From the Rev: Losing Longevity
The Colorado Rapids recently announced the trade of long-time player and captain Pablo Mastroeni. Mastroeni was the longest-tenured player with the Rapids and served as team captain since 2004. Mastroeni came to the Rapids as part of the Major League Soccer (MLS) contraction which occurred in 2001 and in his letter to the fans, he shares some of what Colorado has meant over the past 12 years.
Some of you know that I serve, also on staff at Cherry Hills Community Church as a pastor in pastoral care. Because of church finances and transition, the church recently had to lay off several employees and a couple of pastors as well. Some at Cherry Hills had served on staff for over 10 and upwards of 20 years. This time of transition is part of a larger transition where Cherry Hills’ Senior and Founding Pastor Jim Dixon, of 30+ years is retiring. The happening of both events are the source of my reflection this week.
There are many reasons why change and transition happens and perhaps the circumstances and timing of the events above are too dissimilar for any great insights; however, as I began reflecting there seemed to be some crucial things that are lost when a person of tenure leaves a longstanding position. Amongst these things is the loss of corporate memory. Corporate memory is the knowledge gained (either through experience or training, etc.) by an organization’s employee. When you let go of an employee (by layoff or trade, for example) you lose the history, problem solving, the “we’ve been here before and here’s how we handled it” type of information which really can be invaluable to an institution. Organizations can hire younger, smarter, cheaper replacements, but they lose the wisdom that is gained through experience.
A second loss is a loss of organizational identity. When you have people who serve you for a long time in a particular role, especially when they do that job well, they start to take on an identity which becomes attached to the institution. Being a Bronco (NFL) fan for most of my life, John Elway was the identity that was attached to my fandom and for most others – the quarterbacks that have followed since have not garnered the same success or place in the fans heart as Elway did for so many years. And Elway was beloved even in spite of his failure (until late in his career) to win the big game, the Super Bowl. His success in bringing two Super Bowl championships to Denver only solidified his place in Denver sports history. Mastroeni will be remembered as captaining the Rapids during 2010 MLS Cup win. The staff and pastors at Cherry Hills who have been laid off or are retiring will be remembered for their work to love and be with people from birth to death and the many spaces of life in between. Losing these people does something to the identity of the organizations they worked for and served for so long.
Another loss that occurs when losing people who have longevity with an organization is the loss of corporate stability. Undoubtedly, athletes age and their abilities to compete are often overshadowed by those younger, faster, and stronger. Pastors and others in different vocations sometimes grow and become better (wiser, more patient, etc.) through time. They are sometimes described like a wine that gets better with age. Although, sometimes longevity can produce complacency as well; however, these individuals bring a sense of stability. They experience organizational highs and lows, they bring emotional balance as they “steady the ship” during difficult times and as they encourage teammates and co-workers, fans and parishioners to “stay the course” in all sorts of moments of organizational struggle or difficulty. Athletes past their prime are still valued for the leadership and influence that they bring to a locker room or team.
There are perhaps more parallels that might be drawn when considering the loss of longevity, and for those reading that are in positions of influence, power, or authority you might find that there are experts out in the field that can speak more to retaining or minimizing the losses that happen during these types of changes or transitions. As a chaplain with the Rapids, my role is to help those that I serve out of the richness of my own longevity (with the club, as Christian, as a father, as a husband, etc.). As a pastor at the church, I still serve, although my tenure is not considerable there yet as these are the defining and shaping moments whereby we learn how to steady the ship and bring a sense of peace and stability to the difficult situation of transition. And when we find ourselves square in the sights of an organization that is cutting ourselves loose after years of service – of course, the place where we can look to without hesitation is to God. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the I Am that I Am – He is the One with true longevity. And He can see us through, even in the midst of such losses. In the Ancient of Days we can retain that sense of corporate memory. In the Image of the Invisible God, we can retain a sense of identity. In the Prince of Peace, we can discover a source of stability. And God helping, we will survive moments of transition when we lose longevity.
Rev. Brad Kenney