First up, I’m not anti-church or anti-God. I LOVE God and His Church.
But why does it seem that we (as the Church, myself included) set up young pastors to fail?
This has been bugging me and I’d love to know what you think.
Here’s how it seems to go:
A young person shares the call of God on their life to become a vocational minister/pastor.
We rejoice with them and send them off to Bible college/seminary because they need to prepare for ministry. There’s nothing wrong with that but here’s where things start to go awry…
These potential world changers are challenged and taught all about what they need to believe and why in order to be a pastor. Not bad in and of itself but the concepts and study are rarely taught with real world application or consideration of how to actually teach these concepts in today’s world. So it becomes a purely intellectual exercise and seems to squash the passion and zeal that was once present in these young lives.
The ones who make it through college with even a flicker of the passion and zeal
they went in with are then put on as staff in church “institutions” who force them to conform to the “this is how its done” philosophy. They are not released to follow God’s leading, to try things, make mistakes and forge their own way.
Then almost by default, we give them the role of “youth pastors”
and give them the freedom to do whatever they need to because, somehow, we think that its ok for “crazy stuff” to happen “over there” in youth ministry. After all no one here understands young people, but we want to “keep them around” and we expect them to “change” into “us” once they hit 18 anyway and join “real church”…
We also assume that youth ministry is simply a stepping stone to “real ministry” and so after (insert average life span of youth pastor here) years or so we ask the pastor to change roles and join “real church”. So we drag him or her into a role they probably don’t want and then we expect them to simply forget the entire way they’ve been doing ministry for the last however many years because that’s not “real ministry”. We don’t let them be creative, we force them to do it how it’s always been done because that’s the way the congregation expects it.
Then comes the dichotomy of expectations…
The youth they used to hang out with are sad to see them go but excited to know that they’re part of “real church” now and that means that just maybe they might begin to feel welcomed into an environment that’s been so foreign to them all their lives. So they turn up with great expectations, hoping to see a change, hoping that they can finally begin to connect with what’s going on because after all they know him/her and can relate to them.
Over time they begin to see that he/she seems to be acting just like every one else and they’re totally wreaked. And so is the pastor! They love these young people, they’ve grown up with them and watched them grow. And now they too want to know where the guy/girl they trusted and confided in has gone? Why has he/she changed so much… is this how “real church” is supposed to be, am I not welcome unless I change and become what I perceive as being old?
the pastor has little choice but to follow the path of those that went before them. If they want to keep their position they need to “tow the company line” and not “rock the boat”.
They try and try to open discussions and dialogue, to look at ways they can encompass everyone’s needs, pleading with leaders to be open to change for the sake of the greater good.
People listen at first, they seem to agree but when push comes to shove most of them will change their mind citing differences of “ministry philosophy” or simply telling them straight up that “this isn’t what we do here”. So what is he/she supposed to do with that?
All the while the church rolls on
people turn up, money is given, laughs are shared and no one notices all the young people leaving out the back door… “they’re just young” they say, “they’ll come back… well actually you know I’m not that fussed really, because they wanted to change everything, and I like it how it is…”
So that young world changer
has now either become a frustrated, passive status quo accepting pastor because he/she wants to keep their job and stay in ministry, or they’ve left the ministry and are struggling to deal with the feelings of guilt and remorse for not attending church and not being able to find a place that thinks church is more than just keeping people happy…
Only a few of them are able to find a place that is ready and willing to change the way it does things in order to continue to reach a world that changes every day…