21 Essential Tips for Young Pastors

Young preachers begin the ministry with a lot of fervor and idealism. They go to their first church believing they are going to make a difference, that they are going to be able to do what others before them have not done.

For a time it may seem that they are succeeding in changing the church but then the honeymoon period ends and the preacher realizes that being a pastor is not what they thought it would be. Sometimes this is so devastating to the young preacher that they leave the ministry. The number of one and done pastors is quite high. Being a pastor over a long period of time requires a preacher to lose their idealism and forces them to temper their fervor.


There are several things that every young preacher must understand about every church:

People are people.

There is a power base in every church.
Problems in the church are rarely exposed to prospective pastors.
Moderate, incremental change is difficult.
Dramatic, instant change is almost always impossible (because people are people and the power base will resist any change that robs them of their power).

Here are a few suggestions that I hope will be a help to every young preacher that reads this post:

1. Don’t confuse your self-identity with the church. Far too many pastors allow themselves to be swallowed up by the church, losing their self-identity in the process.

2. Don’t sacrifice your children or spouse for the sake of the church. Trust me, 25 years later, the church will have long since forgotten you and your sacrifice will mean little.

3. Choose which battles are worth fighting. Not every hill is worth dying on and not every challenge to your authority of leadership is worthy of a fight. Remember, the church is not your church. You, along with people who likely have been there for many years, are simply caretakers of the church.

4. Be willing to say, I don’t know. I realize this puts you at great risk of being unemployed (since church members crave certainty) but speaking with certainty when you know there is none is lying and dishonest.

5. Be aware of the traps that can destroy your ministry, especially the big 2 – money and women. Never touch the money and never allow yourself to be put in a position where moral compromise is possible.

6. Insist that the church pay you well. Do not be a full-time worker for part-time pay. It is OK to pastor churches that cannot pay you a living wage, but the church must understand that you have an obligation to your family and you must work a job outside the church to properly provide for them.

7. Make sure there is an annual pay review procedure in place. You should not have to beg for a raise. Make sure you have an employment contract where the job requirements, pay level, benefits, pay review period, and termination procedure are clearly laid out. If a church is unwilling to put all of this in writing, what does that tell you?

8. If at all possible, own your own home. Someday you will not be a pastor. Someday you will be old and retired. Then what? Where will you live? Churches can rent out the parsonage and provide you with a housing allowance. Remember, most of the church members are building equity in their home and you should be able to do the same.

POSTED ON December 4, 2013
  • Pastora

    #5–Please do not say that women are traps that can destroy.
    A) I agree that compromising situations can be a trap, but the trap is not women.
    B) It degrades women from human beings to destructive evil.
    C) Some pastors (and expastors) are women themselves, so in our situation compromising situations are more likely with men than with women.

    • I don’t believe that was the author’s intent, to say that women are a trap, but rather to point out how easy it is to fall into a compromising situation.

      • Pastora

        Bo- I totally agree with you. I do not think the author intended harm, I think the author intended to write with all positivity and good advice to be given. But with anything, wording is key and the way we talk about things can have unintended consequences. As a woman reading that statement I hear that I can be a trap. I am not the trap, the situation can be a trap though.

        • Bobby Minor

          When I read it, I read it as “don’t put yourself in a situation where you might compromise with a woman”, and that falls 100% on the pastor.

        • MartinPierce

          A female pastor also shouldn’t put herself into a potentially compromising situation with a man. The downfall is immorality itself, not a specific gender. As they say, it takes two to tango. I’m assuming that this article wasn’t written from an egalitarian perspective.

  • Shocked.

    And where is The Lord in all of this? “Many churches don’t deserve a pastor – let them die??” Shocking. Jesus had compassion on the multitude, no matter what they were like. He had compassion on those who crucified Him. What if Jesus had said “Many souls don’t deserve a saviour – let them die”? If we cannot love the souls of all humanity, we do not have the love of Jesus in us. So how can we expect to feed the flock of God in that state?

    • Michael Allerton

      He is infering that some churches are not worth the hurt. These churches metaphorically martyr their pastors. I pastored three of these. The denominational leaders wont fix them as long as some tithes trickle up. Don’t bother pastoring this type of church.

    • Billy Findley

      That’s the best line on the list.

    • Romario Ricketts

      You totally misconstrued that sentence. That “let them die” there is a use of metaphor.

  • jason fischer

    Good stuff!!! Every young Pastor should hear this.

    • Stella

      I appreciate the advice and points raised in the discussion. May we never loose sight of the fact that pastoring is or rather should be a calling not profession. And such we are not there for what we can achieve for ourselves but what we can give to the body of christ in our sphere of influence. May we tarry till we are ready to serve for the glory of God not ours. The church and pastors need to wake up and see the “hand writing on the wall” the world is watching likewise cloud of withnesses. We must reflect on our WHY. Stay in God’s presence brethren.

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  • Pastor Hank Griffin

    Some of the points you made I believe are just wrong.

  • Matt

    I’m a young gay pastor – first church – I appreciate your wisdom though all of the language does not directly apply to my context. Thank you.

  • Enriche Ribeiro

    thank you very relevant great read very truthful

Bruce Gerencser lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 34 years. For 25 years, Bruce pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.