7 Pieces of Advice I Give to Young Pastors

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I started in ministry much later in life. I was 38 when I began vocational ministry. But, I love the opportunities I have to invest in young pastors. I’m encouraged by what I see in this generation of pastors entering church work. They want to learn and grow from older leaders.

I consistently try to convince them I’m not the guy to listen to, but they keep asking for advice, so I keep sharing. One question I’m asked frequently is very generic: What advice would you give to someone just starting in ministry?

Well, there’s a bunch probably, but I have a few I go to frequently.

Here are 7 pieces of advice I give to young pastors:

Become a wisdom seeker

Fall in love with wisdom. Keep reading and studying. Keep growing personally in your walk with Christ, but also surround yourself with wise people. As a pastor, people will look to you for lots of wisdom and answers. Many times you won’t know the answer to give them at the time. Obviously, you ultimately want to hear from God, but unless you are a quicker listener than me or God speaks to you faster than He does me, you’ll be caught in the hall or in a meeting sometime where you’re presented with a situation you didn’t see coming and need immediate answers. God encouraged us throughout His Word to seek wise counsel. Make it a point to always have mentors in your life. In my 50’s I still have mentors. They are simply older now than the mentors I had when I was in my 20’s. (If you need help, read THIS POST.)

Prioritize your life

You’ll be pulled in many directions. Make sure you have a plan for your time and center it around what you want to accomplish and where you want to be in the years to come. Don’t neglect your family for the ministry or destroy your ministry for temporary pleasures of the world. (You might read THIS POST on balance in life.) Priorities should be in place before the world throws all it will throw at you. You’ll have lots of opportunities to do many things. Make sure you can look back someday and see you at least attempted to do the right things.

Learn the secret of contentment

You’ll need it. There’s a draw in ministry towards bigger and better. I believe in dreaming big dreams. You’ll never have a dream for yourself bigger than God’s dream for you. But, you’ll be encouraged to compare numbers (and I think numbers matter, but not they are not most important.). Most likely, unless your name is Stanley, or Noble — or some other we tend to compare ourselves to — you won’t have the largest church or the fastest growing church. Learn to be content with who God has made you to be and what He has called you to do. And, be thankful for where He has allowed you to be at the time. If you want to compare — compare yourself to God’s call upon your life. Are you being faithful to that call to the best of your ability?

Intentionally invest in others

You can’t call yourself a disciple-maker unless you are personally making disciples. I understand the fact that your teaching on Sunday will be building disciples, but the Jesus model involves intentionally investing in a few people at a time. Jesus concentrated most of His energy on 12 guys and even more on three in His inner circle. Shouldn’t we do likewise? Always be intentionally and personally mentoring a few. It will keep you close to people in the trenches of life and help you build more solid leadership in the church.

Keep moving forward through the disappointments of life

You will have plenty of setbacks. Life and people will disappoint you. You’re going to be a leader of people and so you’ll find plenty of critics along the way. The only way to avoid that is to do nothing — and that’s not even being a leader. At times you may fail to understand what God is allowing to happen in your life. Keep the vision of your overall calling to God in mind and push forward, regardless of the obstacles which come your way.

Ground your theology in Jesus

There are lots of theological methodologies around. Someone will be happy to shape your theology for you. I’m not suggesting you stop growing in knowledge — in the “deeper” things of God. You should always be growing. I am suggesting you never get beyond the simple child-like, overwhelming awe of who Jesus is and how He loves you and what He did for you on the cross. Center your beliefs firmly and completely around the person of Christ. Set Christ as your end goal, desire to be like Him. Discipline your life to do as Jesus would do. Invite others to follow likewise. Let the grace, glory and goodness of Jesus shape your life and ministry.

