Almost four years ago, I was contacted by the first and only church I pastored. I’m not exactly sure why they chose me. The spiritual answer is that God led them. The committee members were good people, but most churches conduct a survey and want a certain type of guy. The committee has the daunting task to try to find him. I honestly thought the church would vote no. I want to share some thoughts on why many churches choose young pastors and then share some characteristics about young pastors in case any search committee members read this.
Reasons (I believe) churches pick young pastors:
1. Churches can pay them less. I must admit I was well taken care of, so that didn’t apply to me. However, I know churches that pick young guys so they can starve them and “spiritually” justify it.
2. Churches can train them the way they want them. At 32, I wasn’t so trainable. I had my philosophy set before I got there, so I wasn’t budging. I had a higher Boss than the church.
3. Older members (or members with “power”) can intimidate them. I had quite a few people try to intimidate me. I knew that they were praying for me to leave after I didn’t give in. I was not for sale.
Qualities in young pastors:
1. They care more about leading people to Christ than appeasing the existing members. That may sound horrible to you, but you should care about the same thing. If you as a church unify around the same purpose, you’ll see that glue bond the church.
2. They care more about obeying God than bowing down to the denominational gods and playing denominational politics. Some do aspire to be leaders within the association, state convention, and national convention. However, many see a bigger picture than following the denominational calendar and doing all the churches a traditional, long-standing member of a particular denomination would do.
3. They care more about God’s kingdom than their own. I’m not saying that some young pastors aren’t trying to build a résumé, but many see a bigger picture than just trying to grow their church. They put jealousy aside, cooperate with other churches, and celebrate the growth of other churches.
4. They want less government in churches. Churches have become much like our country and are slaves to the governmental system. Fifteen committees have to pray about something, then the deacons have to discuss it for a few months, then the congregation has a 45-minute meeting to get everyone’s opinion on it, followed by the cold-water committee who ruins the excitement while quenching the Spirit of God. In essence, the great idea God put within the pastor got shot down because people wanted control and got their way. This extreme church governmental system is found NOWHERE in the Bible!
Why some young pastors won’t work out:
1. They are treated as outsiders. They may be brought from another state and aren’t accepted as locals. They are the hired hands who will be called when they think he needs to put marriages back together or restore their children back to God. If you aren’t going to accept the out of town pastor and family, leave him alone and call a local boy.
2. Their philosophy of ministry is different, and the church will not consider changing. I discovered that my idea of congregational government and the church’s idea were extremely opposite. I was fighting a losing battle. Had my marriage not disintegrated, I was going to resign anyway.
What I would suggest to young pastors:
1. Know you have a calling to that particular church. Although I experienced turbulence, I knew I had a mission for that 11-month period. I felt like a failure for a long time, but I see now that God paved the way for a new pastor to do what I couldn’t.
2. Ask the committee the hard questions. It doesn’t hurt. You do not have to go to that church. It’s better to hash that out before than to become a ministry casualty.
3. Find out the church’s history. I contacted 3 people who all told me the same thing. I would recommend calling the ones who had the bad experiences also. If God wants you somewhere, His voice will be louder.
A person is not the answer to the church. The presence and power of God are the answers. We need strong Bible preaching, Christ-centered worship, and selfless people who want God’s will above their own. We need people who will obey God’s will, even if it makes them unpopular with other church members (which could include family).