  or are we still comfortable in trying to do it all in our own strength?  I know, we’re never supposed to do it in our own strength regardless of our age.  But let’s be honest.  When we’re younger, we have a tendency to start out that direction.  We’re young – we can make this happen.  Hopefully as we’re growing older in ministry, we’re maturing as well.  And part of that maturity process involves seeing that we really need more and more time in the Word, that we need to walk in the Spirit, that we need Him to fill us every day, that we need to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.  It doesn’t just happen and without it, we won’t be able to minister well and there’ll be more “pain.”  As we grow older we are hopefully learning to put on the right stuff so we can serve, shepherd, lead better.
Well, that’s what I came up with during that ride with Jeff out there in Lancaster.  That day taught me a few valuable lessons about aging as a cyclist but helped remind me of even more valuable things as I continue to grow older serving our God.  The goal is to finish well.
What lessons have you learned about aging in ministry?

Lessons Learned From Cycling About Aging In Ministry – Part 3

Yesterday I spent some time talking about my bike and some of the reminders it has lent me concerning aging in ministry.  As I look at the next two parallels that came to mind on that August ride with Jeff, the first one beckons back to the bike itself.
Stop Looking To Always Upgrade Your Ride & Enjoy The One You Have
I mentioned yesterday that the Cannondale that I am currently riding is about 15-20 years old.  Now, I am like most guys.  I like toys.  I read Bicycling magazine every month.  I go to bike shops.  Yes, I drool over those sweet carbon frames that weigh less than the jeans I’m wearing today.  My eyes get big when I see these new, sleek, gorgeous, shiny bikes.  I sit and think about how I can come up with $3000 or more to buy a new bike – one that is certainly more bike than I need. But, they’re so sweet. Lust is always a problem for guys.  And I’m not even talking about women.  We lust and we covet new stuff, new toys, new gadgets.  We tend to like stuff.  And in that sin we tend to forget to be grateful for the things that God has provided.  I don’t need a $3000 bike (after all, $2000 would really buy just about what I want).  My Cannondale is perfectly fine and a huge improvement over the steel-framed Trek I had.  And the wheels I have – they’re good, too.  So are the Shimano 105 components.  I really don’t need $1000 wheels and Dura-Ace equipment (if you’re not into cycling, just ignore the tech talk).
Why is it that even in ministry, we tend to always think the grass is greener somewhere else (someone once said the reason the grass looks greener is because there’s a lot more manure spread there)?  Why do we always think that, especially as we get older, that we better make some moves to “move up” before it’s too late?  Maybe we need to learn and practice contentment.  Maybe we need to bloom where we’re planted.  Maybe we need to let God move when He wants to move, and otherwise stay put and enjoy the ride He has put us on.  Let’s stop looking to always upgrade.  You know, every upgrade costs something – time, energy and money.
Having Someone Riding With You Who Knows The Way Is Helpful
I lived in Lancaster for a year and a half.  I didn’t do much exploring during that time.  I was too busy finishing up schooling to be out riding a bike around.  So as much as I love riding in Lancaster because it is so peaceful, I really have no idea where I am going out there unless I’m on a major road.  I could mount my phone to the handlebars and get the GPS going.  But riding with someone who knows where he is going is much more helpful.
As those of us who are getting older in ministry, we have an obligation to help show the way to those behind us who are younger.  On the other hand, we need to be engaged with someone who is older than us and has gone before us and can help us figure out where we’re going.  I think it behooves us to always find ourselves being mentored and mentoring at the same time.
Well, tomorrow is my day off so I won’t be posting the fourth part of these lessons.  But look for them on Friday as I try to unpack the parallels between cycling and aging in ministry by looking at ::
Seasons and Accessories