God knows best

As a pastor, there will be plenty of voices in your life. You’ll have plenty of advice from deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers and flower committee members. Someone even has an opinion about the color of paint your office should be. Just put it before the church in a survey and test me on this. Appreciate the suggestions of everyone. Be open to suggestions and even criticism when warranted. Never assume you know it all or that you are “in control” — you’re not. I believe God uses people to speak into our lives and He allows us huge latitude in making decisions for ourselves. But, in matters of huge importance, when you are making life-altering decisions, hold out for a word from God.

Of course, this is good advice for all ages (and not just pastors), but the majority of questions I receive are from younger pastors. I’m not sure what that says about us older pastors, but it is been true in my ministry that the younger a pastor is the more willing to heed advice.

What advice do you have for young pastors?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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29 thoughts on “7 Pieces of Advice I Give to Young Pastors

  1. These admonitions are good for all of us, but especially pastors are held to a higher standard on having ordered lives.

    I would add one thing: Guard Your Heart Diligently. That is to say, be humbly righteous. I just got back from a teaching trip to a church we are associated with in South America. The church is strong theologically and in the practical outworking of that theology as they are intent on taking the gospel to surrounding communities. But just a few months ago, their pastor was caught in adultery. They did the right thing in dismissing him immediately, but the leaders are questioning their role as the leaders of the church in the fallout from this. So this is a very timely addition. When shepherds become wolves, the whole flock is in danger. Pastors must be on guard against their own sin.

  2. Let me especially echo "Prioritize your life." I had to learn this the hard way in our first ministry. I was putting ministry before family. Problem was, I didn't see it. It took a counseling session with a seasoned pastor looking me in the eye and saying, "Sounds like you are putting ministry before your family."

    Oh… *blank look*

    At that point, I started reassessing things, investing more in our marriage, and starting the trend the other direction.

    By the way, thanks for the posts. They are always helpful.

  3. These are great, Ron. I love the "God knows best" perspective; it's easy to think we have to do what others say to us as pastors. You've boiled it down to 7, but I couldn't get it lower than 17 things! Thanks again.

  4. When I read your words, I felt imparted with wisdom, as a young preacher, many people look up to me in and out of my country,am mentoring thousands of people in the field of Homiletics and Theoly, my Spirit father hardly meets with me unless we have one conference we are both preaching at, although everybody fills I don’t need mentorship anymore I fell I need more of it, with my proggramme for Healing and deliverance ministry I feel that you Spoke precisely and concisely throw God, pls I would love to get to know you better

    Yours in the Lord Kenneth

  5. I love that you said "ground your theology in Jesus". Biblically speaking, if we do that then everything will fall into place in this life and thereafter. Always reading so thanks for always writing, Ron.

  6. Ron! Though the advice were meant for young pastors, I too could apply the same in my life. "Keep moving forward through the disappointments of life" is a great principle. I find this more tougher to implement in my practical life.

    • Thanks Uma. Though my audience is largely those in vocational ministry, I'm always hoping the message can be universally applied.

  7. These are all good. I would add, that they have one audience – God. Young pastors must commit early in their ministry that they aim to please only One – God. I see this as a weakness today (all since Genesis) that pastor tend to want to please man. This will lead down a very wrong road. But when they aim only to please God, then when men praise or hate them they remain faithful and true to their calling.

  8. Read Ron's blog daily….and pray on it! I just know God loves it for his daily read too. Great words from a very humble servant of our Lord.

    Ron, I remember listening to you on WJZM (during the 9 AM show with Chuck Edwards a time or two). You were saying the same thing back then (and just think of how many change their tune to fit with whom they are talking to or the crowd they are in)…it's just great to have a blog to follow now as well.

    Thanks for your ministry.

  9. Thank you for thinking of us young pastors. I appreciate the time you take to share your wisdom on the blog. Although it's hard to find older more experienced pastors to connect with, it's something I need to keep pursuing!

  10. I especially appreciate "Intentionally invest in others." It's very easy to get all wrapped up in lesson prep and event planning and forget about the people. Thanks, Ron.