I’m not sure when a pastor qualifies as a “veteran.” Some guys go through enough in their first year or two that they might rightly lay claim to that designation. But for this post, I’m thinking about men who are in their mid-40s and/or have spent at least 15 years in pastoral ministry. Arbitrary, I know. But for what I want to say it works.
While this is a blog for younger pastors, I believe that some readers fit the “veteran pastor” category. And I’d like to say a few things to you.
One of the great needs that younger pastors have is finding someone with ministry experience to help them, encourage them, pick them up when they are down, and even temper their enthusiasm if they are being unrealistic. Hanging around with their peers may be more fun than spending time with some older dude. But they need you.
Some of you have younger staff members. If you look at them mere employees you’re missing a huge opportunity. You have a chance to invest in their lives and help prepare them for their future ministry.
My son-in-law, Dan, and I went to see country singer (and guitar genius) Vince Gill the other week. He often talks about the people who brought him along when he was first starting out. And while some artists crave the spotlight, he willingly shares the stage with younger artists who are a part of his band. One of them was the “opening act.” Then during his concert, he allowed two other band members to do solos as a way of giving them exposure, speaking highly of their talents. I thought that was classy. It also reminded me of what veteran pastors should be doing.
If you have younger staff members on your team, how about taking them out to lunch once every week or two? Talk shop with them, let them share ideas, get to know them, laugh with them, and build relationships that will let them know them know that you are available to talk and not just “the boss.” And by all means “share the stage” with them. And if they can preach – or want to – let them preach occasionally, even for two or three weeks in a row. That way they’ll see what it’s like to prepare, preach, take a breath, and plunge right back into preparation.
You can also encourage them by praising them publicly. You don’t have to mention them every week, but your people ought to know that you regard them well and that you appreciate their work. It will encourage your young staff members, but it will also help your church view them properly.
Others of you “out there” may be solo pastors. Are there younger guys in your area with churches of their own who might be helped by spending time with them? Maybe you can take two or three younger guys from different churches out for lunch or meet them for coffee and see if that catches on to become a monthly thing. You can do a great deal to help these guys in their work while building community between your churches.
As I’ve said, I work for a retirement community. A few months ago, I drove someone down to a hospital in South Philadelphia. I was sitting in a lobby area and saw this display.
It’s pretty easy to connect that challenge to those of us who have spent a number of years in ministry.
Older pastors have a great opportunity and, I believe, a great responsibility. “Consider well, Gentlemen, how much depends on your diligence…”