Coaching for young pastors: Stop, drop and roll.

SDR    Now that I am 20 months past transplant, life is 95% back to normal. If not for the monthly trips to the blood lab, the handful of anti-rejection medicines twice a day, the hand sanitizers and side effects of a splotchy complexion and headaches, I wouldn’t know I had a liver transplant. I’m having a hard time thinking of liver-related posts for my blog. THAT’S GREAT NEWS! It means it is time for my blog to return to what it was before liver disease. It’s time for me to return to journaling things that are on my heart and mind, sometimes liver related and sometimes not.

Today? Not.

One of my greatest joys in life, after 25 years of working in Christendom, is that I get to invest in younger ministers. Some are in para-church ministry, some are serving churches and some are looking to begin their ministries. My conversations with my “mentees” are always a highlight of my week. They are not always a highlight of their weeks. Sometimes I have to say some tough things, things that are hard to hear.

I have experienced a few who sought out a coaching relationship with no desire to be mentored. “Coaching” is the in thing, it’s fashionable. I had one young man a few years back look me in the eye and sincerely tell me, “I’ve been in church all my life. I already know everything I need.” Ah, youth.

  I will not forget the time I handed Steven Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to a student who was completing a college internship with me. He handed it back and said, “Thanks but I think I am already pretty effective.”

I’ve had two young men pursuing pastoral ministry tell me that the Holy Spirit would teach them all they needed. They had no need for formal education or mentoring.  Afterall, “the disciples never went to college.”

The unteachable guys always make me a bit sad. Experience has shown me that they have a rough road ahead. Except for my “effective” intern who adjusted his outlook, I’ve not seen the unteachable ever be effective in ministry. They either get chewed up and spit out or they operate from insecurity in their ministries.

Thankfully, most are truly open to learning and are hungry for someone to pour into them and help them wrestle, manage, learn and grow. They are looking for someone who will look them in the eye and ask the difficult questions.

Regardless of the particular ministry, I find a much too common theme. Most are working way too hard and stretched very thin at the expense of their families. They are having a difficult time finding others to share the ministry load and are carrying too many things on their shoulders. A few have people resources but are reluctant to release control for fear that quality will suffer.

My advice? Stop, drop and roll.

First, STOP being everyone’s answer. Two truths to remember?

  1. There is a God
  2. You are not Him

It feels good to be needed. It feels good when people ask your advice. It feels good to return after a week away to hear people tell you how much you were missed. But the problem with all those things is that YOU are the focus. Effective ministry helps people mature to stand on their own two feet relying on God. We are called to “equip the Saints for ministry,” not make them dependent on us.

Second, DROP. It’s time to drop things you are carrying alone and stop launching new programs until the Lord provides the workers. The more you carry everything alone, the less people have the opportunity to grow in ministry. Will a soccer program really attract more families? Doubtful. When someone comes to you with a great new ministry idea, recognize the opportunity for them to learn through starting it, building it and running it with your guidance and input. If there are no workers, drop it and pray to the Lord of the harvest. Providing workers is His responsibility. Your responsibility is to equip them and release them for ministry.

Third, ROLL. Good boxers learn to “roll with the punches.” They take what comes at them and make adjustments to deal with whatever comes so that they are still standing at the final bell. Panicked boxers let their opponents determine the pace of the contest. (Not that your flock is the opponent!)

I’ve always found young pastors in a big hurry. The problem is that fruit requires time and consistency to grow. Fruit that will last requires tending, fertilizing, gentle pruning and watering. Soil must be tilled, seeds must be planted. I often repeat the reminder, “God has time” in my conversations with those I mentor.

Few things truly require your immediate attention – especially on your day off or during family time. Instead of living life in a reactive mode, commit to becoming proactive. The proactive pastor builds a team to handle crisis and has no problem setting his voicemail recording to “We’re having some family time. If you have an emergency, give _______  a call at 555-1234.” In fact, that’s a good example of valuing family and setting healthy boundaries.

Years ago one of my mentors taught me that solving every problem and rushing to the rescue can actually rob people of the opportunity to discover the depth of prayer that comes in crisis. Providing the solution can rob people from developing the ability to overcome obstacles on their own. I remember him frequently telling me, “Scott, you are not the answer. Jesus is the answer. Point people to Him.”

Discipleship takes time. God has time. I remember hearing a young pastor tell me, “I’d rather burnout than rust out.”

I shrugged, “Really? It seems to me that you’re out either way.”

Stop. Drop. Roll.

About Scott Linscott

Living life to the fullest, walking in the dust of my Rabbi, creating art through photography and written word, speaking words of hope wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.
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