When I first started coaching church planters, almost 20 years ago, I had an office in an unused space on the top floor of an old church building. Across the hall from my office was a small five foot access door that connected the church with the parsonage. It was like a secret passage way.

In the infinite wisdom of the church elders they reasoned that their Pastor may need access to the sanctuary without going outside, down the block and around to the front door of church. So they created access on the third floor between the two buildings. Eighty years later that same door was used by a church planter I was coaching for our frequent conversations about theology, ministry and life.

I learned to listen to the angst and excitement and evolving vision of an ambitious young leader who desperately wanted to do something new to reach the people he knew would not step through the doors of the church where he had been a youth pastor. So he talked and I asked questions.

About Younger Leaders…

They often have huge dreams, yet to be tempered by risks that didn’t turn out well. Or, visions of opportunities yet to be realized given existing church structures. Imagination provides exceptional fuel for risk taking and sometimes hits a home run. Vision and passion all be rolled into one can help start something no one thought of trying.

Less frequently, these emerging leaders have support networks or supervised ministry experience. Networks provide connections to people who can help and offer guidance. Ministry experience helps to build muscle memory for what to do in specific situations. Young leaders need mentors who will show them what to do, debrief how they do it and then provide ministry roles so that they can have that experience over and over again until they have some level of confidence.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss…

When I first started planting churches I ran into a young couple in their 20s who visited our little church based on an invitation that I left on their front door step. They came because they needed help, but that’s not the box they check on the visitor card. They said they wanted to become members.
When I went for a visit I found holes in their walls and hints of domestic violence. I knew almost nothing about marriage counseling, but I had been trained very well in evangelism. I was comfortable opening the Bible and navigating a steady stream of questions.

Mentor Candidate Conversation

What evolved was a comfortable dialog that created a wide open space for us to invite Jesus into the difficulties they faced. They kept coming to our new little church and Jesus gave them grace for one another. Eventually, they gave their lives to the Lord and found exceptional help through the extended body of Christ.

Why persistence counts…

Lack of experience is not a problem when a young leader is persistent. It helps to have two or three Go To ministries that keep everyone engaged until you can come up with other solutions. Vision and Passion is great for getting things started, but patient endurance helps build the skills and relationships that yield lasting fruit.

Application Questions

What are your “Go To” ministries?

How did you acquire those skills? How often did you practice?

What would you recommend to a friend who needs encouragement to stay and persist through a hardship?


Dr Neil Tibbott is the Executive Director for LeadershipOnRamp, a ministry dedicated to mobilizing more leaders for more places. More information about LeadershipOnRamp is available at www.leadershiponramp.com.