A Pastor’s Letter to a Young Pastor

This post is from a friend and written by him. It is a letter he sent recently to a younger pastor…

Early on as pastor of this church I found out some retired guys met at McDonalds on Thursday mornings. There they hung out together to drink cheap coffee, sit on hard chairs and shoot the breeze. These guys would never pay for a $3.74 cup of coffee at Starbucks. One week I decided to visit with them, and from then on I would stop in about once a month or so. We bantered back and forth about all sorts of things. They complained about the youth pastor’s earrings and teased me about working one hour a week. They whined about how poorly the ushers dressed and expressed fear that those ushers would start coming to church in their pajamas. They criticized the government and said pastors get paid too much. They fussed about how I stopped wearing a tie on Sundays and asked if I still get paid the Sundays I don’t preach. They told me only I should do the pastoral prayer and how I get too much vacation. We debated about music-they wanted to get rid of the drums and I threatened to have the drummer play louder. The banter always went both ways, and we always laughed together. Some of the more gentle guys even tried to stifle the harshest ones. Then they would say things like, “Overall you’re doing a half-decent job… for a young pastor.” (I was 38-years-old.)

Pretty early on in these visits, but not right away, I started to bring up the church mortgage. I would ask them when they thought we could pay it off. I fear some of these guys would only donate spare change from their pockets if I asked for money to plant a church. But they hate debt. These are the type of men who paid off their houses decades ago. One guy in the group attends another local church in the same denomination. I challenged him to visit on a 5th Sunday when the offering went toward the debt. (He did, but he brought cash so no one would know what he donated.) I think I challenged them to get the mortgage paid off in two years and we came pretty close. It was about $357,000 when I began and less than four years later the debt disappeared. I have no idea how much any of these guys gave, but I bet it helped.

Since then I started a “retired men’s Bible study plus Steve.” I don’t go to McDonalds anymore-they come to church and they’ve invited a few of their friends.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Larry S

    excellent post

    and think of it. A McDonald’s coffee a month for 4-years and a reduction of 357,000 = not a bad investment :)

  • AaronT

    That’s got to be David Fitch. He’s always at Mcdonalds. I remember reading a blog post a while back and he was being criticized for going to McDonalds so much and working there, but being missional is about living in the community and investing your time and energy into where people are at and where God is at work; and most of the time it’s not in the church office. Something I need to learn even as I write this comment! :)

  • Joshua

    Good pastor. Clearly has his head on his shoulders.

  • RJS

    McDonald’s coffee is pretty good. Mutual respect even better.

  • Rana

    we recently visited a lovely town on the coast and when I was looking for churches to visit on Sunday I noticed in the church bulletin of one church that the pastor holds coffee hours at a local coffee shop (and other places in the community) and people are encouraged to stop by. I thought wow, how cool is that. In my many years of church I have never seen or even heard of a welcoming church leader. I have admired and appreciated every pastor I have been under but I have rarely felt that they had/ have much time for being with their people, even in small churches.

  • Larry S

    Rana, good points.
    However, many pastors and not a few of us ex-pastors remember unrealistic expectations of ‘being with’ each and every parishoner. And of course Anabaptists believe in the priesthood of all believers. “Pastors” aren’t supposed to do all the pastoral care.

  • Phillip

    The men donated all that money they saved by drinking coffee at McDonalds instead of Starbucks.

  • BradK

    So the bottom line (pun intended) of the letter is that if a young pastor really wants to fill up the offering plate, he should go hang out with the old guys at McDonald’s?

  • Elizabeth

    Larry – you’re right. Of course the pastors can’t be expected to do all the pastoral care.

    But I think the pastor Rana was talking about was on to something excellent: being available in an informal setting so anyone who wanted to could drop in and chat. I would love it if our pastor did the same. This would take maybe 2 hours out of his/her week but would really transform how accessible a pastor seems.

    There are things I’d like to talk to our pastor about but they aren’t so important that they warrant making an official appointment.

  • http://antiitchmeditation.wordpress.com jeff weddle

    I’m always amazed that finances are always the benchmark of church success. You cannot serve God and mammon, yet we continue to pretend we can.

  • RJS

    jeff weddle,

    Do you think this is really the take-home message of this letter (how to raise money)? I suppose that it could look that way and could be that way in some circumstances.

    I took home a slightly different message. No leader can expect to connect with people without connecting with their interests where they are. There needs to be mutual respect, relationship, and a meeting of minds or there will be nothing but tension and conflict and there were shades of this in the early interactions. In this letter they now have a bible study and are all on board in some fashion to further the mission of this local church. Money plays a role in this story, but I didn’t read it as about money.

  • Aaron J. KUNCE

    Nice post. Thank you – from a 43 year old pastor.

  • scotmcknight

    I got out of this letter precisely what RJS got….

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    This is an excellent post! RJS is right. This is not about money. This post is about pastoral wisdom and being intentional about connecting with others on their turf. To some this might look like wasting time when in fact, this pastor is investing his life into the lives of these men.

  • http://antiitchmeditation.wordpress.com jeff weddle

    OK. I was wrong. I stand corrected.

  • Nick

    And to be fair, it is senior pastor’s like this one that give us ear ring wearing youth pastors the courage and encouragement to continue on.


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