Tuesday, July 3, 2012 6:04 PM

On Being A Young Pastor

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 6:04 PM
Tuesday, July 3, 2012 6:04 PM

On Being a Young Pastor

Charlie Dates

July 2012


In a few weeks I will celebrate the 1-year anniversary of my installation as Pastor of Progressive Baptist Church. In most historic black Baptist churches the Installation is the official start of the pastor’s tenure. It’s something like the President’s Inauguration.


I am fortunate to serve as the senior leader of one of Chicago’s historic churches. I am also fortunate – or some would say unfortunate – to be a relatively young man in this enormous role. When I arrived at Progressive, the church was 92 years old with a membership median age of 65. I’m not joking. The church had experienced rapid transition with 3 pastors over a period of 10 years. Say what you will, but any organization that turns over leadership at that clip will likely experience whiplash.


My task was, and continues to be, daunting. Without having a clearly expressed, biblically defined job description most people described my assignment in these words: “grow the church.” In retrospect, none of us knew what we were asking for. After a year, the addition of more than 500 people, and all the challenges that come with that, I can say that God has grown the church – or more accurately – God has grown me. Numbers don’t tell the real story. There have been many funerals, more sick visits than I can count, great joys, long leadership meetings, high Sundays and the kind of conflict for which seminary cannot prepare you. I’ve learned a lot. My confidence in God has deepened, and my conviction to preach the scriptures has proven indispensable.


Recently, one of my deacons said to me (in a well-intentioned voice) “Pastor, its two things you can’t have at the same time: Wisdom & Youth. You just cannot have them at the same time.” I listened as his words stung me. They pierced me in a burdening sense. Then I thought about it. Relief overcame me. He was wrong! He had good intentions to cheer me, but he was wrong. You can have wisdom and youth at the same time. Look at King Solomon. What he meant, or so I hope, to say was ‘Pastor, its two things you can’t have at the same time: Youth & Experience.” Now that’s true. Young age prevents a fair amount of experience. There are exceptions of course. I know guys who’ve been pastoring since they were 17. But on the whole, that is not common. So what help is there for a young pastor with an old church, and not a lot of experience? The simple answer is time. Keep living. When moments are dark, out pray everybody. When conflict is thick, out love everybody. When all else fails, out last everybody. Keep living and you’ll get old… with experience.


Be encouraged. Thanks for reading.



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