Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a dog streaking across an open lot in the residential neighborhood where I am walking. Despite its speed, the animal abruptly skids to a stop, artfully scoops up an object, and races back in the direction from which it came.

That’s when a middle-aged man comes into view. The retriever plays hard-to-get with a rubber ball before dropping it near the man’s feet. Without waiting for the ball to be picked up, the dog takes off in the direction that the projectile will soon be thrown. Within seconds the prize is once again claimed. The runner tirelessly heads back toward the starting gate.

As I watch several rounds of this game, I ponder what makes a good partnership and the ways in which roles change over a lifetime.

As a young leader, I ran tireless circles around the more mature members of our church staff. I scoffed at strategies for conserving or channeling energy. I was fast, although admittedly, not always smart. I wondered why others didn’t run as hard as I did. I sometimes pictured the more sedentary leaders in our city moving out of the way so those of us with youth and speed could achieve what we were created to do.

As the years have slowly advanced, I find myself relating more and more to the other side of the partnership. These days I still love the game, but I find greater pleasure in strategizing where the ball goes. I marvel at those with boundless energy and admirable speed, but I am satisfied with anchoring key partnerships with steadiness and wisdom. I sometimes find I’m needed to set boundaries for the game or make the call when it’s time to put the play to rest.

Looking across our Texas District I see partnerships that thrive because of their diversity. I thank God for young pastors and Directors of Christian Education working alongside seasoned senior leaders. I applaud the patient coaches and trainers and network leaders who bring discipline and direction to high-energy efforts. I marvel at those who are able to run tirelessly for long stretches at a time — as I once did — starting programs, launching churches, leading classrooms, and unleashing the next generation.

Don’t try to be something you’re not. But also, don’t give up. We need you.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

By Rev. Pete Mueller, Area C Mission Strategist