Something very interesting happen to me last week. My church uses Fellowship One as our church database. We’re moving the “members” side of our website to a social media structure that looks a lot like facebook. This will allow people to create profile page, join groups based on affinity or simply virtual groups of existing small groups. The company who created this social media set-up for churches recently partnered with another Church database company and has integrated the database fully with the social media components of the site. So, we has this database company do a demo for us. Their website and sales team promised that they did everything Fellowship One did and more, so it was worth checking out.

Not even ten minutes into the presentation, I began to notice that this software looked and operated very similarly to another software I used at my last church that literally was the bane of my existence (another company that promised that they could do everything Fellowship One could do). Everything was going okay until the presenter got to check-in. This was where the presentation crashed and burned. Right from there, it was a “no go.” We kept asking him questions, asking why it operated the way it did. Eventually the guy responded (kiddingly.. kind of), “You guys are mean!” We decided to let him go further and talk about how it handled groups and the presentation continued to go down the toilet. It was a little embarrassing. The demo ended about 90 minutes early with both parties knowing that this wasn’t going to happen.

However, there were some things this presenter said that have been in my head ever since.

  • When explaining why some things operated the ways they did he said, “listen, we’ve been in the business for 30 years, we know how this stuff works.” Rather than assuring me, this comment left me unsettled.
  • Later he went on to say that the owner of the company, the guy who programed the software, is still there programming away. This statement bothered me as well.

The presenter was trying to sell me on their experience. However, it turned me off. What I saw looked like software that shipped with Windows 3.1 and when he said we’ve been in the business for 30 years, I heard “this product is 30 years old.” When it comes it comes to software, I’m more interested in the upstarts, the college students coding new programs on the bleeding edge. The second statement unsettled me too. My thoughts were, “why is this 50-60 year old guy still coding?” Why don’t they have some fresh out of college kid innovating the code? Heck, why don’t they have a band of 14 year old programing prodigies in India doing this stuff? What was meant to make me feel comfortable with a product chased me away. Actually, just looking at the product did that, it was these “reassuring statements” that made me laugh.

Here’s what has been making me think. With a little bit of pride, I share with people that I’ve been a Children’s Pastor for 11 years. I’ve got some incredible experience. I’ve learned the right way and the wrong way to do all kinds of things. I’ve seen this as a strength. I still think it is, but I need to be careful. With age and experience comes the tendency to cling to old ways, play it safe and repeat what’s been successful. Yes, with experience we have the tendency to become old farts.

I became a Children’s Pastor when I was 19. In many ways I was inexperienced and dumb as a post. I made some stupid decisions that could have gotten someone hurt (or me fired). However, I was good. I was on fire. I had the energy of a… well, 19 year old. There weren’t the resources we have today, so I had to be creative. To be completely honest, the ministry I led as a 19 year old was a heck of a lot more fun as the ministry I would lead as a 31 year old (okay, I’m not really a CP anymore… but you get the point). My good friend Josh (A.K.A. Korndog) who interned for me this summer is every bit as good as I was when I first got started… probably better. What’s his secret? Well, he’s gifted, talented and called, but he’s also 19. He’s not crusty. He’s innovative. When I hang around him and people like him, they draw these good things out of me too.

So, let me wrap this up. Experience is awesome. The best thing that comes from experience is wisdom, maybe a greater opportunity to lead and invest. However, without inovation, you’ll just be an old fart. Either tap into your younger and creative side or surround yourselves with those that think and are that way. Build inovation into the DNA of your ministry and pair it with some good experience and you’ve got a recipe for Awesomeness! You can take that to the bank!