Being in ministry at a young age can be daunting. Often times, young men dive head first into a ministry role (typically working with youth is an entry point for any wet-behind-the-ears pastor) with a swagger and confidence that screams, “I’m gonna change this church MY way!” At least, that was my mindset. Successes and failures come, heartache makes you want to quit, growth makes you want to pat yourself on the back, and everyone in the church has “advice.” The fact is, ministry is never as it seems. Your bad days are sometimes the days that you grow the most (unknowingly), and the good times are always sweeter than expected.
The hardest part for me was the disadvantage that comes with being the youngest guy on the staff. No matter how much you read or how much experience you have (I served in four significant vocational ministry positions by 25), many of the staff and congregants will not take you as seriously as you’d like. As an elder and multi-functional pastor at several churches, there were times where I felt hesitant to speak into meetings or general conversation because I wasn’t sure that anyone would heed my opinion. Fortunately, the other leaders respected my voice but, trust me, it’s difficult to tell a 40-year old pastor, “I told ya so.” When I get the opportunity to preach and/or teach, I have to try and use the experience that I do have as the backbone for my message so that people don’t tune me out. As much as I’ve read about and would love to teach on parenting, I’m not a parent and would be ignored even if my sermon is spot on. And on and on it goes.
All this to say, there is hope for the young pastor. Here is some advice to young pastors from a young pastor:
- Trust the Lord – For whatever reason, God has placed you in this position. Whether you are a youth pastor, single’s pastor, or the lead preaching pastor, God has allowed you to do so. Pray, pray, pray. You will be looked at sideways and tuned out at times, but God will place his Word on the hearts of those it is intended for.
- Heed Paul’s Words in 1 Timothy 4:12 – “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Regardless of detractions, set an example to even the older crowd in your church. Do not be defensive or arrogant, simply teach and live doctrine and love. Be a Christian first and a pastor last; this order of things will work itself out beautifully. If you’re loving Jesus and living for him, your life will outflow into your ministry. People will notice.
- Listen to Advice – You won’t always take it or put it to use, but advice from older men, more seasoned ministers, and (gasp) even the little old ladies that storm your office all week is invaluable. You cannot learn everything from books or podcasts and the best teacher is almost always experience. Take full advantage of any criticism or counsel you can get your hands on.
- Persevere – Ministry at any level can and will crush you at times. You can have strong theology and talent, but you are an emotional human being who will take a beating regardless of how strong you are. As Matt Chandler once reminded me, pastors spend all week dealing with other people’s sins and it can absolutely wear you out. Young pastor, grab ahold of Jesus’s grace and immerse yourself in it. Your greatest weapon is the endless grace of God and a great salvation that only he can provide.
This is an adaptation of something that I previously wrote for SBC Voices.