Since leaving preaching school I’ve watched a number of my peers excitedly step into ministry only to step out a few years later. Some leave ministry to move into secular work and serve the church in a different capacity. Others, sadly, get so discouraged that they leave not only the ministry, but the church completely behind.
While there are a number of reasons we could cite for this exodus (financial, can’t handle the pressure) young men, in my opinion, are leaving ministry primarily because they have very real needs that are not being met by those in the leadership, the congregation, or both. If order to prevent continued losses of young ministers, we need to both understand what they need and provide those needs for them.
They Need to be Heard
Young ministers are idealistic, and bring into their ministries fresh ideas and methods by which to better share the gospel. Spending four years preparing for ministry through rigorous Bible study and aiding smaller congregations tends to get the wheels turning for most young ministers. Unfortunately, when he goes to his first work the ideas he brings are often shut down, and sometimes even met with disdain.
This type of response is a good way to squelch the passion of any young minister causing friction between him and the leadership or worse, causing him to leave ministry or the church altogether.
Young ministers need to be heard. This does not mean every idea needs to be accepted, but every idea should at least be allowed to be put on the table. If you are working with a young minister, encourage him to speak his mind and be sure to hear what he has to say. To regularly ignore or deny his thoughts runs the risk of losing another minister by making him feel inferior or unimportant to the plan of the church.
They Need Encouragement
Recently, a younger minister friend of mine made the comment that he is struggling because he spends so much time ministering to others, and doesn’t really have anyone to minister to him.
He is not alone in that feeling.
Who ministers to the minister? Sometimes it’s other ministers. Paul actively encouraged men like Timothy and Titus in their ministries so that they would continue to fight the good fight as he does (1 Tim. 4:12). Generally speaking though, it is churches that bear the responsibility of encouraging one another, including the minister (Heb. 3:13).
Young ministers need encouragement. Pray with them. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Invite them into your home. Older members take them under your wing and mentor them. Younger members, spend time with them as friends. Ministers that give ministry and never receive it won’t be ministers for very long.
They Need Time to Grow
It has often been said that ministers and their families live in a glass house. While that appears to be less true now than it was in past generations, that does not mean preaching is without it's burdens.
Ministers carry the burdens of members and the church on their shoulders regularly. They are pained by the hurts of the church and saddened when they see members regress in their spirituality. In addition to this, many younger ministers are newly married or beginning to have children. These pressures add up quickly and when they do some preachers respond immaturely with a pointed article, heated sermon, or harsh outburst.
Young ministers need time to grow. They WILL make mistakes, sometimes costly ones. Though they should be addressed as mistakes, they need to be addressed lovingly. Young ministers need mercy and grace for their mistakes. They need to know that they aren’t in danger of losing their job over a dumb decision or short-sighted action. They need to know that the leadership and the congregation will allow them to fall a few times as they attempt to fly.
They Need to be Taught
Ministers at any age have a lot to learn. Ministry is a job that requires a lot of hats to be worn and many men, not to mention their families, are simply not equipped to be all that they are asked to be. This is where older Christians, other ministers, and elders come into the picture.
Young ministers need to be taught. Some of them may reject this at first, though most men I know are receptive to teaching. If they reject it, they may have trouble learning from you because, as the old adage says, “they don’t care how much you know because they don’t know how much you care.” Show your ministers you care by listening to them, encouraging them, and allowing them to have time to grow. At that point you’ll be able to help train them in the way they need to go. Take them with you when you make visits. Talk to them about their ideas, and give them some of your own. Talk to them about life and church experiences you’ve had. Ministers need to be taught, but that is not possible unless these other needs are fulfilled.
Church, we can’t afford to lose any more ministers. Our culture is making continued advances away from God and we need men to stand in the gap to help turn the tide. Pray for your minister, especially if they are younger. Listen to what is on their heart. Encourage them in their passions of service to the Lord. Give them time to grow into the man God wants them to be. Cultivate an environment of caring so that you can mentor them.
Ministers need to know that they are loved, that they matter, and that they have something meaningful to contribute. If we want to keep ministers from leaving the ministry, it starts by fulfilling these needs.