Yesterday I wrote a very brief address to be read at the final worship service of the first church I served as pastor. I was only there three years, and that was 12 years ago. Still, it didn’t feel good to write. Something I had a hand in leading is ending, and that’s not what the people who gave themselves to it wanted. But it’s reality.
I found myself ruminating on the “redevelopment” grant we got. Writing the application was one of my first projects as pastor. We used it to hire a young contemporary music director and a seminary student youth worker, so the entire staff was under 40 for nearly two years. Then, within a span of six months, we were all gone. Youth was not the most urgent variable in that equation, though it sure felt like it.
Most days I felt like everything I was doing to lead that church was wrong, that where I spent time on the things I had been trained to do, preparing sermons and visiting with congregants, I should have been launching enterprising new initiatives in the community. The weight of my own expectations was heavy. It was measured in the pounds of books on my shelf about “missional” leadership and its promises.
I appreciate more than ever the many complicated forces affecting the viability of churches in North America today. Thinking about the closing of this one causes me to lament an emphasis on youth and novelty where wisdom and experience are sorely needed.