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“minor” as anger or an argumentative spirit or even a lack of maturity when it comes to what should be left unsaid or unpublished in the social media world.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.