About five years ago, I did a podcast episode with Tom Freier. Tom had the habit of working hard to improve something and then handing if off to someone younger. In the episode, Tom said, “Leaders need to be more concerned with their legacy than their longevity.” Keep this quote in mind as you read this. The wisdom of the elders is always needed and valuable, but eventually the mantle of leadership must be passed to the next generation.
I probably could have learned this from my mom and dad as well. I was just recently visiting them on the family farm. Mom and dad are both around 80 years old and are thinking about how to end well. They are making sure everything is writing, that long-term care and life insurance premiums are paid, and that the farm is in good hands.
They also recently sold me their pickup…a 2004 Toyota Tacoma with 136,000 miles. They had let me borrow it this winter and now wanted to sell it, and I was ready to buy. After negotiating a fair price, we signed the documents. There is a big difference in how you treat your folks’ vehicle and how you treat your own vehicle…which is similar to how you treat the church. I almost with there was some documents to sign or some kind of ceremony when one generation hands off leadership of the church to the next.
Cleaning out the Junk
First thing I did was wash spray down the pickup. The box and the floor mats had a whole lot of farm in them. I also cleaned out all the little storage places (under the seats, the jockey box, the center counsel).
If folks in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s would take a tour of their church with fresh eyes what would you see? I remember some time ago when it was popular to have secret worshipers help a church do just this. Sometimes we don’t think about what a person would experience when walking in our doors for the first time. Sometimes we look past the peeling paint, the worn out carpet, and the outdated nursery, children, or youth areas. Sometimes we don’t think about how a young person may not get references to Billy Graham or I Love Lucy or the like. I know how difficult it is to get rid of stuff, but sometimes it just needs to be done.
Preserving what is Good
Besides thoroughly spraying it down, I Armor All-ed the interior. I also took it in for an oil change. I organized things such as the jumper cables, the tie-down straps, and the like. This is a great vehicle that I want to last many more years.
Similarly, every church has something special about its culture and legacy that likely needs to shined up or emphasized. I believe the legacy and culture is something God-given to each church to help them reach new people with the good news of Jesus Christ. It may need to be expressed in new ways from time to time, but should it ever be discarded?
Customizing to fit the Current Needs
I added some seat covers, a cover for the steering wheel, and my cassette tapes. These were just the little things that I added that my folks would have never added, but helped make the pickup mine.
In a church, every generation should be part of creating something new. Part of the reason you go through the process of cleaning out the junk and preserving what is good is so that you have space to create. As a friend of mine, Randy Hedge, likes to say, “People support what they create.”
Here is something important, if the current leaders aren’t at liberty to create something new without the approval of the eldest, it’s not their church. It’s still their parent’s church. It is a whole lot easier to leave the church when it isn’t yours.