An old friend and I were having one of those conversations that old friends (or married couples) repeat regularly:
Brian: “It’s so hard to be a young pastor! There are so many landmines, so many ways to get in trouble!”
Old Friend: “The young guys have all the energy; the old guys have the wisdom and experience.”
Brian: “Yeah, by the time we get the wisdom to use our energy well, we’re too tired to put it to use.”
Old Friend: “It’s too bad we can’t get reincarnated with our accumulated knowledge, able to combine the wisdom of old age and the energy of youth.”
The conversation went on to explore the possibilities: Pastors in training could be locked in the simulator and subjected to a variety of real-life, pastor-church scenarios. The whole unit could be rocked back and forth, even turned upside down, or the problematic situations themselves might be deemed sufficient to “rock” the pastor’s world and turn his life upside down.
Scenarios to install in the software would have to include: problematic board members, pulpit gaffs, church bullies, stubborn constituencies, large, dysfunctional church families, church splits, doctrinal issues, church discipline conundrums, and maybe even a pandemic or two.
Special apps could be employed to prepare the candidate for youth pastorates, executive pastorates, associate pastorates, worship leadership, revitalization pastorates, etc.
The beauty of this, of course, would be the opportunity for the young candidate to make mistakes and be greeted only with flashing lights and blaring sirens instead of literally losing his credibility, his position, his health or his family.
Okay, I suppose I’m dreaming. It probably won’t happen. But if you’re familiar with the ministry and also happen to be a software developer, consider yourself challenged.
In the 2020s, while we can’t put seminary students or ordination candidates into pastoral flight simulators, we do have some opportunities to help young pastors “fly” higher and come crashing down less often. Here are some methods we could utilize more often:
- Pastor fellowship groups – They come in all varieties. Except for a few unhealthy ones, almost any of these are better than none at all. Pastors need other pastors. The best groups involve older pastors and younger ones around the same breakfast table. I’m concerned for any pastor – especially the young ones – who don’t have any healthy fellowship with other pastors.
- Internships – Why are the mainline denominations better at doing this than evangelicals? Our job as churches doesn’t end with making disciples, building them up in the faith and equipping them to serve as “laypersons” in our churches. Churches that can afford to have interns should consider this to be a wonderful way to help fulfill their ministry of equipping the young for vocational ministry.
- Mentored associate pastorates – I’m talking about hiring an associate for the good which he can do for your church and for the good that your church can do for him. What your associates don’t need in the 21st century is to be hired and “turned loose.” Our young staff members need to be loved, fathered, mentored, coached and taught.
- Coaches – Some of the best Christian leaders today believe that every Christian leader needs a coach. A volunteer or professional coach can help the young (or old!) pastor to move steadily towards life and missional clarity. The best coaches major on asking pertinent, thought-provoking, life-focusing questions. I love coaching young pastors and I know that there are many older pastors out there who are just waiting to be “tapped” for this ministry. The young pastor need not be afraid of losing his independence: non-directive coaches ask questions liberally and give advice sparingly, and only when it’s asked for.
If you are a veteran pastor, here’s my challenging question: What are you doing now or are willing to do to help young pastors avoid devastating pastoral disasters?
- Can you host a pastor fellowship?
- Can your church sponsor an internship?
- Can you hire an associate and pour yourself into his life?
- Can you serve as a coach to a younger pastor or two?
If you are a young pastor, here are some questions for you:
- Do you have the wisdom of humility? That means, “Are you wise enough to realize that you don’t know much?” At 28 years old, I wasn’t. The guy in the simulator can learn humility by way of harmless, simulated crashes. Too many young pastors learn humility by way of harmful, real-life crashes. I was one of them. Don’t be like me; be smart.
- Is there an internship which you could take advantage of?
- Is there an older pastor whom you greatly admire who would consider hiring you?
- Have you sought out and found a good, healthy pastor’s fellowship group?
- Is there an older pastor who might be willing to serve as your coach?