10 principles to leading young pastors

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I serve on staff with a team of young pastors. I love the guys and girls I get to do ministry with.

Our lead pastors (Ron Edmondson and Chad Rowland) know how to lead younger pastors unbelievably well. In fact, one of our pastors, Ron Edmondson, wrote a post yesterday on raising up young leaders that articulates some of the practices he uses with guys like me.

I know there are some pastors wondering, “How do I lead younger pastors?” I also know there are some younger guys frustrated because their pastor has no clue how to lead them well.

Here are some important principles I think will help older leaders to guide us young guys well.

10 principles to leading young pastors

Things to stop

Quit telling us what to do.

Nobody wants to be micromanaged. Especially high calibre leaders. The more you direct our every step, the more we’ll balk at your leadership. Lead us by doing hard, creative, meaningful work with character. Instead of telling us what to do, do the work and invite us into the process of planning, dreaming, and scheming you go through.

Quit telling us who to be.

With the advents of the internets, we have access to the greatest leaders, the most prolific communicators, and the sharpest minds in the world. We’re following a plethora of high-quality leaders through their podcasts, blogs, books, and webinars. But we don’t have access to other pastors’ lives like we do yours, working alongside you week after week. Instead of telling us who to be, model for us who we could be if we were to fully flesh out our God-given gifts.

Quit telling us “the why.”

We get your vision. In fact, that’s one of the major reasons we decided to work for you…we, at some level, bought into the vision. But if we’re constantly poking holes, asking questions, and stretching the box, we don’t need to hear “the why” again. More than likely, it’s “the why” that we’re questioning. Instead of telling us “the why” once again, let us help you see if there’s a better “why.”

Quit expecting less-than-exceptional work.

We’re capable of more than you expect. Throw projects, concepts, and ideas our way, and give us the freedom to accomplish those in a way different than you may have initially drawn up in your mind. Raise the bar. We’ll rise to it. Instead of expecting decent work, expect us to blow you away.

Quit telling us only what you’re disappointed with.

We need to hear where we need to improve. But we also need to hear which decisions we’re making are making an impact. The more you share the negative things exclusively, the less we’ll come to you for advice, wisdom, and counsel. Instead of telling us only what you’re disappointed with, give us consistent feedback.

Here’s the guiding principle:

If you want to lead young pastors well, stop “telling” us. Instead, lead us.

There’s such a difference between leading and parenting. Between leading and micromanaging. Between leading and controlling. Between leading and doling out tasks.

Things to start

Start giving young pastors the chance to make mistakes.

This is costly in the short run, but costly not to in the long run.

Start giving young pastors the chance to do things differently.

This means you may have to bend on the details of how you thought your vision would be accomplished.

Start giving young pastors the chance to stretch the box.

Change may be difficult, but box a young pastor in and you’ll suffocate them.

Start giving young pastors a seat at the leadership table, even when they haven’t earned it.

This is a move that will enstill confidence in younger pastors, and give them the chance to flesh out creative ideas. It also helps us see what it takes to be more influential in our leadership.


We young pastors may be a bit idealistic. We may be a bit rough around the edges. We may be quick to decide things you’d rather ponder on. We may be slow to move on something you’re ready to pounce on.


The bottom line is that we need to be led.


Do you serve with young leaders? What am I missing?


* image credit: background via Creation Swap, Divine Fusion // edits mine


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

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

  • Michael Dean

    I was just encouraging and providing some direction to a young pastor about this very topic at lunch today.

    As usual, you are on point and timely, Ben.  My expressions of what you said above…

    Well meaning as they are, there are some “older” pastors who feel like they are obliged to share everything that they have learned or experienced with a “younger” pastor.  And while that can certainly be helpful, having the discernment to know when to share and when to allow a younger pastor to learn and experience things on their own–often the hard way–best serves them.

    I also think that it is also critical for older pastors to really engage younger pastors in the messiness of relationship and wrestling through tough conversations.  I have known too many young pastors whom have gotten hurt, because an older pastor killed a messy conversation, by saying, “You’ll understand when you are older… more experienced… further along in your journey… etc.”  While that might be true, it isn’t the truth in love.  Devaluing a young person’s voice many times is devaluing them.

    Finally, let’s not forget that while God is building His church through people, ultimately it is He who is building the church, and not us.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pastor diligently, but I am saying that we have to leave room for a lot of mistakes and for God to show Himself faithful through those mistakes. 

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      I love this line, Michael:
      I also think that it is also critical for older pastors to really engage younger pastors in the messiness of relationship and wrestling through tough conversations.  

      That’s so, so good. There’s a blog post in there…actually, probably a book. Solid wisdom.

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  • Sam Swann

    Great words of wisdom Ben. As I was reading it I couldn’t help but think that this is actually a good word for any pastor, whether he is leading younger pastors or those that are close to his own age. We who are older and still in a position in the church that is not the Sr. Pastor would like to be set free to do what The Lord has called us to do, within the context of the overall vision of the church of course. Sr. Pastors who do not (for a variety of reasons) rely on the giftedness of his staff are actually expressing a little bit of mistrust. At least that is what I have observed while I was still in the local church and now, to a certain extent, more so in the position I am currently in on the state denominational level.

    Thanks again for the great words, I intend to share these with those I work with.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks Sam! Appreciate that encouragement!

      And I agree, too. I was just processing it as a young pastor. You’re right…this is more widely applicable.

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