“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin
It’s safe to say shiny things grab our attention. They draw us in far more than the battered and tattered. But it’s important, as church leaders, we don’t get drawn to the shiny new cars and reject the Yodas and Mr. Miyagis – substituting the new for the tried and true.
Two seminal movies in my youth were The Empire Strikes Back and the original Karate Kid (the version where they used Karate, not Kung-Fu).
Both of these movies had a similar theme – a young man coming-of-age by facing a great challenge of insurmountable odds. Both also had legendary mentors. Empire had Yoda and Kid had Mr. Miyagi.
At first glance, both of these men were unassuming and in the background. Both seemed to be past their prime or even “over-the-hill”. But both of these iconic figures would change the destiny of our heroes, and make them who they ultimately were meant to be.
Many of us can see ourselves, our younger tech worker selves, in the character of Luke Skywalker. We start out as a wide-eyed youth, but quickly realize we’re in over our heads. We don’t realize our true destiny, only look toward the future with limited knowledge.
At some point we tap into our strengths and natural abilities, and realize we have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. Then we get thrust into situations far about our skill and maturity level.
That’s the story of Luke. His leaders were in a desperate situation and Luke was available, willing, and a believer in the cause. But Luke was headed for disaster. Enter Yoda.
When Luke first met Yoda, he mistook him for a crazy alien who just happened to live on the planet Luke crashed his ship into. The encounter seemed random, as Luke was looking for “a great warrior” – not realizing that he was talking to Yoda at that very moment. When Luke finally realized that this was Yoda, he wondered what he has gotten himself into. But he was stuck there, so he decides to give it a go. Yoda’s methods were, to Luke, nonsensical and almost ridiculous. Luke wanted to be “imparted” with the ways of the Force. He didn’t realize Yoda was teaching him the true skill and wisdom he needed to be a true master. The time that Luke spent with Yoda was so pivotal to his growth and to the impact he had on others. Yoda pushed him to be the best he could be. “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” Yoda became Luke’s mentor, friend, and example.
When we met Daniel LaRusso at the beginning of “Karate Kid” he was a young man looking to get a leak fixed. He found the old maintenance man (Mr. Miyagi), who actually scared him a little. When Daniel nearly got himself killed by a gang of his rivals, he learned that the maintenance man he thought was old and crazy was actually a Karate master. Mr. Miyagi rescued Daniel and began to teach him Karate. Like Yoda, Mr. Miyagi’s ways were unconventional to Daniel. Like Luke, Daniel didn’t realize he was learning to be a master through seemingly ordinary tasks. “Wax on, wax off.” “Paint the fence.” “Side to side.” And “Sand the floor,” made it seem like Mr. Miyagi was taking advantage of free labor, but Daniel learned that there was a method to the madness. Daniel was impatient, but Mr. Miyagi, in his wisdom, knew that Daniel had to put in the time. There is no substitute for experience.
Both Yoda and Mr. Miyagi took the long view with their apprentices. They saw their students for who they would be, not for who they were at that moment. Neither Luke nor Daniel could have gain the knowledge and wisdom while honing their skills in the same amount of time without the masters at their side.
While both of these examples are mere pop culture stories, the principles exampled are true to real life success. Every young church tech needs a mentor to help them navigate not only the technical, but also the social and political landscapes of doing church.
The Shiny New Car
Our culture is so infatuated with the “shiny new car”, but cars need to be broken in. They need to take a few laps around the track with an experienced driver who knows where the potholes are and when to take a pit stop. In the same way, young techs need to be nurtured and mentored by experienced techs that have been there and done that. Being a tech or tech director in a church is a difficult job. You need to be a great tech, good with people, and organized. It takes time to learn these skills.
I can tell you from experience that I would not be the tech and tech director that I am today without the Yodas and Mr. Miyagis in my life.
- Jim Lisby, my first youth pastor, who encouraged me to join our traveling choir’s tech team
- Pete Tessitore, who taught me the art of design and installation
- Ken Robertson, who made me a church Technical Director
- Stan Endicott, who is helping me be a better coach
These mentors continue to impact my life and ministry every day. In turn, their influence passes down to those I mentor and coach – building a mighty legacy.
The shiny new cars become better because of the Yodas and Miyagis – the coach and mentor.
So whether you’re the shiny new car (young tech person) or the person hiring that new car, don’t forget to throw a Yoda or Miyagi into the mix. And if you’re that older, battered and torn tech worker, I think what to do you already know.