Outside of the church, I found a similar phenomenon at work among the younger pastors I was serving with on my district. They were ready and able to serve but needed established pastors to encourage and guide them even as they were finding their footing in ministry. ‘Will you mentor me?’ was the constant refrain I heard. These young pastors needed a place to process what they were experiencing. They needed a safe place to talk through the challenging decisions they were facing not to mention the doubts and struggles they were dealing with personally and professionally.
In light of all this, I became convinced of the need for our larger Church to make it a priority to invest in, mentor and train this next generation of pastoral leaders, but I didn’t quite know how to make that happen. So when Dr. Jesse Middendorf called me to serve on the Board of Advisors for a new Center for Pastoral Leadership (CPL) that the Seminary was launching, I became intrigued with the possibilities such a Center could provide for equipping, encouraging, resourcing and mentoring not only established pastors like myself but also (and especially) this next generation I had been investing in so heavily in recent years. The theme of the first Preaching Conference sponsored by the Center – Incarnational Leadership in a “Me’” First World – spoke volumes to me about the perspective this particular Center hopes to take towards leadership – a Christlike model which values exactly those things that younger pastors are longing for: presence, relationship and authenticity.
And so began a bittersweet journey of leaving my beloved Blakemore Church in Nashville this past September to step into a position of helping direct this new Center alongside Dr. Jesse Middendorf. I look forward to serving the entire pastoral corps of the church – those in training and those already in service. My hope is that we can help pastors flourish whatever season of ministry they find themselves in. Yet I sincerely hope that we will make a particular impact on this next generation – truly listening to them, dialoguing with them, serving alongside them, investing in them as well for the future of our Church, the Church, depends upon it.