I served as a full-time senior pastor for fourteen years before I joined a seminary faculty. I’ve written elsewhere why I would return to the pastorate (and, in another post, why I wouldn’t return there), but there’s one primary reason why I would go back: the opportunity to invest in young leaders, both laypersons and those called to ministry.
When I started pastoring in 1981, few people were talking about mentoring. Even fewer were doing it, and fewer than that number were doing it well. Most of the young pastors I knew learned ministry the hard way – by doing it alone – and we weren’t equipped to invest in others. Even if we were, the young men in whom we might have invested went away to college and seminary, as on-campus education was the only real option.
That’s not the case anymore. Because of fully accredited, top-level online and hybrid education now available, it’s possible for young leaders to earn their degrees while simultaneously learning at the feet of a godly pastor. That educational choice may not be the best for every collegian, but for some, it provides a life-changing opportunity . . . and I’d willingly and happily be a part of that process.
Here’s what I’d do if I were pastoring:
- Prayerfully ask God to help me connect with young men who want to walk with the Lord. I’d pray first, as He might direct me to men who surprise me. If I can’t find those men in my church, I’d find the nearest university campus and connect with a collegiate ministry.
- Pour my life into these young men, walking alongside them and learning with them how to be a man of God. The benefits are mutual as iron sharpens iron.
- For those interested, help them seek out creative but approved educational and training opportunities. At Southeastern Seminary where I teach, students can earn their entire degree online – and qualified pastors can teach many of the practical hours through our EQUIP program. Other institutions offer similar opportunities.
- Develop a churchwide training program that includes classes, accredited courses, certificates, and degrees. Why not do that when the options to partner with institutions are growing?
- Trust God to use these young men more than He’ll ever use me. Some will enter full-time ministry. Others will be trained laity. Some will take their skills to the nations. All, I pray, will lead others to know and follow God.
Maybe it’s only one or two young men, or perhaps it’s 10-12 of them. Either way, the opportunities today to help them grow spiritually and academically make the pastorate seem much more intriguing. If you’re a pastor, I challenge you to check out the possibilities.