By Todd Outcalt
During my seminary years, I served as a student pastor alongside a seasoned, weathered, church-weary clergy veteran who once told me, "People tend to worship what they see in the mirror." At the time, I pondered the meaning of his observation, but as I've labored in God's vineyard through the years, I've come to see the significance of his insight.
Not long ago, I was watching a telecast of The Hour of Power and noted that most of the people worshipping at the Crystal Cathedral looked like Dr. Robert Schuller, the church's senior pastor, or, at the very least, they were in his age range. Likewise, when Joyce Meyer came on the screen, I noted that women comprised 90 percent of her congregation. And more recently, when I attended a large church seminar, it was evident that the young, hipster pastor who took the stage was attracting scores of young, hipster congregants.
Maybe this isn't a new insight, but I think that pastors tend to attract people who are at the same stage of life, who look remarkably similar to themselves, or who enjoy similar tastes in music, communication and outlook. I know that since I've been paying attention to the new members who are joining my congregation, I've seen this same phenomenon. These folks just look like me!
But here's another thing I've learned. It's vitally important for us to mentor in our approach to service and staffing in the church. Often, I am asked to mentor or counsel people in candidacy for ordained ministry in the church who are close to my age and station of life. But I've also learned that it is vital for me to be mentored by those who are younger than me. I don't speak the language of the twenty-somethings and teens. I don't know how to use a blog, or what a Web-cast is, and I don't text message. I don't understand the central place these forms of communication have with young people.
But I'm fortunate. I have two teenagers at home. And I have a couple of people on the church staff who have taught me how to think in new ways, how to preach and teach to a younger set, how to reform my mind and ministry so I'm not completely immersed in my own boomer generation. I want to see young people come to faith but if I'm going to be effective as a pastor, I must change, too. I must allow the young to mentor to me. I'm still learning and now blogging. and still growing. One day, I hope to look out on a congregation that doesn't look at all like me.