10 Fears of Young Church Leaders

Almost every day, I work with young people preparing for ministry. They are some of the most gifted, committed young adults I’ve ever met in 20+ years of serving as a professor. At the same time, though, they have fears that my older generation must recognize:

  1. They’ll have to minister alone. Often, this concern is a theological commitment to a plurality of leaders. At other times, though, it’s simply a fear that they’ll have to learn ministry without anyone walking with them.
  2. They won’t be able to provide well for their family. They plan to work hard to pay their bills, but they’re concerned they’ll always have to worry about finances.
  3. Their churches won’t grow. Even those who verbally say, “Numbers don’t really matter” still fear that churches will decline on their watch.
  4. They won’t know how to balance everything. They already struggle in this arena, and they’re smart enough to know that full-time ministry employment will make it more difficult.
  5. They won’t have genuine friends in ministry. They’re particularly concerned for their spouses and their children, especially when ministry calls them away from their family. 
  6. They’ll fall morally. They’ve heard so many stories of pastors falling that they fear they’ll be the next in that tragic line.
  7. They’ll hit the wall of “old people who don’t want to change.” They’re often responding more to stories of others rather than their own (in)experience, but their fears are nevertheless real.
  8. They won’t know what to do. They’re beginning to see that ministry is complex, and cultural changes aren’t making it easier. Their ego struggles in admitting it, but they fear they won’t have a clue what to do in many ministry situations.
  9. They’ll make wrong career moves. They know others who’ve made moves resulting in misery and questioning, and they worry that they’ll make the same mistakes.
  10. Their friends will be better known than they are. This issue of pride lurks deep in the heart of a young church leader, but it’s frequently there.

Young leaders, what do you fear? Older leaders, what did you fear most when you were younger? 

9 Comments

  • Mark says:

    Great list Dr. Lawless. I would say this as one who is no longer a younger leader, but someone who isn’t ready to be called an old leader: we may all have many, if not all, the same fears.

  • wcbcpastor says:

    As an old pastor (age 60) most of those fear still exist! However, I have deliberately made friends, and so far – by the grace of God – have managed to avoid moral failure. I still wonder why the older generation is so resistant to change, it bothers me that friends are ‘better known’ than I am, and particularly fear that I have no idea what to do to faithfully lead my church to thrive! So, younger leaders – take heart! You are NOT ALONE in your fears and anxieties.
    Steve

  • Pastor Smith says:

    Thanks for lost Bro. Lawless, not sure if 39 still qualifies for young leader or not, I would say financial stability and not planning well enough for retirement would be at the top of my list.
    The other “worry” that could be mentioned is our own children purposely choosing to walk away from the Lord during their teens and early adulthood years.

  • Pastor Neuendorf says:

    And when every single one of those fears comes true, they will discover that it’s not the disaster they feared it would be. And being humbled, they will be able to return to ministry more like Peter after his denial of Jesus. Ready to serve, knowing it’s not about them.

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