Who knows you better - other pastors on Twitter or the pastors who live in your city?
Most pastors spend very little time with other pastors in their city. The responsibilities of our job and our family and everything else in life leave little margin for anything else. Well, except for that hour or two a day we spend on Twitter :-)
I have started to ask my coaching clients who are pastors about their relationships with other pastors in their city. And what I am finding is that there is a strong correlation between the health of a pastor and his relationships with other pastors around him. Pastors with healthy relationships with other local pastors exhibit higher degrees of joy, rest, courage and generosity in their work.
Let's assume the reason you haven't fostered relationships with other pastors is because you're not quite sure where to start. One helpful principle to keep in mind is that not all pastors are created equal. I think of these pastors in three categories - fathers, brothers and sons. And here is what I do to connect with each of those groups.
1. Respect Your 'Fathers'
Ask the pastors of churches older than your church and/or larger than your church for help. Set up a 15-minute phone call with a specific question in mind. Call on time, briefly introduce yourself, ask your question, listen well, summarize their answer ('So what I hear you saying is...'), and thank them for their time.
If they invite you to call again or stop by their office, ask if you should set that up through their assistant. If they say yes, then get something on the calendar at least a month away. If they say to send them an email, do that the next day and suggest a day and time at least a month away. Regardless of how and when you schedule your next conversation, send a handwritten thank-you note the next day.
If they do not invite any follow-up, don't initiate that yourself. Simply end the call when you thank them. And send a handwritten thank-you note the next day that includes a note that you hope to speak again soon.
Your posture with 'fathers' - and this is a great approach to take with any pastor who is older than you - is one of respect, deference, and honor. Don't be the punk kid who calls adults by their first name. Show up ready to listen and learn with gratitude and encouragement for the work of God in and through these men.
2. Find Your 'Brothers'
Take the initiative and set up coffee or a meal with pastors of churches around your age and/or size. You won't become best friends with everyone, but you'll have shared experiences in common.
Be generous. And I don't mean pick up the tab (necessarily) but walk in looking to serve someone by giving them your time and attention. Don't make your first interaction about you. Ask good questions. Encourage them.
And if things go well, let them know that you want to do it again. And if they're up for it, I like to go ahead and get something on the calendar while we're together. Again, shoot for no sooner than a month away.
3. Serve Your 'Sons'
Be on the lookout for new churches or new pastors moving into existing churches. Welcome them with a handwritten note or a phone call to their church office.
Remember how you felt as the new guy in town - the focus and bravado of a new task streaked with the loneliness of being brand new. Your simple invitation to lunch with you and another pastor, or to dinner with your family, is a brilliant way to serve someone walking into a brand new context.
Leave A Legacy
Take the first step. Know the different ways to honor pastors in different seasons of ministry. Break the cycle of isolation between churches in your city. Not only will you develop a network of fathers, brothers and sons as you lead the Church together in your city, you will also leave a legacy of generosity in your wake.
Do The Next Right Thing
Take 15 minutes and write down all the 'fathers', 'brothers' and 'sons' that you can think of in your city. Take the next 30 minutes to set up phone calls (with fathers) and coffee/meals (with brothers and sons).
Question Of The Day
What is the best question you ask older pastors about their life and ministry? Leave your answer in the comments section below.