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When I was a kid, Saturday morning was chore day. My dad would say, "C'mon, kid," and I'd hop in the station wagon, and we would drive down the street to Hooper Wolfe's hardware store.

Hooper Wolfe's had an old wooden door, painted white—except where the paint was worn off near the handle. Walk in, and you could hardly move. Two narrow aisles, counters filled with merchandise, shelves overflowing, stuff hanging from the ceiling: You'd think, No way am I going to find anything in here.

But you didn't need to. As soon as you walked in, Clarence from behind the counter would say, "Help you today?"

My dad would say something like, "I want to hang a light out back."

Clarence would emerge from behind the counter.

"Where ya gonna to hang it? Over the patio? Well then …" And he would start rummaging through shelves until he found just the right light—"you want a light like this. And don't use these bolts here; they're good for indoor stuff, but for outdoor, you want galvanized."

"Your wall is brick, isn't it?" Clarence asked. (Though our town was small, I was impressed he knew what our house was made of). "Well, to run the conduit through there, you want a masonry drill bit at least ¾ of an inch. If we don't have that in stock, you can get one over at Miller's Lumberyard."

Then Clarence would pull a flat carpenter's pencil off his ear and get out a little piece of paper and sketch it all out. "The conduit goes here … and make sure you don't mount the light too close to the soffit."

Goodbye, Clarence

Today, when I do chores on Saturday, I head to Home Depot. Unlike Hooper Wolfe's, where you had to parallel park on the street, I pull into an ocean of parking. Inside, the Home Depot holds 80 times the inventory of Hooper Wolfe's. It sparkles under bright, halide lights.

There's a guy in an orange apron—half a block away. If you can get to him, he's likely to say, "Sorry, I usually work in paints. I'm just covering in electrical because someone called in sick." So you're pretty much on your own.

A similar thing has happened in the American church. We can offer programs with Disney-level quality and technological sophistication. But something's missing: Clarence. We all need a Clarence, someone who knows more than we do and who will guide us toward our next growth step in Christ.

At least this is what people in my church keep telling me. A steady stream of 20-somethings and 30-somethings come to my office; sometimes even they aren't sure why. What they really want, it turns out, is a mentor, a spiritual director—well, a pastor. They are hungry for a wiser, mature adult to help guide them in faith and in life.

Sure, they have scores of digital "friends," but what's missing is analog—a slow, listening, ...

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Kevin A. Miller is associate rector of Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois.

From Issue:Transformation, Summer 2012 | Posted: July 30, 2012

Also in this Issue: Summer 2012

Coming Clean

Coming Clean

Confession is good for the soul--and the souls of those you lead.
A Bigger Toolbox

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Spiritual growth demands using a variety of practices.
Blessed Self-Forgetfulness

Blessed Self-ForgetfulnessSubscriber Access Only

True growth happens when we take our eyes off ourselves.

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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Oun Kwon

September 27, 2012  11:34am

May I add one: Don't ever think you are teaching others, be they family members or students, lay persons. It is they who are learning. Let them learn and let them help learn. When I am reading the N.T. it struck to me what Yeshua was doing during His life. "Teaching"? A teacher par excellence? "Preaching"? A powerful preacher? I don't buy it. It's His INVITING them and CHALLENGING them to see Him and have them learn. He never gave an order or command or commandment - all of military and authority image. He did not order 'love others', He told to 'be loving others' - becoming a person loving others as He is. It's about transforming 'self' after Him, not giving out 'laws' 'commandments'. Don't order your children to obey parents. Let them be obeying parents. Let them becoming persons with spirit of obeying respecting loving parents. Same for the spouse. It's not 'love you wife', it's 'be you loving your wife'. We need to be radically transformed after our Lord.

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August 10, 2012  4:56pm

Great wisdom for the care of souls. This is a keeper. Thank you.

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Paul Farrell

August 05, 2012  9:51pm

Thank you for your article -- as a Scoutmaster of a faith-based boy scout troop (with no pastoral training) it helps me to think about better ways of talking with the parents and the scouts, too.

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Linda Patterson

July 31, 2012  4:35pm

Great food for thought. As the Director of a transitional shelter for women, I am tasked with loving the unlovable and I don't always see the fruit of the labor. Sometimes that can be discouraging and I've been praying a lot lately for wisdom to help those who serve to not be discouraged. This article provides some ways I believe to help.

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