By Michael Cooper
Editor’s note: In December 2018, we ran “3 Reasons to Consider Hiring Older Church Leaders.” Since churches need pastors across the spectrum of age ranges, we’re running this look at why you should consider younger pastors.
In this article, I want to address pastoral search committees of normative size congregations on behalf of my younger co-laborers seeking God’s will and place of service.
As a search committee, you’re preparing to devote the next several months to search for God’s man for your church.
You’ve probably conducted a congregational survey, prayed, and maybe sought outside counsel from the state convention or local association. You’re attempting to write up a job posting, and so you research what other churches are looking for:
First Baptist Church of Podunk
Senior Pastor Position
Description: minister effectively in all areas of church ministry, provide leadership in church vision, preach Biblical sermons on Sunday mornings/evening/Wednesday nights, conduct weddings, funerals, counseling, visits, evangelistic, missions-minded.
Requirements: Godly character (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3; Leviticus 19:28; Exodus 28 – modern application “suit and tie”), Married with 2.5 kids, M.Div or pursuing doctorate, 10+ years of pastoral leadership experience, adhere to all of our doctrinal distinctives, hold to church traditions (written and unwritten), memorize by-laws (even though we haven’t looked at them for 25 years), always on call 24/7 but a good husband/father, hold office hours Monday-Friday 8-5 but make 20 visits per week, excellent preacher, champion of our community of 1,000 people, attend local Civic Club meetings the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every other month, make all home and away football games for Podunk High (Go Rowdy Rebels!), smart but not too smart, and finally a good cook for our chili fundraiser in the fall for our youth group (that you’ll need to lead as well).
Average Attendance: 15 for Sunday school and 50 for worship service.
Salary: $30,000/No insurance or parsonage
Ok, that’s hyperbole, but honestly, it’s not too far off from many real expectations of a new pastor. But the question is simple.
What should we look for in a pastor?
Some of it may be determined by your congregational context and most importantly, the qualifications of 1 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Peter (minus Leviticus 19:28 and Exodus 28).
However, the reality is even with that list of hyperbole requirements; many young pastors fall short of getting a call from a church with “normal” requirements.
The 25-year-old with a newly-framed seminary degree may spend time sending resumes and getting interviews, only to receive the infamous “we feel led to go in another direction” letter. Many younger aspiring pastors get pushed to the side because of the “age requirement.”
So to the search committees, I invite you for a moment to pray about three reasons why you should call a young pastor and be a pastor-making church.
1. A Young Pastor is Teachable by the Spirit.
Let me be the contrarian and say, age doesn’t necessarily equal spiritual maturity. Psalm 119:99-100 states that a younger man can be spiritually wiser than those older than him.
Usually, the requirement of experience is coupled with his age. The false assumption is that if he is 35-45, then he must have experience.
Again let me provide a contrast if I may from my own life. When I was called to serve as a pastor at 25, I already had eight years of ministry experience, five years of theological education, and a few years of experience serving various ministry organizations.
Many younger ministers have similar experience even if their resume doesn’t include “pastoral leadership.” Suffice to say many young men in the ministry have experience as youth pastors, pulpit supply, and even denominational leadership.
But calling a young pastor demands that he learn pastoral leadership while doing pastoral ministry. For a godly young pastor, he’ll learn to submit himself to godly counsel and other wiser mentors (the Biblical method by the way).
The Spirit will teach him humility. The Lord is cultivating a teachable spirit within him. Honestly, he’ll have no other option but to “set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”
By the way, Paul doesn’t say, lead “by experience” but “by the Spirit.” A godly young pastor will learn from his mistakes and then grow by experience.
Let me encourage you to show him grace. He’s learning to be the pastor God wants him to be.
2. A Young Pastor is Passionate for the Son.
Fresh out of seminary, he’s ready to save the world for Christ. What he lacks in experience, he’ll make up with passion. His passion for preaching and theology is grounded in his passion for Christ.
Realize for the first few years, his sermons will be wooden, too technical, and he’ll probably use lame illustrations. He’ll say things from the pulpit that might strike you as “offensive” because he wasn’t quite learned to harness his words.
But don’t deny he isn’t passionate week after week. His passion for Jesus will cause him to surrender more to the Lord of the universe.
He may not have the experience, but he has a heart on fire for Jesus and His Word. Fan the flame of his passion, stir up the gift within him, and let him catch fire.
Realize that as a church, you have a responsibility to help him grow. I believe this axiom to be true: Seminary can train a pastor, but the local church makes a pastor.
3. A Young Pastor is Dependent Upon the Father.
I want you to be aware that if you call a young pastor, he’ll get to the point where he’s run out of self. He started with passion, but the passion is gone.
After a while, he’s been beaten down, hurt, and criticized. He’ll feel like the world is against him because he’s “too young.” He doesn’t fit the mold or even look like a typical pastor (you know gray hair, khakis, and shirt tucked in).
Older pastors think he’s overly critical at associational meetings. Younger guys wonder how he got there. People will question his calling, and he may even question it.
He’ll become jealous of other churches to the point of depression. He may have tried to make a “name for himself” but understands that’s a dead end.
He feels the war within him between going and staying, sinning and repenting. Then he looks at his work and wonders if he’s accomplished anything.
He’s probably seen and heard things that shocked him. The young pastor feels old. And in THAT moment – He realizes his absolute dependence upon His Lord.
This is called brokenness. He was broken by his sin when he repented and placed his faith in Jesus. And now the Lord has broken him again to make him a pastor.
Your young “preacher boy” has now entered into “pastoral maturity.” You don’t need a man “who has it all figured out.” You need a man so devoted to his Father that he finds his identity in Him alone. His Father has become his shepherd.
Give Him A Shot.
So to the church looking for the next pastor, let me encourage you to look for a young man. It’s God’s method of making pastors for the next generation.
Not to sound overly sensational but you could be the church that helps form the next Jerry Vines, Adrian Rogers, or Charles Spurgeon.
He may only be there for two years, or he might stick around for 10. But during that time, you’re blessing him, encouraging him, and shaping him to be the man God wants him to be.
Instead of asking the question, “What can our pastor do for us,” you should ask, “What can we do for our young pastor?” Devote yourself to being a church that turns young men into pastors.
So search committee, if he fits the biblical requirements, give him a shot. Break the status quo and take a risk. You’ll be blessed!