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Landing Pattern

The United States is the 3rd largest mission field in the world.

Here are two realities:

Reality 1: The United States is the 3rd largest mission field in the world.

Reality 2: Large numbers of pastor-leaders (spouse-leaders and lay-leaders too!) will retire in the next 3…5…7 years. They’re all flying toward a landing pattern transition (or they’ve already landed).

The popular view is that this bunch at this stage typically represents:

  • less effectiveness,
  • less vision,
  • less passion about Kingdom enterprise.

Because they’re in the landing pattern. Even though most of this bunch possess:

  • great wisdom,
  • deep faith,
  • significant relationships in their congregations.

None of these should be allowed to be conscripted to the less effective, less vision, less passion landing pattern assumption. I would propose to you that it’s begging to be leveraged for the discipling of leaders for this third largest mission field and the rebirthing of vibrant communities of faith.

So, younger Leaders! Here’s my ask:

If you’re seeing what I’m seeing? You need to LEAD UP (age wise) and speak a bigger vision into some of these folks! You need to:

  • Get across the table from a couple of them.
  • Look ‘em square in the eye like a poker player that won’t be bluffed.
  • Shove this page across the table at them and say:

I think this is you! You need to be thinking more, more, more in this mission field and not buying into the less, less, less.

OR if it’s YOU in the 3…5…7 year (or less) landing pattern…

It might be an even harder leadership challenge to look yourself in the mirror and refuse to blink and admit that it’s time to retool for a next season (even into retirement) that could be surprisingly refreshing, energizing and fruitful!

It’s far from an emerging trend–yet!–but I can right now think of at least 7 or 8 pastors (and most times their spouses) looking to land in retirement in a few years charting new flight plans and:

  • Discipling “Christian consumers” toward mobilized “mission producers.”
  • Altering congregational trajectories.
  • Exercising simple hospitality with friendship and food in community where the Word of God is given permission to birth faith and change lives.

They’re FOCUSED and having fun.

And here’s what’s crazy! There are people half this crowd’s age who would give their left arm for what they possess:

  • Peace,
  • Wholeness with God,
  • Relationships that work,
  • …and a somewhat unflappable confidence in the face of hardship.

But they have no plans to sit in front of a pulpit to find it!

Blogging begets bluntness here.

To the “landing pattern” crowd! You won’t get there by yourselves. You just won’t be able to make the jump by yourself. You grew up with missionaries going to New Guinea or somewhere far! You won’t make the jump. You’ll get stuck in the pit. You’ll quit.

I know.

It’s like being a fruitful Daniel in Babylon after Judah.

…and you’ll wring your hands. Wish it were different. And as a result you’ll squander what might be your largest legacy in helping the Church set sail toward a new season of great mission vibrancy.

This is simple. It’s just not easy. If it were easy you’d already be doing it.

Finally, to the younger leaders! Got a “landing pattern” pastor or some others OR you’re in the landing pattern “crowd” yourself and you need to look yourself in the mirror?

Seriously. I believe there’s a land flowing with milk and mission field honey if you don’t let the giants scare you away first!

Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

3 Responses

  1. Rich Bimler says:

    Jock…Easter Hoorays as we continue to celebrate “He is Risen”…every day!

    Thanks for your latest post regarding “landing patterns”. You’ve struck a powerful and essential chord that we, the Church, need to work on a “climate change” as to how church and society depicts and the aging process and older pastors and other older adults as well. We need to engage pastors, young and old, in the process of “Aging out loud”! Younger pastors need to be pro-active in intentionally connecting with older church workers to help them sense their continuing value and energies to be engaged in mission and ministry. Youngers need to listen and ask the olders to be mentors and equippers. Olders need to be challenged and encourAGED for continuing ministry opportunities and to know and be shown that they still have a purpose and significant gifts to give and to share. I’d welcome opportunities to help in this intergenerational ministry process. Not to do this continues the pattern of the younger continuing to discriminate against their future selves! Thanks for your leadership and partnership, in the Risen Lord! Rich Bimler, Rich@weraise.org

  2. Larry Wesolik says:

    Jock, When we retired, we were not yet dead. Retirement can provide an excellent to capitalize on experience and strengths which are only obvious because we have made our mistakes. It is a good time to try some new things and open up your heart to the Lord’s ongoing call. So far we have been privileged to prosper and have served seven different parishes in three different states. I retired knowing what I did.do well and sought opportunities to serve using those gifts. I am currently completing training as an Intentional Interim seeking troubled parishes to serve. I know how to support and serve. I know how to lead and influence.

  3. Mark Schulz says:

    Jock … this is such an important post for fellow Boomers approaching or already in retirement. We are being co-opted by a culture which calls us to maximize leisure rather than maximizing legacy. I also completely agree that few will resist the culture and clarify their new calling alone. We will need others to walk with us and give us the courage to keep dreaming for the Kingdom. What about a cohort of just older ministry leaders who know (in the words of Monty Python) that they are “not dead yet”?

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