Young pastors must realize they will make mistakes, but then can rise above them.
Young pastors must realize they will make mistakes but then can rise above them. (Stock Free Images)

You might know I started a nonprofit directed at equipping and resourcing young pastors. I remember what it felt like to be a young pastor myself, trying to balance the demands of ministry and family, time and money, and an abundance of passion with the limit of the resources at my disposal.

Without the help of more experienced leaders to lift me up and point me in the right direction, I never would have made it. I want to be that resource for younger pastors who are coming behind me.

Here are a few mistakes I see young leaders making and how they can recover from them now, rather than be derailed by them later.

1. Assuming they have to prove themselves as a leader. I can understand how young leaders get to this place. There is often a divide of sorts between young leaders and more experienced leaders. They come from different generations and don’t always understand each other. The younger leaders come in with an intensity and energy but without the experience and know-how to put it to work.

As a result, I think many young leaders feel like they have to prove they have what it takes to be a leader. The problem is, proving yourself rarely makes you look as impressive as you think it does.

I would encourage young leaders to spend the energy they would have spent proving themselves by cultivating relationships with the more experienced leaders. This is the way to marry your passion and energy to the kind of experience and know-how that will make a huge impact.

2. Talking more than they listen. Or sometimes young leaders have the opposite problem—listening more than they are willing to speak up. Usually it’s the first, but I think both come from the same place: a fear of not being heard.

Young leaders are often afraid (rightfully so, perhaps) that their ideas won’t be heard by those around them, so they either shut down their ideas altogether or won’t stop sharing their ideas for long enough to learn from the experience of leaders who have been doing this for longer than they have.

Both do a disservice to the team as a whole.

Work to balance the time you spend talking with the time you spend listening. Ask good questions, and really listen to the responses. When you have an idea, don’t be afraid to share it out loud, but don’t assume it trumps every other idea in the room.

3. People-pleasing. I’ve seen so many young leaders get into trouble over this one, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know what it was like firsthand. When you believe that the “success” of your ministry is reflected in the happiness of the people around you, you are setting yourself up for major failure and disappointment.

Yes, please be a likable person. But there is no getting around it—no matter how likable you are, there will be people who don’t like you or don’t like what you’re doing in the ministry. The quicker you can learn that, the happier and more effective leader you’ll be.

4. Confusing authenticity with oversharing. I love how authentic the upcoming generations are. We have something to learn from the way you can honestly share your heart and your struggles without pretending like you have it all together.

But there has to be a balance between authenticity and oversharing, especially if you’re going to be a leader.

You don’t need to share every struggle you face on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not everyone you meet needs to know every last gory detail of your life. Find a mentor and a few friends who will listen to you and help you grow. Share openly with them. When it comes to those you’re leading, share gently and cautiously, only as it is helpful and builds others up.

5. Not delegating. Perhaps this is part of proving yourself as a young leader, but learn to delegate tasks to the appropriate people. Make room in your life for family and margin. Rest well. Take care of yourself. Think of this ministry life of yours as a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own.

You are not a failure if you delegate. In fact, getting others on board with your vision and spreading the tasks among them is precisely what makes you a great leader.

With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and, all while staying involved in the local church. Justin serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominantly working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people.

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