5 Mistakes Many Young Pastors Make (and how to recover from them)

December 6, 2013 — 4 Comments
photo: David O. Andersen, Creative Commons

photo: David O. Andersen, Creative Commons

You might know I started a non-profit directed at equipping and resourcing young pastors. I remember what it felt like to be a young pastor myself, trying to balance the demands of ministry and family, time and money, and an abundance of passion with the limit of the resources at my disposal.

Without the help of more experienced leaders to lift me up and point me in the right direction, I never would have made it. I want to be that resource for younger pastors who are coming behind. me.
Here are a few mistakes I see young leaders making and how they can recover from them now, rather than be derailed by them later.

1. Assuming they have to prove themselves as a leader

I can understand how young leaders get to this place. There is often a divide of sorts between young leaders and more experienced leaders. They come from different generations, and don’t always understand each other. The younger leaders come in with an intensity and energy, but without the experience and know-how to put it to work.

As a result, I think many young leaders feel like they have to “prove” they have what it takes to be a leader. The problem is, proving yourself rarely makes you look as impressive as you think it does.

I would encourage young leaders to spend the energy the would have spent proving themselves by cultivating relationships with the more experienced leaders.

This is the way to marry your passion and energy to the kind of experience and know-how that will make a huge impact.

2. Talking more than they listen

Or, sometimes young leaders have the opposite problem — listening more than they are willing to speak up. Usually, it’s the first, but I think both come from the same place: A fear of not being heard.

Young leaders are often afraid (rightfully so, perhaps) that their ideas won’t be heard by those around them, so they either shut down their ideas altogether, or they won’t stop sharing their ideas for long enough to learn from the experience of leaders who have been doing this for longer than they have.

Both do a disservice to the team as a whole.

Work to balance the time you spend talking with the time you spend listening. Ask good questions and really listen to the responses. When you have an idea, don’t be afraid to share it out loud, but don’t assume it trumps every other idea in the room.

3. People-pleasing.

I’ve seen so many young leaders get into trouble over this one, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know what it was like, first hand. When you believe that the “success” of your ministry is reflected in the happiness of the people around you, you are setting yourself up for major failure and disappointment.

Yes, please be a like-able person. If you aren’t sure what that looks like, read my free eBook.

But there is no getting around it, no matter how like-able you are, there will be people who don’t like you, or don’t like what you’re doing in the ministry. The quicker you can learn that, the happier and more effective leader you’ll be.

4. Confusing authenticity with over-sharing

I love how authentic the upcoming generations are. We have something to learn from the way you can honestly share your heart and your struggles without pretending like you have it altogether.

But there has to be a balance between authenticity and over-sharing, especially if you’re going to be a leader.

You don’t need to share every struggle you face on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not everyone you meet needs to know every last gory detail of your life. Find a mentor, and a few friends, who will listen to you and help you grow. Share openly with them. When it comes to those you’re leading, share gently and cautiously, only as it is helpful and builds others up.

5. Not Delegating

Perhaps this is part of proving yourself as a young leader, but learn to delegate tasks to the appropriate people. Make room in your life for family and margin. Rest well. Take care of yourself. Think of this ministry life of yours as a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own.

You are not a failure if you delegate. In fact, getting others on board with your vision, and spreading the tasks among them is precisely what makes you a great leader.

4 responses to 5 Mistakes Many Young Pastors Make (and how to recover from them)

  1. Great blog post Justin; I am a young first time senior pastor right now but still operate under the umbrella of a parent church and so I am in the most of resolving a few of these points with in myself. However I also find that some of these although are ultimately the young pastor decision and insecurity in their roles, Some are the result of some of the short comings and things that more experience leaders impose on younger leaders and kind of put them in a hard place. For instance, your point young leaders proving themselves in the mist of experienced leaders, Yes they need to know and feel that they don’t need to prove themselves and redirect their energy and be aware that their ideas don’t always trump everyone’s in the room, but at the same time in many different situations how more experienced leaders view their younger leaders through a lense and default approach that all younger leaders say or do is just that a young leaders thought and no need to give it the fully attention even if it’s a good idea, for instance I’ve been with see leaders discussing issues
    And things the church was trying to accomplish and I have given solution or a great idea, but because I’m a young leader they kind of dismiss it as He’s young and that the youth in them speaking cause that idea won’t work, or they think that the young pastor acting out of ignorance or to hastily because in their minds they have summed up that, that’s just what young leaders do and so they dismiss the idea or decision as wrong or naive etc. but then I’ve latter down the line the older or more experienced leader will then implement exactly what the younger leader was saying or doing as though they came up with it through their experience and all of sudden that same idea is a good idea after they have deemed it so, but it was exactly the same idea or understanding of leadership but they dismissed it at first cause of the younger leaders youth. Or another experience is that I have seen more experienced leaders cut short a younger authority or ability to make a decision on certain things because the older leader forces the younger to deal with certain things in certain ways or they’ll deal with people themselves who were under the youngers ministry, now
    I understand their are sensitive issues that need to be felt with by the pastor but these are not those, and what about allowing the younger leader to make and learn from their mistakes, or backing their decision on things even if they more experienced disagrees etc. All of that to say, could you elaborate more on two things. First, How can younger leader better get out from under the “Younger Lense” that more experienced leader can often see all they do through, Even if it’s a good choice, idea, leadership approach etc.
    Secondly, could you possibly do a blog post on the flip side of this blog post in which you discuss more about the short comings that more experienced leaders do as it
    related to their younger leaders.
    Well , enjoyed your post, thanks again.

  2. Great blog Justin!
    I have just passed my first year in Full time Ministry in Urbana, IL and there have been some really great times! I have grown a lot but made mistakes too! There have been good times and bad. I appreciate all you are doing for young pastors, too many don’t last the distance and its easy to understand why!

    There are a lot of pitfalls in your first few years that are hard to avoid…and when great opportunities arise in difficult and stressful times…its hard to not think that God wants you to move on! I’m thankful I had a great Pastor in Papa G to keep backing me and pushing me to succeed! :)

  3. Geoffrey Kagimu December 7, 2013 at 1:26 am

    Yes i wholly agree with you Justin. Why? I have experienced first hand all the five mistakes can’t say as a growing young minister I have overcome these weakneses but i have come to believe irrespective of any excuse that these are mistakes we should not under look but press on to overcome. Thank you for the sensitisation may God bless you.

  4. Fantastic as always, Justin. I’ve found myself struggling with these same issues at times. Thanks for sharing.

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