by Dan Overdorf
Each May, graduates march across stages at Christian colleges and seminaries nationwide to receive ministry degrees. Then they march into our pulpits, youth ministries … and elders’ meetings. They’re educated and eager, but, well, they’re young. They have new ideas. They look at things differently than we do. They say and do things that make us uncomfortable. And we struggle to understand them.
In an effort to better understand our young ministers, I asked a number of them to answer this question: “What do you wish your elders knew about you?”
I summarized their responses in no particular order:
- I am a unique individual, not a generational profile.
- People trust you more than they trust me – your verbal support makes a difference.
- Inexperienced does not equal ineffective.
- It builds my confidence when you ask for my opinion.
- When you let me try my new idea, you saved my ministry.
- Finances are tight.
- When you invited me into your home, it made me feel like family.
- I need your public support and private constructive criticism.
- Being single doesn’t make me less of a minister.
- I appreciate when you care about me as a person.
- I’ve given everything to serve the Kingdom.
- We’re on the same team.
- I am scared and need your encouragement more than I let on.
- I need your help to grow as a leader, Christian, and person.
- I pour my heart (and several hours of prep) into my sermons.
- I have unique gifts and I need your help to develop them.
- It hurts when people say, “You’re going to be a good minister someday.”
- Being female doesn’t make me less of a minister.
- I need your trust.
- I’m grateful that you took a chance on me.
- I support you more than you think and I want you to succeed.
- If you appreciate my teaching and preaching (and say so), others will too.
- I am not the minister who came before me.
- I proposed a change because I love the church and our mission.
- I can serve best when your expectations are clear.
- The gift for Pastor Appreciate Month meant the world to me.
- I value our heritage and want to carry the baton to the next generation.
- I felt supported when you helped pay for my master’s degree.
- Sometimes I need to be alone with my family.
- I feel appreciated when you treat me like a team member.
I once heard a long-time church member say, “I used to give my preacher a really hard time. He was a young guy who made a lot of mistakes, and he just didn’t measure up to what I thought he should be. So I let him and everybody within earshot know what I thought. Then I imagined myself at the Pearly Gates and God saying, ‘I sent a young minister to your church for you to encourage. I have big plans for his future. How’d you do?’”
“Right then,” this church member concluded, “I decided my job was to encourage and help him, not to criticize him and run him off.”
Young and old ministers need our support. Our young ministers, however, need that support in extra measure.