I listened intensely today as I heard a great, mature preacher talk about the influence of his pastor as he grew up. This pastor gave a young man time, energy, and prayers – and now decades later, this preacher remains grateful and faithful. Here’s why we pastors must invest in at least a few young people:
- Jesus invested in a particular group of people. I know this reason is an obvious one, but it still matters. Jesus chose 12 men, poured Himself into them, and trusted them (all but Judas) with the work after He left.
- Paul did discipleship this way, too. He mentored Timothy, who apparently struggled with youthfulness, timidity, and health issues. Still, Paul could end his ministry knowing that Timothy would carry on the work.
- God is still calling out young people, but they have few “up-close” examples. They see their pastor as the one who preaches to them every Sunday, but they seldom get intentional discipling time with him. The result is that we’re sending out young pastors who aren’t sure what pastoring looks like.
- A strong pastor who loves young people can change their lives. I still remember my pastor’s allowing me to visit prospects with him, and those days are almost 45 years ago. He gave me a love for the Word and a desire to reach people.
- Even Christian young people need mentors to help them stand for truth. Cultural mores are shifting under our feet, and even the young people raised in our churches are not immune to going in the wrong direction. They need someone to help them set up their guardrails.
- Many young people are longing for an adult Christian to give them time. I’ve seen this desire in the students I teach and in young people in churches I’ve led. We assume wrongly if we assume all young people are uninterested in following Christ.
- Our ministries extend beyond us when we “call out the called,” invest in them, and send them out. Again, I’m reminded that this is what Jesus and Paul did.
So, where do we pastors begin if we want to invest in some young people? Here are a few simple suggestions:
- Pray, asking God to guide you to the right people. That’s what Jesus did before He called His 12; in fact, He prayed all night long.
- Watch for young people who hang around you or who exhibit some evidence of a desire to follow Jesus well. The young people you might invest in may well already be within your arm’s distance. If you don’t have any young people in your church, consider talking with other pastors to help them invest in somebody.
- Take a couple of young people to lunch. Learn about them. Hear their stories. Give them your undivided attention – and see where the Lord may take those potential discipling relationships.
- Take a risk, and begin spending regular time with a young person interested in following Christ. I can’t tell you exactly what to do, as every relationship is different—but spending time just studying the Word and praying together is a great start.