The Public Progress of a (Youth) Pastor

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Out on our back window sit various pots filled with soil and seed.

Come spring, these pots will be emptied, the soil will be turned, and new seeds will be planted. We, and our kids, will then spend weeks and months looking out our window viewing the growth of these seeds. Fresh green shoots will spring up from underneath the soil and slowly be transformed into plants with roots and flowers with beautiful petals.

The progress of these seeds will be evident to our family as we look through our window or sit in our backyard. The evolution from seed to flower will be slow and steady, yet observable to the eye.

And in a similar way this is the process of become a mature youth minister.

It can be slow, steady, and observable.

Paul and Progress

In the New Testament Paul understands the process of becoming a mature minister will take time, hard work, and be apparent to those watching.

In 1st Timothy 4:14-15 Paul exhorts his colleague to continue to use the gifts he has been given. He encourages him to put them into practice as he immerses himself in the role and task of being a pastor. He says,

“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.”

The Letter of 1st Timothy is written to encourage Timothy in the pastoral task. It is written to help him in his role, and outlines some of the key attributes he is to have. Paul, prior to these words, highlights the importance of Timothy’s character and how he is to be an example to all. He then reminds Timothy to use the gifts he has been given and seek to master them; always aware that it will take time and be in public view of others.

And this is the same for us in youth ministry.

Our progress as a youth pastor or youth leader, our skills and aptitude for the pastoral task, need practice and work, all the while visible to the congregation we serve.

The Youth Pastor and Progress

At a time when terms like leadership development, spiritual coaching, mentoring, and personal growth are common verbiage, Paul’s words continue to resonate.

We live in a work-life culture that promotes the need for growth in ourselves, in our careers, and in the skills we have. And interestingly enough, Paul tells Timothy in his letter that he is to make progress as a minister of the gospel.

Perhaps we could facetiously say Paul is the first self-help guru for Christian ministry…?

This progress as a minister of the gospel, as a youth pastor of a church, is the result of (1) our own discipleship and (2) practice and immersion in the tasks of ministry.

Like those we serve, we are to mature as believers in Christ, moving on from milk to solid food (Hebrews 5:12-13). Just as we admonish, teach, and encourage others, we too need a good dose of the same (Colossians 1:26-28). It is our discipleship, our walking with Jesus, our followship, that will impact our progress as pastors the most.

But this does not mean we neglect the specific tasks we find in our position description. Our progress as pastors will be observed through the improvement in our preaching and teaching of the Word, our leading of bible study, our prayers with our leaders, our love shown to those we care for, and even in the organisation and administration of our ministry. The list could go on. This progress is not determined on how small or large our youth group is, it is the slow learning of what it means to be a local youth pastor to a local group of believers.

Through our own maturity as a believer – our persistence in relying on Jesus – and the sharpening of our ministry skills and abilities, we will find ourselves making progress. As we use these God-given gifts, skills, abilities, and aptitudes we will grow in these things, develop these things, and our progress will bear fruit in those to whom we minister to (no matter the size of the group).

The Public and Progress

The calling to pastor, to youth or otherwise, is a public calling.

For better or worse, people observe us, have opinions of us, and judge us in the way we operate as pastors, and ultimately as people. So, Paul’s reminder to Timothy seems right and true. The gifts Timothy has been given are grown and developed as he uses them. As he goes about practicing these gifts the more capable he becomes. We should see this in ourselves, but even more so, our congregation should see it too.

Have you ever noticed some of the comments you get from your leaders, parents, and other members of the church? It is often through conversation and the odd encouraging comment that we can see progress in ourselves. These are important to hold on to, and an example of what Paul is talking about to Timothy.

When we receive feedback, or seek it in a healthy way, we must remember that we are not perfect and – thankfully – we follow a God who isn’t asking us for perfection.

Alistair Begg, when preaching on this passage, remarks,

“It’s a challenge but it’s also terrific…It doesn’t say, ‘So all may see your perfection’. No, perfection is the Lord Jesus. Our progress is toward the Lord Jesus…Our congregations can hopefully see our progress.”

We have been given gifts, gifts of service for the works of the ministry and the benefit of the church. Through these God-given gifts we are to practice them, and others are to see us evolve and grow in them. Yet as they observe us, and as we grow and progress in these things, the ultimate benefit is for God’s glory. The importance of progress isn’t for ourselves or our career development as pastors; our progress as pastors means progress of the gospel. Continuing to practice, staying close to the Scriptures, and teaching its truth will save both us and our hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).

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