What can the Church of the Nazarene do to better recognize and nurture the ministries of its young clergy?
A: It all boils down to one thing: we must value our young clergy. We must consider them important, beneficial, and worthwhile as many already do. We must treat them like the scarce, precious resource that they are: our future. And not just with our words. (Talk is cheap.) This generation must sense our love for them by our deeds as well. To begin, here are three ways we as a denomination can better recognize and nurture our young clergy.
Consider them pastors. We must remind ourselves that these are not senior-pastors-in-training, these are pastors. Call them Pastor. Treat them the way you would treat more experienced ministers. Give them time to study, or financial help with classes. Include them in meetings for pastors, retreats for pastors and spouses, and educational opportunities for pastors. Help them get to district and general assemblies, and to theology conferences. Include them in things like Pastor’s Appreciation Month. Nominate them to district boards. Listen to their ideas and consider their viewpoints with respect.
Help them belong. Make the effort to find the new young clergy on your district and personally welcome them. Take them out to coffee. If you are a pastor, befriend or mentor them. Just because they are someone else’s associate pastor does not mean they don’t need a pastor friend.
Not only that, we need to give our young clergy more opportunities to get to know each other. Here in Oklahoma City, young clergy from around Oklahoma come together for a day of prayer, encouragement, and education three times per year. Many of our pastors have a renewed hope in the Church of the Nazarene because of events like these—perhaps because they no longer feel like they are on an island. They belong to something bigger than themselves.
Share their (financial) burdens. We must show them their worth with things like fair wages and debt assistance. They have poured their hearts and minds into education to be the best pastors they can be for us. The least we can do is to help find a way to forgive or assist with the expenses they have incurred on that educational journey. We may say we value our young clergy, but once a month when they pay toward that school loan total, it may be hard for them to feel our love. Whenever possible, we should share the load.
Brit Bolerjack is director of Young Clergy Network (youngclergy.net) that produces This Nazarene Life podcast (thisnazlife.com). She is also the college and community pastor at Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene.