This past weekend, I spent time with one of my former doctoral students who now pastors a church in Texas. I had a great time with him and his church. As I listened to his church members express their gratitude for him, I remembered how much the two churches I pastored made a difference in my life. Here are some ways I encourage you to support any young leaders on your church staff:
- Pray for them, asking God to give them wisdom and protect them from a fall. All of us need that kind of prayer support, but young leaders are sometimes most vulnerable in these areas.
- Don’t view them as temporary. Of course, few young leaders stay in the same church for their entire ministry; still, don’t assume that every young pastor plans to stay only a few years. Continual statements like, “I know you’re not going to be here long” don’t help a leader settle down and invest.
- Give them time to prepare their sermons. Help them learn good time management and strong ministry skills, but don’t expect them to be so busy doing other things that they have little time left to study.
- Let them learn from their mistakes. They’ll make mistakes—just like we did when we were younger (and like we still do as older leaders). If we don’t love them through their mistakes, however, they’ll never learn.
- Give them time and dollars to continue their education. Your willingness to do so will not only pay dividends for your church, but it will also prepare your pastor and staff for any roles God may have for them in the future.
- Invite them into your home and your life. I speak almost weekly with young leaders who have found it difficult to fit into the church family they lead. They (and more often, their spouses) feel like they remain outsiders.
- Provide retirement contributions for them. I’m deeply grateful now for a leader who encouraged my church to start contributing to my retirement when I was 20 years old. We need to help young leaders who simply aren’t thinking about retirement.
- Encourage (require?) them to take their vacation. Don’t let them do what I did as a young pastor: think I was too important to the work of the church to take any time off.
- Be patient with them. My congregations got frustrated with me more than once, I’m sure. They were much more patient with me than I was with them, though—and I’m a better man decades later because of them.
Tell us stories of churches that supported you as young leaders.