Hey church family, I’m happy to be back in my study at the church building because the Lord has called us here and has sustained us every step of the way. Many of you have been a big part of that. But it’s not about me and my family—the Lord is the center of the global story of restoring all things through Him. It’s amazing that God has called us to be part of it.
Yesterday I wrote a private email to you all about the deacons and I recommending a man to become an associate pastor focusing on student ministry at our church. Today I’d like to talk about the need for such a person while talking about it in more general terms.
I have four reasons I think we should pursue hiring a part-time associate pastor at this time.
1. We have teenagers and soon to be teenagers but no ministry for them.
Right now two or three teenagers regularly/semi-regularly attend our Sunday morning worship gathering. As of this fall, at least two more will be too old for children’s ministry and will attend “big church” with us as well. I also suspect the Lord would bring us some more if ministry for teenagers existed. Outside of our Sunday morning gathering, we have no ministry for teenagers. No growth group, no Wednesday night programming, no events, nothing.
Doing nothing about this is being a poor steward at best, or being disobedient to the command of Jesus to make disciples at worst.
I do not have the time to shepherd these young people faithfully. The deacons and I have discussed and prayed for many months and had it on the back of our minds for a few years. I do not currently see an internal solution for this need. We need pastoral help for them.
Granted, there could be other potential solutions for this need other than hiring someone outside of our church, but I do not believe them to be the best ones, especially considering the opportunity we have right now.
2. Our church has more pastoral responsibilities than I can handle on my own.
A few months ago Darlene Walker texted me to let me know her surgery went well. That’s not a strange thing for me to receive, except for the fact I had no idea she was even having surgery! When I got her text, something clicked inside me that made me realize, “OK, this is too much for me to handle.” Of course Darlene isn’t too much for me to handle. (We’d all be grateful to have 100 more like Darlene!) But the needs of more people (a good thing) takes time. If I’m not even aware that someone had a surgery, I’m either a very bad pastor, or I need more time.
I’m not the kind of pastor that doesn’t want to know how you all are personally. I want to smell like the sheep. I want to pray for you specifically, be with you before you go into surgery, answer the phone when something crazy happens at 2AM, help talk you off a ledge if you need it. By God’s grace I’ve been able to do some of those things. But there’s only so much time in the day and you all know I’m limited.
On top of that is the reality that COVID-related ministry has brought new responsibilities. I am doing more things than I did pre-COVID, and some things haven’t come back. The basic reason is time.
We need an associate pastor to help in some of these things as his gifts allow. It could free up some time for me to work on outreach, spend a little more time on service planning (remember bulletins?), and take some off the plate of my wife who is doing more music than she has time for.
3. We have the resources.
God has blessed us during COVID so that we are spending a few thousand less than you all are giving each month. Praise the Lord! These are resources, and God has given them to us now for a reason.
Friends, let me point out that we do not have a problem spending significant resources on our building. I have advocated for that and was happy to. As important as those have been, and as grateful we all are for our Trustees (they are awesome), I think all of us would LOVE to see us spend on items directly related to ministry. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that the very reason we have property and a building is for the use of ministry.
4. We have a unique opportunity to make an impact beyond our church.
When Tom McCullough was here, we sent him to Riverside Fellowship and paid half of his salary while he worked there. We give money to missionaries who are reaching people and planting churches that our church receives no visible benefit from. That’s the kind of thinking I love about you all. You have shown glimpses that you all realize we are here for the kingdom of Jesus and not just our local church. (One of those lasts forever, by the way.)
Hiring the candidate we are recommending for two years (at least) has potential to be another gesture toward that end. We know this is a temporary hire because of his personal gifts and aspirations (and are mindful of what to do with teenagers’ ministry once he leaves). But I think having him come to gain experience, do real ministry among us, and perhaps equip him to go beyond us is a wonderful act to show that we are about the Lord’s work and not just what we want Him to do among us.
After sending the email yesterday, I realized some might not even know of, or see the need for an associate pastor. You may be content with how things are going. I apologize if I put the cart before the horse. Or, you may be already aware of the needs I’ve mentioned and see hiring a part-time associate pastor as a no-brainer.
Wherever you are, I thought sharing more about where the deacons and I are coming from and the opportunity we believe God has put before us would be helpful for you to know, regardless of who we recommend you consider to fill that role.
Of course, the wisdom and desire of the church as you submit to Jesus is the authority we will submit to.