I sat over chips and salsa with a man this week who has never been my pastor and to whom I will probably never be a benefit. He is the pastor of a large church 45 minutes away from my home who is willing to invest in my life. We ate Mexican food and talked over the mundane issues of life, but more than anything he spoke into my life. Five minutes into our meal he looked across the table and asked a very frank and straightforward question, “Can I offer you some advice?” Read that question this way, “Craig, I see some areas of your life where you can improve and I would like to help you.”
What a blessing!
For nearly two hours I sat with a man thirty years my senior who has been pastoring longer than I have been alive as he taught me about ministry. We talked preaching, pastoring, counseling, weddings and even funerals. I drank from the fire hydrant of his wisdom and am a better man and pastor for it. I am thankful for these opportunities and thankful for the men in my life who are willing to invest in me and others as Kingdom investments.
I once heard a man chide pastors for not having “preacher boys.” “It used to be,” he said, “that a mature pastor would often be surrounded by younger men training for the ministry or early in ministry that they were helping to train up.” Sadly, we have relegated most of our training to seminaries and Bible Colleges these days. I am a proponent of theological education and strongly encourage it for any man called into vocational ministry. However, I am also a strong proponent for pastoral mentoring.
We need more preacher men and preacher boys. The church needs to see more mature pastors surrounding themselves with young men to train them up. Somehow pastors have grown to believe that they are too busy to invest in the next generation. I’ll never forget the experience I had seeking out mentors in my community when I moved into my first pastorate at 26 years old. Pastors would not return my phone call or even take up my offer to buy their lunch. I even had one pastor go to lunch and listen to my pleas for help, “I’m 26, I know how to preach, but I need help on almost everything else.” He never mentioned the conversation again. He was uninterested in mentoring me.
Pastor, who are you raising up? I know your life is busy, but are you really too busy to make it a priority in your life to advance the Kingdom by investing in the next generation of church leaders? Paul had Timothy and Titus (as well as many others, I’m sure), who do you have?
Here are a few suggestions to help you find and invest in your own Timothy or Titus.
- Schedule It — Things that matter make it to my calendar and get done. Set aside time in your schedule to spend with younger men who are currently pastoring or who have been called to pastor.
- Make Yourself Accessible — Do younger men have your phone number and email address and your permission to contact them? I cannot tell you how often I have been benefited by access to older pastors. I once had a mentor call me from his vacation to walk me through a sticky situation in my church.
- Seek Them Out — Maybe you do not know any younger pastors. Then go find them. Call them on the phone, stop by their office. If you are serious about investing in the next generation you do not have to wait for them to come to you. It is not arrogant for you to invite a younger pastor out to lunch.
- Resource Them — Give away books. Recommend books, classes, and trainings. Remember that you are probably in a better financial situation than a 27 year old pastor. Help him to get the things he needs.
- Ask Questions — At 26 I desperately needed help in leading a business meeting. I still have two sheets of yellow legal paper with hand-written notes from Pastor Todd. Todd died of cancer a few years back, but I will always be indebted to his investment in my life. We disagreed on theology and methodology, but he taught me anyway. I learned how to conduct myself in business meetings and how to lead an ordination council. Todd asked what I needed to know and then he got busy teaching me.
- Anticipate Problems — Answer the questions young men do not yet know to ask. Show them how to handle difficult members. Tell them how to work through stress and protect their families. Pray for their perseverance because they do not yet know that they will be tempted to walk away.
- Focus on the Joy — I heard a pastor say one time that he prayed his son would not be called into ministry. I was disheartened by this statement. Make sure that young pastors hear more from you than griping and complaining. It is privilege to serve as a pastor in God’s church. Make sure you focus on the joys and privileges more than on the problems and pitfalls.
I’m not always sure if I’m a preacher man or a preacher boy, but I find that it usually depends on the people I am around. Sometimes I’m the senior man in the room and I need to be willing to invest. Other times I am the “preacher boy” gleaning from the wisdom of the men around me. May it be that you have regular opportunities to be a “preacher man” AND a “preacher boy.”