Do you remember the first time your mom or dad handed you the car keys?
I was 16. I remember the heavy feeling of freedom and responsibility churning in my stomach as I started my mom’s little blue Ford Ranger. The car couldn’t start soon enough, and a new chapter in my life had roared to life with turn of a key. Turning around to back up with a huge smile on my face, I could see the worried look on my mother’s face as I dumped the clutch too soon and killed the engine. My first take off was a failure! But I got going soon enough.
Looking back at that moment through the new set of eyes that only the responsibility of children can bring, I realize how difficult it must have been for my mom to hand those keys of liberty and responsibility over to me.
I’m sure questions like, “Will he come back?” “Did I teach him enough?” and “Will he destroy my new truck?” ran through her mind in the moment it took for those keys to fall from her hand into mine. Looking ahead as a dad, I dread that horrible day. Your whole role as a father involves protecting your children from others and from themselves. Everything about me is bent around protection and safety. These little lives are not just some hobby for me, they are the most important responsibility that my wife and I could have. Imagining the first time my child says, “Hey dad, can I take the car for a spin,” is like imagining being eaten slowly by a baby deer. It’s not a comfortable thought.
Change is not comfortable when it hits us where it counts the most. When we are brought to a the crossroad of giving up what we love and cherish over to someone or something new, untested and perhaps even irresponsible, we find the very essence of fear.
I admire my mom for not giving into her greatest fears when she handed me those keys. Though the thought of her son behind the wheel of something so dangerous had distilled her fears into something very potent, she still trusted me. … She trusted me? She trusted me! Wow.
Look around at your congregation this Sunday. Have the keys been handed over to the next generation? Have you given your baby, the church, over to that kid you used to teach in Sunday school?
They would love the freedom and responsibility. They would love to make mistakes and learn everything on their own for the first time just like you have. The younger folks won’t fight you for the keys because they respect you too much. They would just as soon leave and find a congregation that finds their interpretation of the map refreshing. I have seen churches wrestling with handing the keys over to the next generation over and over again in my last 15 years of pastoral ministry. I feel very blessed to be a part of a congregation right now that is presently and has been handing the car keys over to the next generation.
“Will they destroy everything I’ve built here?”
“Will they get discouraged and quit?”
“Will they survive?”
“Will the church survive?”
I hope that your congregation is wrestling with these questions like my mother did while dropping the keys into my hand. She didn’t lock the keys up—hide them from me. She was a good mom and prepared me for the keys.
Yes, your work might need to be dismantled so the next generation can build with the material. Yes, they might get discouraged and quit, but that’s where you come in. Tell them to get right back behind the wheel. They will need that after their first accident. Yes they might die and the church might die, but so will you, and we are a people of resurrection. Churches cannot really ever live unless they practice death. Unless a church appreciates death and no longer fears the thought of it, it can never truly be a living church.
So find the faithful next generation in your church waiting for freedom and responsibility and prepare them for the car keys. Don’t be a backseat driver. Be an encouragement and enjoy the ride to new and exciting places! If you have any questions call my mom.