A few weeks ago, I preached at a church for a younger pastor. After the service, as we fellowshipped, he shared with me how the Lord is working in their church and some things they are doing as part of their outreach. And then he asked a key question: “Is there anything you would do differently?” I was glad to answer him and shared some ideas that I trust were helpful.
Later that evening, as I reflected on his question, my mind went two directions:
First, I remembered being in his shoes and how eagerly I asked questions of anyone in ministry who was further along than me and whose church represented a direction I prayed for wisdom to lead our church in—including doctrine, spirit, and growth. I still ask questions of those with more years of spiritual maturity and experience in ministry…and I still ask eagerly.
Second, I considered how it seems that more than before, younger pastors are eager to tell me how to do things differently rather than to ask questions about how they could grow. Don’t misunderstand this because I’ve received many good ideas and helpful input from men twenty years younger than me, and I often ask for it, particularly from our pastoral staff. However, it does strike me as a missed opportunity when a new pastor mostly gives advice rather than asking for advice.
I thank the Lord for a younger generation of pastors who are committed to truth and want to exalt Christ and win souls. (I specifically wrote about that here.)
And all the pastors who I spend time with feel similarly. They are appreciative of younger leaders with a passion to serve the Lord and they want to encourage them in ministry.
I am noticing, however, a challenge to giving advice to younger pastors: you aren’t asking for it.
Too often, the perception younger pastors give is, “I’ve got it.”
What tends to be communicated is, “I have sources for counsel, and I’m good. I need your encouragement (and sometimes financial support) but not your advice.”
Besides the fact that I’m alarmed that the primary sources of counsel many younger leaders are choosing are online resources from authors and speakers who lead ministries that run contrary to what we believe in both doctrine and practice, there is also an absence of seeking advice from those who do believe as you do.
It’s almost as if you’re saying, “You can encourage me, or you can marginalize me” without recognizing a better option of, “You can advise me!”
Of course, no pastor says this in so many words, and this is not an accurate picture of every younger pastor. But it is a perception that is easily given.
If you’re a younger pastor, could I encourage you with a simple thought?
Ask for advice.
Proverbs 14:11 advises, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
Yes, there are many sources of information, including some great blogs and podcasts. Yes, it’s stimulating to bounce ideas around with those you went to college with. But there is no replacement for going to a pastor with twenty more years in the ministry than you and, with an open heart and blank pad of paper, directly asking for advice.There’s no replacement for going to a pastor with twenty more years in the ministry than you and, with an open heart and blank pad of paper, directly asking for advice. Click To Tweet
Furthermore, there are many pastors who you may easily dismiss, assuming their advice will be simplistic or out of sync with today’s culture but who have a depth of spiritual wisdom that would surprise you if you simply asked.
I’ll never forget asking Dr. Lee Roberson many questions about pastoring, church administration, soulwinning, and church growth…and getting the exact same answer to all of them: “Die to self, and be filled with the Spirit.” At the time I was tempted to think it was simplistic. Thirty years later, however, this advice remains the best I’ve ever been given—both in substance and clarity. I’ve gone back to it many times. (And for the record, he did give me other advice too. In fact, I have eight of his handwritten sheets of advice on Sunday school and special days for our church framed in the hallway outside of my office.)
If you want to get good advice, it’s simple: ask.If you want to get good advice, it’s simple: ask. Click To Tweet
Ask someone who has already been where you’re trying to go.
Ask with an open, receptive heart.
Ask with a clear question.