10 Misperceptions about Young Pastors

In the past, I’ve written about misperceptions of missionaries and misperceptions of pastors. Because of my love of young pastors, I’ve interviewed and surveyed some of them to learn what they believe are misperceptions of their generation. Here are the primary findings:

  1. “We are only interested in change.” They’ve grown up in a world of continual change, and it’s in some ways all they’ve known – but they genuinely want to lead change for the right reasons. Change just for the sake of change is not their interest.
  2. “We don’t want older mentors.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. These young leaders deeply want an older leader to walk beside them, to hear their heart, and to give them wisdom.
  3. “We don’t care about the history of our church.” Sometimes the speed with which they move may suggest that’s the case, but they really do want to hear and appreciate the stories. They know they ride on the shoulders of others. 
  4. “We only want to climb the ministry ladder.” Some young leaders walk that way, of course, but not all. In the words of one young leader, they may have “holy ambition” – but that’s not the same as vocational ego.
  5. “We’re lazy.” Most young leaders I know work hard, often working multiple jobs to take care of their families while doing their ministry. Those who are lazy typically don’t last long in ministry.
  6. “We think we’ve figured it all out.” Even if they sometimes act that way, they know better than that. Every day they learn more about what they don’t know, and they welcome input from leaders they trust.
  7. “We’re all Calvinists.” That’s simply not the case. Many are, but many aren’t. Many I know who are don’t want to carry that label.
  8. “We aren’t interested in pastoral care.” The problem is not that they don’t care; it’s often that they’ve never closely seen pastoral care done well. Think about it – counseling, hospital visitation, and funerals are anxiety producing when you’re a new pastor. 
  9. “We don’t care about evangelism.” It’s fair to say this generation is deeply committed to discipleship, especially since they’ve seen the product of several undiscipled generations in the church. They may do evangelism differently, but to say they don’t do it is wrong.
  10. “We don’t like denominations.” Indeed, young leaders recognize the importance of partnerships more than some older leaders do. They simply want to work in partnerships that are effective and efficient.   

Young leaders, what other misperceptions would you add? Older leaders, do you agree or disagree with this list? 


  • Brian Doyle says:

    Misperception might be that seminary has prepared you for pastoral ministry. Not so much. My heartfelt counsel to young aspiring pastors is to invest a chuck of your twenties in the marketplace and experience what it is to run a business or work a demanding job for an unreasonable employer or have to hop on airplanes and travel all over the place. You will greatly benefit from this as you head toward pastoral ministry. You will need this to excel in discipling men and shepherding families. In addition, marriage and starting a family will also prep you for equipping and training others. Youth ministry is rarely the best place to prep for the work of pastoral ministry.

  • Trey says:

    In relation to “we think we have it all figured out”, I would say that we are often accused of acting like a mean “know-it-all” who just wants to yell and scream. I do think there is a hint of anger in our voice, but it is mostly directed at ourselves. We’ve grown up asking each other, “what does this text mean to YOU”? in our youth groups and not thinking deeply about Scripture. So when we study at seminary and begin seeing the richness of Scripture, and begin noticing the actual meaning of the text, we almost feel betrayed by ourselves for never seeing those things before.

    It results in a fiery passion for what the Scriptures mean. It may sometimes come across as elitist, but deep down, we don’t want anyone making the mistakes we made.

  • Roger Smith says:

    I have been a senior pastor for 13 years now. I am 38. My age has been the single biggest hindrance to ministry over that time. The older generation literally dismissed me repeatedly simply because I was the same age as their grandchildren. The blatant and intentional disrespect shown just because of my age has me convinced that too many churches live in the past with a very closed mind about what it means to follow God’s lead.

    It isn’t just misperceptions about young pastors but outright rejection. Yes, we want mentors, but mentors who respect us as co-laborers and aren’t just trying to reproduce a caricature of some 1950s era good ole boy. Yes, we may want to move fast but it is because we see the church dying and want to be faithful to our calling, and not to some burnt out philosophy that should have died 30 years ago.

  • Josh Harris says:

    Great post. #2 rang loud and clear. It’s because of my mentors who poured into me, that I feel qualified to serve. 34 year old pastor.

  • Brian Horton says:

    I have been in ministry 22 years, but only about 6 of those years as Senior Pastor. I think a misconception is that young pastors are only interested in reaching young families with kids, or their current socio-economic class. But any pastor worth his salt will know that the NT churches were filled with people of all classes, wealth and health levels, and generations. I am sure some young pastors only want young people that carry his same vision and passion, but a healthy church and a healthy pastor can both have coffee at Starbucks with a Gen X’er as well as tea in the living room with a Boomer.

  • Zach says:

    Myth: “Young pastors don’t want traditional music in the church.” I’m a 33-year old Pastor of Music and Worship at a 178-year old FBC. The other four pastors on staff are all close to my age. Our inter-generational congregation sings together quite well. The repertoire is predominantly classic hymnody (like “Crown Him with Many Crowns” or “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”) and modern hymnody (like “The Power of the Cross” or “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery”), with some gospel hymns (like “Down at the Cross”) and a bit of mainstream worship music (like “10,000 Reasons”) scattered throughout. I’ve also been encouraged recently by my pastor to explore psalm-singing, as instructed for the New Testament church by Paul in Ephesians and Colossians. Our church has a large pipe organ that accompanies the congregation nearly every Sunday. It is true that many young pastors don’t approve of the “tradition” that emphasizes lyrical sentimentality and trite music. However, I think we are in the midst of a hymn resurgence, and many young pastors want to hear and participate in enthusiastic singing of well-crafted, theologically-rich hymns and songs. If presentational music is offered in the service (anthems, solos, ensembles, etc), excellence is valued. For example, a choir that is accompanied by just a live piano might have more of a “traditional” sound, but that is preferred over a pre-recorded and over-produced accompaniment track with studio vocals propping up the sound. It seems as if many senior adults who are suspicious of young church musicians are concerned with preserving a particular style that was popular a few decades ago, rather than encouraging the preservation of the Protestant hymn-singing tradition that endures 500 years after the Reformation. (Side note: it seems like the hymn resurgence has caught on strongest among younger people in mainline denominations, or newer groups that have split off from the mainline, like the PCA and Anglican Church of North America. Change happens slowly in a fellowship as large and diverse as the SBC, and our revivalistic/seeker history emphasizes preferential, emotional music rather than an established canon of hymns.)

  • Chuck says:

    They are not all Calvinist? Great. Glad some withstood the majority teaching in SBC seminaries. There is a huge gulf of distrust in the average SBC church about that issue

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