12 Things Younger Leaders Should Know About Their Pastors and Mentors


“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes” as stated by one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, John Wooden.  He understood what it meant to experience success, but was concerned more with a person’s character than any trophy.  Wooden knew full well that getting to the “top” was impossible without stumbling, tripping, and getting bruised.

When we’re younger, we tend to idolize those whom we want to emulate.  We look at their success, their career, the fruits of their labors and we want to be just like them.  But, we only see the public face of who they are, not knowing the everyday issues they contend with.  I have had the privilege of serving with a man I have looked up to for over  quarter of a century.  While I used to believe that he could fly and could shoot lighting bolts from his hands, it didn’t take long for me to recognize his fallibility.

We’re human.  Hard to believe huh?  We have 900 muscles and 200 bones just like everyone else.  We go to the bathroom.  We have emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.

We’re not perfect.  We will mess up.  It’s inevitable.  People expect us to be perfect but constantly remind us we’re not.  We don’t walk on water, not faster than a speeding bullet, not more powerful than a locomotive, and can’t leap over tall buildings with a single bound.

We’re vulnerable.  We have insecurities and battle inadequacies.  Most of the time we feel we don’t do a good enough.  It doesn’t matter how many people throw out compliments.  We’re our worst judges.  Somebody once told me that ministry is like “swimming naked in a fishbowl.”  Our lives are under constant scrutiny and our screw-ups are very public.  And we experience pain…we get hurt.

We get overwhelmed.  Funeral.  Wedding.  Marriage Counseling.  A family of 8 needs food.  A single battered mom needs a place to stay.  The A/C breaks.  The roof is leaking.  A sermon to write.  A faithful church attender has a heart attack.  Another marriage on the brink of divorce.  Lack of money.  Too many needs.  Family issues.  Not enough money to pay personal bills.  There’s a world of problems that you still haven’t been fully exposed to yet.  Please understand that we really are juggling a lot of different problems and issues.

We make mistakes.  We take risks.  Get impulsive at times.  Don’t always look at things from other perspectives.  Make a rash decision while we’re upset or hungry.  Make public bloopers.  Use “politically incorrect” jargon.  And even say things without thinking.  That’s why we’re grateful we have a Gracious God and a Holy Spirit who convicts.  That’s why we surround ourselves with people we can trust who help us out.

We lose our tempers.  Tensions build.  Too many appointments and phone calls.  Arguments with our spouses.  Stress.  Financial woes.  Then a cocky intern walks in and make an insensitive, ignorant, and definitely out of place comment.  *KABOOM*  Nice knowing you, kid.  Please be sensitive and patient in those times when we’re obviously on edge.  There’s usually a reason behind it.

You’re not doing anything we haven’t done.  All I do is make copies.  I always have to set up for banquets.  Shovel snow?  Move furniture?  What the heck does this have to do with ministry? We can’t just walk up to the Mount of Olives and begin to speak.  Things need to be set up, taken down, cleaned up.  These are works of ministry and service.  And while you’re making a pit stop here for a few months or years, we did it before you got here and we’ll do it after you leave.

Many sacrificed for the opportunities you now have.  It’s so easy to take things and people for granted.  The carpet that you walked on, the roof shielding you from the elements, the doors, the chairs, the bathrooms, the paint, the furniture…It’s all there because someone made the sacrifice to provide it.  While you’re hopping and clapping in a vibrant church service, others met in their living room with a handful of people so that decades later, you can be part of a local church.  Get ready to take us into the next phase and rise up and be big bad leaders, but respect and honor your past.  You’re going to miss them (us) some day.

We’re not as dumb as you think we are.  We might not have read every emergent author or have a subscription to Relevant Magazine.  No idea what the difference is between hip hop and rap. We can locate the Soviet Union on a map, you can locate every Urban Outfitters within 50 miles. There’s a difference between hipster, hippy, and hip??  Don’t buy our clothes at Goodwill or Plato’s Closet.  Folgers is just as good as fair trade coffee.  Can’t recite all the lyrics for “Red,” “22,” or “Everything has changed.”  But what we do have can’t be purchased on iTunes or viewed on NetFlix.  It’s called life experience.  The hip lingo might be beyond our reach, but what we posses is transferable and timeless.  If you want it, come and get it…but come hungry.

The reason we come down hard on you is to help you not make the same mistakes we did.  Yea, we might be tough on you.  We place unreasonable restrictions and keep challenging you to be better.  Keep repeating ourselves and overemphasizing certain things.  Make you feel uncomfortable, might even make you cry.  But that’s because we’ve seen too many of our peers with the same issues fail in irreversible ways.  We want you to make it and thrive!  To see you glorify God in every way and advance the Kingdom.  But don’t be in too much of a hurry to bust out of the classroom of life.

Perspective changes when you’re on the other side of the desk.  Just like your parents, we will say and do things that don’t make sense.  I used to think my parents were so out of touch.  But as I get older, I see more clearly why they did what they did.  The older I get, I appreciate them more…and I realize more and more how ignorant I really am.  We never know what’s it’s like until we’re actually carrying the mantle of leadership.  There are some things that books and seminars can ever fully explain.

Everyone has crazy pastors.   We will embarrass you with dorky expressions, improper usage of text abbreviations, and might even be obnoxious with our sense of humor.  But while you think we as your pastors are crazy, everyone has a crazy pastor. Your ministry will too.

“And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience.  Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).  Just remember this.  We are your biggest fans and want to see you climb higher than we ever have.  We want our ceiling to be your floor. The very reason we invest in you and take the time is because we care.  And we love you with all of our hearts…we just forget to express it once in a while.  Please be patient with us.  We still have room to improve and we’re still learning.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
“If I am through learning, I am through.” ~ John Wooden


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