5 Ways We All Can Support Young Pastors

Contributing Writer
5 Ways We All Can Support Young Pastors

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul outlined the requirements for elders, overseers, and pastors in the church (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7). These terms, used interchangeably in the Bible, call upon pastors to be “above reproach,” “self-controlled,” “skillful in teaching,” and “holding firmly to the faithful word.” Of course, these are just a few qualities every pastor must possess. One quality, however, that is missing from this list is age.

How old should a pastor be to shepherd God’s people? That is a question many have asked over the years. The Bible, however, does not provide a direct answer.

As we see throughout Scripture, age matters far less to God than submissiveness and spiritual maturity when it comes to leadership (1 Timothy 4:12). We know that some of the most fruit-bearing churches have been led by seasoned pastors and literal elders who have faithfully ministered to the body of Christ for decades. On the other hand, some of the boldest and most outspoken ambassadors of the gospel have also been relatively young men.

Young or old, new or experienced, every pastor must rely on the wisdom, power, and guidance of the Holy Spirit to be an effective teacher and a trustworthy shepherd of Christ’s sheep (1 Peter 5:2-3). Regardless of age, pastoral leadership also comes with incredible responsibilities. Every pastor is accountable to God for the way he teaches and cares for Christ’s sheep. But while a young pastor may have much in common with his mentors in the faith, he will undoubtedly face unique challenges as he learns to navigate the rocky terrain of early pastoral ministry.

Here then are five ways you can support young pastors in the church.

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man with glasses praying at desk

1. Pray and Provide for Them

This may come as a shock, but our pastors need encouragement and support as much as anyone in the church. Yes, God offers guidance and strength to our leaders and elders, but we have to stop thinking that our pastors are somehow set apart from and set above the body of Christ (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 10:17). They are part of the body too.

Even the apostle Paul called upon the church to pray for him and those he served alongside (Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3). Though many supported him from afar, Paul nonetheless considered them partners in his ministry because of their financial support and prayer (Romans 15:30; Philippians 1:5). The same is true for you as a member of the local church.

If you want to sow into the kingdom of God, you must make it a priority to provide for the harvesters and laborers doing the work. That includes your pastors. Furthermore, you must learn to pray for your pastors and leaders on a regular basis. If he is a younger man, specifically pray that he would have the courage to lead as God directs. Pray that he would fear God above all others, even those in his own congregation who might doubt or second guess him because of his youth. Pray for wisdom and understanding. Pray that God would provide spiritual mentors, counselors, and advisors to shepherd and support him in his leadership. Pray that God would open doors for ministry and opportunities for the gospel to be preached. Pray for his wife and children, who may also be struggling to balance the demands of full-time ministry.

In the end, few things inspire confidence and foster courage in a leader like knowing his people are behind him, providing for him, his family, and his ministry, and interceding on his behalf through prayer. It may seem so simple, but prayer and provision are often the most effective things you can do to support your pastors.

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Man with his hand covering his mouth

2. Stop Complaining

When I was in my early twenties, I served on staff at a church where I got to work alongside our senior pastor. One thing I quickly learned was just how unhappy many members of our congregation had become. I knew this from countless emails our staff received every week from disgruntled members of the congregation who felt the need to complain about anything and everything. A song in worship that was off key. Service going over five minutes. A typo in the church bulletin. Many of these complaints weren’t constructive; they were just petty. And though our pastor loved his congregation like a father loves his children and listened to their concerns, I sometimes wondered if ever he felt like Moses having to listen to God’s people grumble in the desert (Numbers 14:1-4; 11-12).

Most seasoned pastors will learn to take criticism with a grain of salt and sort through complaints with humility and sometimes humor. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for a young pastor to be bombarded with senseless criticism and endless complaints so early in his ministry.

If you have concerns, bring them up to the church staff and your pastor in a godly, biblical manner. No pastor is flawless. They too are accountable to God’s word. But always check your heart (Philippians 2:14-18). Your pastor is not there to entertain you or fulfill your Sunday morning wish list. Ask yourself: do you always expect to have your needs met or do you look for ways you can serve your pastor and your church? Are you an encouragement to your leaders, or are you needy, petty, and cynical? Do you speak well of your pastor to others, or do you constantly complain about him behind his back?

Consider the warning of James, “do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9).

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Man talking a morning walk at sunrise

3. Encourage Him on Monday Morning

Where Christ has been proclaimed, eyes have been opened, lives have been changed, and the kingdom of God has expanded on this earth. That is good news. But that also means that the enemy of Christ – the one who comes to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10) – has lost ground. One of the ways Satan likes to retaliate against Christ is by going after His sheep.

Unfortunately, that means many pastors will wake up Monday morning to an onslaught of spiritual attacks. It’s what those in ministry call the Monday morning blues, the day when pastors face the most self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and fear that they have failed God and the church. Young pastors, in particular, may need more encouragement and reminders to “take captive” these Monday morning thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5). You can help them.

