[The Concession Stand Series] Part One: I Am Old

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This ‘18-‘19 series is my way of celebrating some of my deepest values leading up to my 50th birthday next spring. The fall series picks out four “concessions” on life’s downers; the winter/spring months will feature “confessions” that drive who I am.

For all the kudos I often receive for my memory skills, let it be known that I received a D- in Statistics during my junior year of high school. I admit that I didn’t like my teacher and I was going through a rough time after my mom died (more on that next month). But nonetheless, I find it ironic that Stats was the death of my math career because I so enjoy “street stats” on an everyday basis. One glance at any of our Standards lists, my annual fall Company-Stats-at-a-Glance, or my personal discipline calendar will give you that impression!

Here are a few stats about my age and my career. First, I’ve now lived 592 months (and two days). The average life expectancy for a U.S. male is about 80 (give or take; see Psalm 90:12). If that holds true for me (and believe me, I do not count on that as a guarantee), that means I only have 368 months left to live! Put another way, if in fact I do live to reach 80, I’m about 62% done with my life on Earth. If my life were a calendar, I’m already on July 15!

Vocationally, I am a living anomaly. Although I can’t really claim my career is truly parallel to anyone else’s, I deem it safe to say that a youth pastor may be a close approximation, with theater director, athletic coach, entrepreneur, and administrator thrown in. But keying off of the first parallel, a 2016 Barna poll stated that the average youth pastor served at a church for 5.5 years. Based on that stat, I’m ancient for youth ministry! (26.33 years of ministerial youth work is 478.73% longer than the Barna average.)

It’s already been a decade since I made significant efforts to duplicate myself and recede behind the front lines of leading daily clubs. Even as I turned 40, I felt the need for fresh faces in the form of hired coaches and less social pressure to be in charge every day. However, a combination of my coaches’ turnover and my own resolve to try to reinvent how I approach my daily front-line work with the kids has seen me return to the front lines in recent years on every day except Ultimate Club. While I admit to a Moses-like reluctance to lead, God has re-confirmed my calling time and time again and given me the strength to do so despite my advancing years (and struggles with perfectionism and self-deprecation to greater or lesser degrees, depending on season and sleep).

On stage at JJ20, I quipped something to the effect that “…my body is like a boat that is springing many leaks, and it’s all I can do to keep up with plugging the holes!” What I meant by that metaphor is that while I’m disciplined in many ways to stay in shape, eat healthfully, and minimize stress, I can’t ultimately beat the aging process. As a quasi-youth minister, I am definitely old. But by God’s grace, I can continue to reinvent myself, and more importantly, my expectations for what constitutes fruitful work and a job well done.

I started as a big brother figure to the Yosemite Sierra Summer Campers in 1989 and then the Wise Guys in 1992. As I turned 30, I was more like an uncle figure. For the last decade, I’ve been called a father figure by some, and I’ve certainly felt that reality in relation to running this “extended family.” Now, on the brink of 50, I do see the day when I could be a great uncle figure or even a grandfather-type. But I’ll say it again: that isn’t guaranteed. I continue running JH by God’s will, not in my own strength or presumption (see James 4:13-17). So I “do not lose heart. Though (my) outer nature is wasting away, (my) inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Welcome to another JUGHEADS year, when we learn and develop together regardless of position, experience, age, or ability in a one-of-a-kind niche for youth.