Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What do younger pastors need?

At a denominational gathering one day we were discussing the problems younger pastors face when they begin their ministries. I don't think there is little argument that many pastors were not prepared for pastoral ministry by their seminaries. While a seminary education is a good thing, in most cases, many of them do not adequately prepare someone for the challenges of pastoral ministry. While they may have a basic knowledge of biblical languages and understand the history of their denomination, few pastors leave seminary trained in how to lead a meeting or how to deal with church bullies. Few have a good understanding of how to manage their time or how to set priorities and goals.

So many new pastors find themselves in trouble soon after beginning their pastorate, and we were trying to determine how we could best help them. One suggestion was to help them find mentors.

We wanted to match our new pastors with one of our more seasoned ones. Finding a good mentor can be a rewarding experience  regardless of what one is doing at the time. A mentor is one who has walked where you are going and is willing to share his or her life's lessons learned along the way.

On the surface, it sounds easy to match a mentor to a young leader, but in practice, it's not that easy. We found some new pastors were not interested. They either did not feel they had the time or they did not believe having a mentor would be a positive thing for them.

This is a very short-sighted approach. No, you won't have the time. You make the time. This is an investment in your future as a ministry leader, and like nearly all investments, there is an initial cost involved.

To believe you will not benefit from having a mentor is not just short-sighted; it is arrogance magnified many times over. These senior pastors have experienced many things throughout their ministries. Some good and some not so good. Why not learn from their experiences rather that have to go through them yourself?

When I began my pastoral ministry in the early 1980s I soon found myself in the church office of one of the senior pastors in our association. As we talked about pastoral ministry he related how he had ignored his family while serving the church. I won't go into details, but that failure on his part was now coming back to haunt him.

I left that meeting with this pastor determined to not make the same mistake. My family would be a priority even if it cost me my ministry. The church I was serving had many pastors in its long history, and if the Lord tarried, would have many more after I left. I was the only husband my wife had, and I was the only father my children knew. I would not neglect them in an effort to climb the "ministerial ladder of success." Today, thirty-five years later, I'm convinced that I made the right decision, and that decision was prompted in part because of that meeting with a more experienced pastor.

Find someone to mentor you. Take them out to lunch and pick their brain for an hour or so. Take plenty of notes. If they suggest something, make every effort to do it. A mentor is giving up part of his or her life to invest in you, and they want to see you taking this relationship seriously. If you'll do this, you will learn some things about ministry you'll never hear in seminary. You will be exceedingly glad you did.

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