The past few years I have often thought on how I need to be taking the place of those who have gone before me spiritually, and how I need to training those who come behind me to take my place.
We all need to grab the baton from those who run the lap ahead of us and pass the baton to those who are running the lap after us.
I remember distinctly the first time I thought of this analogy of passing the baton in the spiritual race. I had gone to visit a charter member of our church in Illinois in the hospital as she was dying. She lay there in the hospital bed praising God for all that He had given her. I left the hospital feeling encouraged and blessed for being able to hear this dear saint of God and her love for her Savior. Because I had grown up in the church, I also knew the sacrifices this family and other charter members had given so that the church could start. They co-signed their houses to the bank so that they could get a loan for property to build the church. They sometimes had to pay the utility bills out of their own pocket. They had to commit to tithing so that they could pay a pastor. They were faithful servants who took their local church seriously. I remember thinking, “Would I be willing to do what they did?” There were in their 30’s with small children. They were not rich, but they were willing to sacrifice their finances, time, and talents for God’s church.
That year almost all of our surviving charter members passed away. I was struck with the realization that it was time for my generation to become what those saints of God had been for my generation. They were no longer around. If I didn’t do it, who would?
The past few months, I have had several conversations with others about how we need to be passing the baton.
There are many concerns that we see in this generation. These concerns are so pervasive, that most pastors are all discussing the same issues. A missionary friend of mine was just on furlough traveling the country and giving his report to his supporting churches. In the most recent prayer letter, he remarked that many of the pastors talked about the same struggles. Here were just a couple of the ones he mentioned:
- More difficult to reach youth and young families
- Less commitment to church
Last week I was picking the brain of an active senior man who has a doctorate in education. He is a man that can teach any age group, and all of the age groups love him. I have him close out my VBS program where he talks to kids that are 4 years old to 12 years old — all together. He will teach the Senior Citizens class, and they love him. He was talking about the dedication of the generation that has come before me. How they were “all in.” My church’s attendance is comprised of 60% of these 65+ saints who are “all in.” They are our prayer warriors and our givers. Then we have a group of us in our 40’s-50’s who are also “all in” and we are running the programs and serving to the best of our abilities.
But how do we get the teens and the 20’s -30’s to be “all in”?
How do we pass the baton so that when we are not here, the ministry goes on?
That is a topic that could take many weeks to discuss, but here are a few thoughts that maybe can become ideas for later blog posts!
- It starts at home by discipling our children to love the Lord with all our hearts and minds. I just started reading the book Becoming MomStrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith by Heidi St. John. I am loving it! It talks all about how we need to fight for our kids — spiritually, and how we need to have a real faith ourselves that we can pass to our kids. If our own faith isn’t strong, then how can we pass it?
- We need to have a culture of discipleship in our churches. Our church has just started a church-wide discipleship program. All of the adult and teen Sunday School classes have been studying through abook so that we can then turn around and start discipling someone. If you don’t emphasize the need for training those who come behind you, then how are they going to get trained?
- Train the young children to know what ministry is. Our church uses our teens because we need them! They are our VBS program. They are half of our choir. They work in our nursery, and they help clean up after our potluck lunches. They are most of our special music, they help run the sound booth and much more. They know how to serve, because we couldn’t do it without them.
- Have life-on-life ministry. This can look different in different churches. In our ministry, we have 80-year-olds who volunteer at our school. We have a senior citizen Bible study and luncheon on Thursdays, and the kids at school all eat with them. Our ladies Sunday School class started out for widows, but now has two 40-year-old married women, a few 60 and 50 year-old-married women, one high school senior, and one college student. I love it!! If the kids feel like they fit, why would they leave? And when they see the real faith of some of these older Christians, how could their hearts not be touched?
I’m sure there are many other things we could do to pass the baton successfully. Maybe I’ll continue to update this post as I meditate more on this topic. What do you do in your life and ministry to pass the baton to those who are coming behind you?
A few of my favorite posts from last week includes:
- Give Your Adolescent the “Empathy Advantage” from Navigating the Years
- True Beauty from The Diligent Woman
- Growing in Grace through Soul Friendships from Soul Refreshed Journey
- When you’re a disappointment… from Simply Living Love
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