When I began my first pastorate, I was all of 24 years old. I was old enough to lead the annual overnight youth retreat, but young enough that I couldn't rent a van to drive the kids to the campground. The church boards were full of baby boomers, my parents' generation. The other major demographic group was their parents' generation, some of whom had helped to found the church some 50 years before. Each generation had its own way of relating to me. For some, I was like a son, full of promise and potential but with plenty of lessons to learn. For others, I was like a favorite grandchild, the one who had made good choices and wound up a happily married pastor instead of whatever "worthless" things other kids were doing.

Each generation created its own problems when it came to issues of authority. In what sense could I say I was a—even the—leader of a church like this? How could I avoid being a mascot, prized for cuteness and youth but not taken seriously in the pulpit or the boardroom? ...

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