“What can I do right now?”
I had coffee with a young minister. He asked a great question. What can I do right now? The young minister (in his early 20s) 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.
There are a few practices young church leaders 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, 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 inexperienced. But you can choose to love people immediately. Your church will know it. The people will feel it. And that’s important.
2. Say “yes” to almost everything. If you’re in your early-20s to mid-20s and single, you have more free time now than ever. Fill much of it with edifying work, not leisure. 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, cancel the weekend 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. So 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, 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 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 church leaders. Will there be enough of them to lead North American Christianity out of its stagnation? There is no way to know right now, but I have high hopes. These three leadership practices are things young church leaders can do right now. And we’ll all be better if they do.
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