Pray for your pastor specifically on Monday mornings or after a worship service. Pray that God would be glorified in his ministry and that He would shield him again pride, self-doubt, and discouragement. Pray that God will renew his strength (Isaiah 40:30-31). Pray for protected time with his family.

Furthermore, if you have the ability, send him an encouraging word. There’s no need for flattery; and we should never praise pastors for what God alone deserves credit for. However, with a heart of gratitude, we can commend our pastors for their faithfulness and thank them for faithfully teaching us the word of God. So many pastors have no idea whether their ministry is bearing fruit or not because those who benefit from it do not tell them.

Monday morning is as good a day as any to thank your pastor and encourage him to seek the Lord, that He may refresh his spirit and revive him according to His word (2 Corinthians 4:7-12; Psalms 119:25).

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Wooden cross on top of a Bible

4. Encourage Him to Keep to the Cross in His Teaching

One of the greatest temptations many young pastors face is feeling a pressure to perform or prove themselves to their congregation. Sometimes this comes in the form of compromising or contextualizing biblical truth to please or impress others. Other times, it looks like the pastor who elevates himself and basks in the brilliance of his fresh insights. This is a particularly dangerous but growing trend in evangelical Christianity.

The problem isn’t a young pastor’s passion or energy; it’s when a minister believes he must move beyond a faithful teaching of the gospel, reinvent the wheel, or rely on a performative teaching style to make a name for himself or attract new members. Unfortunately, many young pastors fall into the trap of thinking the growth and well-being of their church is dependent on their charm, charisma, and wisdom, not Christ and the all-sufficient power of His word.

In contrast, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that: “when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come as someone superior in speaking ability or wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified… and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of mankind, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

A pastor’s focus must be the faithful teaching of the word of God, not making a name for himself. The world may pressure him to compromise to gain more followers. Members of his own congregation may pressure him to appeal to their comforts. Encourage your pastor to keep to the cross. The gospel alone is the saving grace of sinners. Not him!

In praising the truth of God’s word above his teaching style or brilliant insights, you will remove the pressure to do too much. Your pastor is not a celebrity. Don’t treat him like one. When his eyes are set on the cross and Christ crucified, he will gladly labor to feed the souls of those whose foundation is built on the rock of Jesus Christ, not the shifting sands of an ever-changing culture (Matthew 7:24-27; Hebrews 13:8).

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Young pastor talking to a group of people

5. Don’t Compare Him to Others

The Bible provides several examples of young men who’ve followed in the footsteps of respected leaders, and make no mistake, Joshua had massive shoes to fill when he took over for Moses, as did Elisha after Elijah, Solomon after King David, and Timothy after the apostle Paul. Every young pastor should learn from the wisdom and example of his mentors in the faith.

Many young pastors will learn through imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 4:9). That is the essence of discipleship. However, we should only imitate our leaders insomuch as they imitate Christ. Furthermore, a Joshua does not need to be reminded of all the ways he is not Moses. He knows. When we compare a young pastor to his predecessor or another successful pastor, measuring his success by theirs, we often create unfair expectations for him in his ministry. God has given each man a voice, a vision, and the skills to fulfill his calling. Those skills, however, may not be as refined as a literal elder in the church. As long as he is faithful to the Lord, models his life after Christ, faithfully exposits the Bible, and exemplifies the qualities of biblical leadership outlined in Scripture, many of these differences won’t matter. At least, they shouldn’t.

Unfortunately, many Christians get caught up in the disappointment that their young pastor isn’t like the one they previously followed. I have even met Christians who had stopped tithing, stop serving, and stopped attending church until their new pastor “proved himself” from the pulpit. I cannot think of anything more unbiblical than making a young pastor jump through hoops or earn the support of his congregation. This happens when we put too much faith in our leaders instead of Christ as the head of the church.

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul warned about this kind of loyalty to human leaders (1 Corinthians 1:13). Therefore, if you truly want to support a young pastor, don’t hold him to an unfair standard or unrealistic expectations. Hold him accountable to the word of God only. Commend his strengths, encourage him in his weaknesses, but above all, put your identity and faith in Christ alone.

In the end, if you truly want to support your pastor, continue to grow in your faith. Even when he was in prison, the apostle Paul could rejoice in knowing that the believers in Philippi were steadfast in their faith and growing in their love for Jesus Christ. Do you likewise bring joy to your pastor? Does your faith give him reason to be proud (3 John 1:4)? The faith of a congregation is often the fruit of a pastor’s faithfulness. So carry on. Bless the Lord and you will in turn bless your pastor.

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Joel Ryan is an author, writing professor, and contributing writer for Salem Web Network and Lifeway. When he’s not writing stories and defending biblical truth, Joel is committed to helping young men find purpose in Christ and become fearless disciples and bold leaders in their homes, in the church, and in the world.