Lessons Learned From Cycling About Aging In Ministry – Part 2

Yesterday I began writing about some of my thoughts about cycling and aging in ministry from a ride with a friend back in August.  As we rode along that day, we passed very few cars.  In fact, I’d guess that, with the exception of the one main road we crossed, I saw less cars on the rest of that ride than I see in the first half mile when I ride at home.  It is so much more relaxing riding out in Lancaster.  The one thing we did see more of than cars (or even Amish horses and buggies), were other cyclists.  One thing you should know about me and Jeff.  Neither of us ride the latest and greatest rigs.  In fact, they’re both pretty old.  Jeff rides an old steel LeMond with Campy equipment.  My ride is one I ended up snagging from one of our former pastors here at the church when he upgraded.  Its a 15-20 year old aluminum Cannondale.  Its got some corrosion going on under some of the paint, but it’s stiffer and snappier than my former steel Trek 370 of about the same age.  As I pushed along over the rolling hills on my Cannondale, some thoughts about equipment and ministry came to mind.
Cycling Requires Maintaining Your Equipment
To keep your bike going and in good riding shape, there is regular maintenance that you must keep up with.  Stuff like keeping your chain well lubed, making sure your tires are in good shape, keeping bearings greased, maintaining tire pressure, etc. In addition to the regular maintenance, riding an older frame that has some corrosion going on, it is imperative that I regularly check the frame for cracks or other problems that may arise.  Ignoring any of these regular checks could result in a major crash or accident.
The parallels in ministry are probably obvious.  We must maintain our relationship with the Lord.  We must be students of the Word.  We have to prioritize time in prayer with our Father.  In addition, we need to make periodic checks of our lives to make sure that there are no cracks that need attention.  Far too many youth workers have crashed and burned because they don’t check for those cracks.  Those cracks can be major such as lust or as “minor” as anger or an argumentative spirit or even a lack of maturity when it comes to what should be left unsaid or unpublished in the social media world.  Even those little cracks can cause catastrophic results.  personal leadership in this area of maintenance is essential for youth workers.
Sometimes Your Equipment Has To Change With You
When I got back into cycling about 16 or so years ago, I went out a bought a new road bike – my Trek 370. Being in my late-20s, I slowly upgraded that bike to reflect what I had hoped I would become as a cyclist.  I put on racing gears.  I got a handlebar stem that got me low and stretched out.  I thought I would be riding hundreds of miles a week and be in amazing shape.  It was quite the little fantasy world I was living in.  Youth ministry and it’s crazy schedule prohibited me from putting on hundreds of miles every week.  Living in the Northeast also keeps that from happening year round.  And then kids came along and fatherhood ate into saddle time.  I never did ride myself into the shape I had fantasized about.  And now 16 years later, in my mid-40s, my back is stiffer and my knees always ache.  I don’t want to push those stupid racing gears up a hill anymore tearing up my knees and my legs.  My back can’t handle that low, stretched-out position for all those miles anymore.  So when I got the Cannondale a year or so ago, I started making some changes to that as well.  First, a wider cassette in the rear to allow for easier gears when climbing hills.  The stiffer aluminum frame helps climbing as well. Next will be a compact crank. Second, a more upright stem to relieve some of the pressure on my back.  Fitting the bike better to where I really am at has actually helped me ride stronger now than I have in years.
As we age in ministry, we need to change.  Times change.  We change.  Culture changes.  Students change – often times from year to year.  Riding the same old programs, doing things the same way we’ve always done them just isn’t going to work.  Resting on what we studied and read fifteen years ago when we were in Bible college or seminary just doesn’t cut it.  Many leadership gurus will tell you that leaders are learners, and the moment you stop learning, you stop leading.  We can’t do what we did fifteen or twenty years ago.  Things have changed.  Hopefully you’ve changed, too.  Adjust. Keep learning.  make sure what you’re doing fits who you are today and the reality of the world you do ministry in today.
Tomorrow we’ll continue looking at some of these parallels between cycling and again in ministry that I discovered on that beautiful ride in August.

Lessons Learned From Cycling About Aging In Ministry

Back in August while my family and I were on vacation, we spent a day or two with some good friends out in Lancaster, PA.  Jeff and I took advantage of one afternoon and went out for about a 30 mile bike ride together through the beautiful and serene landscape that is Lancaster County – farms, rolling hills, covered bridges, hardly any traffic.  It was a great workout but, at the same time, a relaxing ride.
As I rode along, I enjoyed good conversation with a friend I don’t see nearly enough.  But there were also times of quiet as we just churned out the miles.  In those quiet moments I started thinking about everything that I loved about cycling.  At the same time I was thinking about ministry and I started seeing some life/ministry lessons that I could learn from my ride and from cycling in general.  So over the next several days, I will try to make some sense out of those thoughts that percolated in my mind that day as we rode along.
Cycling with friends is more fun than riding alone.
I usually ride alone.  But every now and then I ride with someone else – like Jeff on that beautiful day this past August, or with my wife (now that she’s messed up her knee and isn’t supposed to run), or my buddy, Wayne.  There’s nothing like rolling along and enjoying good conversation, laughing, and even struggling together up a climb.
Ministry is the same way.  It is much more fun when you do it with others.  I spent some of my very early years in youth ministry doing it alone.  Twenty-seven years later I couldn’t imagine ever doing ministry alone again.  The friendships, laughs, memories that are made with others as you serve together are priceless.  The struggles that you go through together make each of you stronger.  There is no room in ministry for Lone Rangers.  It is much better, much more fun doing youth ministry with others.  Don’t cheat yourself of that joy.
Tomorrow: Maintaining your equipment, and growing with your equipment.