Last week brought the last business meeting from my first year as a lead pastor. God’s been good to our congregation, and it was exciting to outline goals for the coming year. Now I am no master yoda, but here are four simple reflections I have for young pastors.
- When people trust you will bring a clear message from the Scriptures week after week, age becomes a lot less important. If you make really stupid decisions right off the bat, even decent preaching might not save you. However, if the people are growing in God’s word and recognize that you are prepared each week to preach the Scriptures with clarity and conviction – age will not matter. In fact, in my experience your youth will become an asset.
- Be prepared each week, so you can spend time before the service talking to people. One of the great things about Duke Divinity School was that some society (Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Anglican) was always sponsoring some guest lecture. I always liked the lectures where the visiting speaker made time to talk with the listeners outside of the lecture. Even when I didn’t speak with the lecturer, I appreciated the speaker honoring students who gave their time to attend. I assume church people are similar. Even if they don’t get to talk with you that Sunday, they like that just as they take time to hear what you have to say – you are honoring them by making time to listen to their thoughts and concerns. If you doubt the credibility that 30 seconds of listening to 60 different people each Sunday before the service will do you, I encourage you to try it for a few months first.
- Once you get to know the church – and start forming an outlined vision for prayerful change – first change the things the majority of your people also recognize as needing to be changed. For example(s), our church did not have a nursery director. No brainer, everybody agreed we needed a director and assistant director. Or, our youth never attend Sunday morning services. No brainer, family Sundays at the end of each month with a pastor’s children sermon, or some other special item. Few teens involved in music ministry. No brainier, as part of the preparation for summer teen mission trip, participating teens learn to serve musically by being a part of the Christmas program and Easter Cantata. Every time you make a change the body as a whole can easily discern as correct, you build trust for a change that will be unclear to some.
- If you have an opportunity to compromise on a non-biblical issue, discern if God is giving you the opportunity to teach mutual submission by YOU compromising. You are called to lead, but do not be afraid to lead thru compromise at times. Without going into all the details, our church made a big money purchase not long after I got here. The item we purchased was pretty low on my list of church needs. However, a decent sized group of dedicated members really desired the item. These are people who, for the most part, have faithfully given to the church for years. I compromised, and did not try to stop or promote other items. In fact, outside the deacons and a few close friends, most people probably had no idea I didn’t think it was the best decision. Since that time I’ve helped lead the church to change 10 or so things. The church has gone along with each one. I have no doubt compromising on one thing has paid untold dividends. Some things you cannot compromise for biblical reasons and other things you cannot compromise because it would undermine the vision for the church. However, if you can compromise, consider it.
You will not defeat the Emperor or Darth Vader with any of this advice, but it might help make your first year a smooth one.