“So what can I do right now?”
By Sam S. Rainer III
I recently had coffee with a young(er) minister. He asked a great question: What can I do right now? The young minister (he’s around 20) wanted to know how he could lead better. Starting today. He caught me a bit off guard. After all, leadership is learned and refined over time. Pastors spend years growing. He knew that, but he also wanted to know what could be done immediately.
I’m not that far removed from being a “young” pastor (at 35, many might still categorize me in this way), but I have learned — some things the hard way — from pastoring for 10 years. There are a few practices young ministers can do right now that will help them grow immediately. Here are three leadership practices I shared with him.
1) Learn to love people much older than you. If you start pastoring in your 20s, then you have a couple of decades in front of you in which many of the people you shepherd will be older than you. Not every person 50 years older than you will offer their trust, nor should they. Also, don’t expect to connect with everyone right away. You won’t. That’s reality. You’re young, and probably a little weird. But you can choose to love people immediately. Your church will know it, and that’s important.
2) Say “yes” to almost everything. If you’re in your early-20s to mid-20s and single, then you have more free time right now than you ever will. Fill it with edifying work, not video games. When your direct ministry supervisor asks you to do additional work, say “yes.” You may not get your “ideal” opportunities at first, but you don’t deserve them anyway. If your senior pastor offers to invest in you, then agree. If someone asks you to preach, then cancel the Frisbee golf outing with your buddies. You are in a season of life where you can do this. Eventually, a spouse and children will have priority (and should), but do as much ministry as you can while you can. Saying “yes” today will help you learn new things for tomorrow.
3) Lead evangelistically. Every pastor should lead in this way, but not every pastor does. Go ahead today and start creating a pattern in your own life where you constantly share the gospel. You should not only immerse yourself in the culture of your local church (see point #1), but you should also be in the thick of the culture outside of the church. By the way, those two cultures can be worlds apart. Show your church what a passion for evangelism looks like. You won’t regret it, and your passion just might be contagious. Evangelistic churches have evangelistic pastors. An evangelistic congregation without an evangelistic shepherd is quite rare.
I’m encouraged about the future of the church. I’ve had the opportunity of meeting and mentoring several young Millennial ministers. Will there be enough of them to lead North American Christianity out of its stagnation? Perhaps. There is no way to know right now. But these three leadership practices are things young ministers can do right now. And we’ll all be better if they do.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog,samrainer.wordpress.com.