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?