How high can you climb?

How high can you climb?

Continuing the theme of yardwork from my last blog, this Monday was rhody and tree-trimming time. At one point, I was on a step ladder…with an 18-foot extension lopper…taking off branches that intrude over my roof.

I mentioned this to a friend, who is about my age, who also still climbs ladders. He told me his doctor chastised him for ladder-scampering, informing him there is an age-based algorithm to determine how high a person should climb. I asked him how high he could climb, based upon that algorithm. His answer? “Six inches.” 

Six inches? By that standard, I’ll have to sleep in our garage from now on since my split-level stairs are taller than six inches! 

Listen, I get it. As we age, we are less sturdy, less stable, and heal a lot slower than in the good old days. But six inches? C’mon! I was on my roof the other day (wearing safety equipment!) cleaning out gutters. I’m not ready to be grounded…and resent feeling “nannied” by the “experts.” Surely, with some caution, a few age-appropriate adaptations, and four Advil, I can still perform my appointed duties around the house? Can I get an “Amen” from other still-vigorous empty-nesters? We’re not ready for pasture…not quite yet. Not in my house.

And yet…interestingly…in my “other” house…our church home, I’m watching as more and more of my vintage are imposing their own “six-inch” rule when it comes to appointed “duties.” It used to be that empty-nesters and above were a primary source of volunteers for the diverse ministry areas, especially pertaining to our spiritual grandchildren; things like Sunday School, nursery, Vacation Bible School, and youth groups. In fact, it was empty-nesters and above that provided the lion’s share of all volunteer hours. We are retired, we have the time, voila!

But in the last few years we’ve seen a shift. COVID was part of that. But not all. Fewer of my vintage are stepping into these vital ministry roles. Recruiting volunteers is increasingly hard work. Sometimes it’s the “I just don’t have the energy for that” excuse…kind of a self-imposed “six-inch” rule. But my wife senses a cultural shift. It used to be considered a holy duty and privilege to play the role of spiritual grandparents to younger church families. But Cyndi’s unscientific assessment tells her that “our age” category feels less committed, less devoted to the role of spiritual grandparenting than previous generations. 

But I have some encouraging news on that front. Last Sunday, when I asked for 14 “encouragement-buddies” to help with VBS so that dozens of kids could get off the wait lists, 20 of you stepped up! Way to go! And…16 of those were empty-nesters! Seems at least some of us are raging against the “six-inch” limitation. 

How about all of us? I would love to reach the point where every single member of this congregation, young and old, considers the work of this church to be their responsibility. We rotate…we take turns. No more of that silly 80-20 rule. 100% of us shoulder a share of the privilege of ministry, whatever our age or stage.

How about you? If you’ve slipped into the “I don’t have the energy” or “I’ll leave that to younger people” or “I’d rather play golf” category, would you prayerfully reconsider? Others still play golf, still climb ladders…and still love pouring into the lives of youngsters. Because they consider it a responsibility, yes…but more, because they find it life-giving. You will, too!

Next time an ask comes…how about raising your hand and saying, “My turn! I’m in! Give me the ladder, coach.”

Pastor Mark