Working with a Brand New Minister

Wade Hodges shared these comments recently on his blog. I appreciate his insight and candor. As a “younger” preacher, I appreciate his thoughts and am so grateful to work with a Church family that loves Christ and shows that love to my family and I every day. I am blessed and fortunate to work with Shepherds that value the little talent I have and have the patience and courage to let me run a little. I realize that some aren’t in the same position. In fact, I’ve been there. So I have a little more sensitivity to this topic. Talented young preachers represent the future growth of the Church. They need to be given the opportunity to serve now while their gifts are developed and sharpened. The congregations that take on this burden are providing a great blessing to the Church. Here’s his thoughts.

1. Please don’t continually remind him of how young he is. He knows this and is sensitive about it. He’s probably trying his hardest to get older every day. Look! It’s working. Starting every compliment with the phrase “For a young preacher” negates the compliment.

2. Please don’t use his age as an excuse to dismiss his ideas. Debate his ideas based on their merit, not his age. Old people have bad ideas too and their age has nothing to do with it.

3. Please don’t hold his age against him. It’s not his fault he’s young. Sometimes older people resent younger people because their energetic idealism reminds them of who they once were. They regret the kind of person they’ve become and they turn their pain on the youngster, taking it upon themselves to break him down. He’s not cynical yet. He’s not broken. He’s not yet been humiliated. Don’t worry, life will take care of this. I don’t think Jesus intended for the church to be the hammer used to beat down young ministers. (By the way, there is a difference between beating down someone and giving them loving feedback that can help him grow. See next point.)

4. Sometimes churches are willing to take a risk on a young preacher because he is a gifted communicator and they’re willing to put up with his youth because they’re mesmerized by his gift. If your young preacher is a gifted communicator, don’t cut him any slack because of his gift. Encourage him to develop the rest of his ministry skill set. The better speaker he is, the more likely he is to think he’ll be able to get by with his silver-tongue alone. He may be right. But trust me on this one, he’ll find long-term ministry more fulfilling if he learns to show love for others in ways beyond preparing and preaching great sermons.

5. It’s unlikely that a young preacher is going to spend his entire career with his first church. He’ll probably only be there for three to five years. Accept this fact without using it as an excuse to resist his ideas. Churches are sometimes hesitant to let a young preacher lead them anywhere because they assume he’s only going to be around for a few years. If that’s the case, then why bother hiring him in the first place? Let him start developing his leadership skills. Give him a chance to make a difference without giving him carte blanche.  What if more churches saw working with a young preacher as an opportunity to help develop a future leader for the good of the Kingdom, rather than just being determined to keep him from doing too much damage while he’s there?

6. Treat him the way you would want someone to treat your son or daughter in a similar situation. He’s got parents too and if you are too mean to him you run the risk of having his mom come and beat you up. (It might do a few churches some good if they had to answer to the parents of the young preachers they’ve mistreated.)

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