Beyond Preaching: The Art of Mentoring Young Leaders
The work of a pastor is one of the greatest callings and work on the face of the earth. Pastors have the unique calling to Shepherd the flock of God. In today’s culture that flock has great diversity. What is expected of the pastor today is uniquely different than that which was demanded of the pastor in previous generations. Even in the rural setting those demands are much greater. People have access to the world through television and computers. Everything that is happening in the largest metropolitan centers of the world is viewed through those gates. People expect in many cases the same benefits of the mega churches in the rural setting. Pastors are increasingly finding that they have to stretch way beyond their capacity to meet their parishioner’s expectations. New technologies, programs, and personnel are brought into the church today to help the church function well. With technology you can learn it and staff to it fairly easily. It does not take a lot to keep it going except someone who will keep ahead of the curve of change. Programs are developed from the National and District offices to meet the changing culture and needs of churches. Many times leaders will develop on their own programs that are very effective to meet needs in the church they lead. Pastors can after finding or developing a program can recruit and train and release volunteers to lead such programs.
Many churches today are calling other pastoral leaders to come alongside to help them pastor the congregation. I believe that there is a great difference between these leaders and the leaders that are recruited from within the church to manage programs and ministries. As I travel across the country I am meeting wonderful young people who are called to help a pastor and yet feel lost in their work. These leaders are pastors who many times feel like hirelings. The void in their life is not for larger salaries or better facilities. They are not really troubled by the size or location of the congregation they serve. The greatest need in their lives and ministry is for a pastor! They are looking for someone to speak into their lives as a leader. They need and desire a pastor not a boss. They know who is in charge and respect that position. They need a older peer to show them the way of ministry. They come out of our schools with dreams of giving their lives to the ministry. They have learned a lot of stuff that will be applicable as time goes by. But what they need is someone to care for them and to give them mentoring. They need to learn how to make personal application to the call of the pastor. They are going to make a lot of mistakes as they work in the church. Those mistakes should not result in them having to leave the church but to grow at the church.
When a pastor brings on the staff he is not going to find that he has less to do but has now more to do. When computers came on the scene everyone was excited and making statements of how much more work we would be able to get done with them. True, we are getting more done but not at less man hours. The same is true with staff brought into the church. You will get more done but it is still going to demand the investment of time to accomplish it. Pastors that take on the responsibility of other staff should find some time to invest in them. There should be some time that pastors talk and develop relationships. If you want to get the best out of people they have to feel that you care about them. I think this is true in the job force outside the church but more so in the Church. If your only relationship with a staff pastor is a the church service or the weekly staff meeting then you are not going to get the best out of them.
I remember one time having a guest speaker in my church for a few days. He was a wonderful man of God for sure. But he missed it on relationships. He gave me some consul about my relationship with my youth pastor. He thought that I was too close to my youth pastor and had too friendly a relationship with him. I asked him why he felt that way and his response was scary to me. “You should never build a relationship with someone on your staff other than professional. They will begin to think they are your equal.” I did not argue or debate with this gentleman but I know in my heart that this was wrong. Just because a person is younger or less experienced does not make us different. The youth pastor was one of my best friends and to this day he is a great friend. He made mistakes as all young people will. It was difficult to discipline and develop at times because I loved him. But I loved him enough to help him be a good leader.
Later I served in the District Office and heard and saw some of this same logic. I was in a committee meeting and an illustration was used that really concerned me. “Youth pastors think that they should go to lunch with the guest speaker just like the pastor.” I heard this and sat and only wondered where such thinking came from. I am sure that there are times it is not appropriate for some people to share in a meal with a guest speaker. But there should be nothing wrong with bringing with you a young pastor to build relationships over a meal.
Pastors are busy people and have only limited time to invest. One of the greatest investments of that time is building a relationship with your staff pastors. They will be the people who will best represent you to your congregation in private settings. People will treat your pastors with the same level of respect that they sense you are giving to those leaders. If the congregation does not sense that you respect your staff then how can you expect them to get respect from the congregation. If your congregation senses that you love and respect your leaders then they will love and respect you more. You will be modeling before them how to treat others who are in different roles them.
The young staff pastor needs to be able to question you about church life. He will not understand every decision that is made from the top. There will be times that the pastor cannot give information and will have to trust the leader. But it will help the young pastor to process church difficulties if he understands why and how certain decisions are made. It is not a challenge on the competency of a pastor for questions to be asked of him. It will help the staff pastor to represent you better publicly. There are times that I hear young men who do not know how to represent the pastor because the senior pastor will not dialogue with them. If you will create moments of openness at different times you will find your staff pastor relaxing and sharing with you. Take some time away from the office for a soda or coffee. Go to a ballgame together or something where you can spend some time not talking about church business.
I am an advocate to never do ministry alone. I would take one of my pastors with me for ministry outside the church. Maybe a business meeting I would bring one of them alone. The time traveling would give me time to visit with him. But it also gave him time to observe me in a different setting than the church. If you have multiple staff members you would need to scatter it out some so that you can get to all of them. It really does not have to be much but the small effort will return great dividends.
To me being a mentor to the staff pastors that God gives you is a great trust. These people will go on and represent the kingdom of God in the way that you trained them. I have thought about the fact they are in your hands before they are in God’s hands. It is frightening thing to think that your hands are on those people that God has His hand on. You are given the opportunity to mold and train them into ministers of Gospel. Your programs may not last very long. Your buildings will eventually be torn down. But the investment of your time in your staff will produce disciples that will last past your life and preaching. The relationships you build today will last beyond your rules. Those relationships will be the bridges to your very legacy in ministry.
Things a pastor can do to build relationships with a staff pastor.
- Spend time other than staff meetings with them.
- Be honest and open about your shortcomings and flaws.
- Be willing to laugh at yourself with them.
- Call them on the phone just to check on how they are doing.
- Let them know that results are important but that they are important as well.
- Go to an event together.
- Respect them like you would want to be respected.
- Be thoughtful of their birthdays and anniversaries.
- Be kind to their children.
- Be thoughtful of their spouses.
If someone works with you in ministry they should
- Be called as a pastor.
- Be respected as a pastor.
- Be honored as a pastor.
- Be trustworthy.
- Be fun to work with.
- Be fun to hang out with.
- Be cared for.
- Be teachable.
- Be trainable.
- Be your friend.
Things a Staff pastor needs to see you do.
- Lead a church service
- Lead a staff meeting.
- Lead a Pastor-Board meeting.
- Work though a funeral.
- Work though a Wedding.
- Lead a lost person to Christ outside the church.
- Build a relationship with a sinner outside the church.
- Lead during a crisis in the church.
- Lead while following those you are subject to.
- Manage a church budget
- Take up an offering
Signs that things are not right in staff relationships
- They are not showing up for work.
- Don’t discuss freely problems in the church.
- Timid around the pastor.
- Stand back from the pastor at times.
- No communication.
- Work is not getting done.
- You never see them.
- Attitude is aloof.
- There is tenseness in the room when you are with them.
- Spouse is ignoring you.