Developing a new pastor: It began with a question

Regional pastor Paul David (PD) Kurts tells the story of his experience in developing a new, young pastor.

Some of the most important things in life begin with a question, like, “Are we there yet?” “Who shot J.R.?” “How many licks to the center of a tootsie pop?” Kidding aside, questions do have great power, and asking them at the right time can lead to focused action. Jesus frequently moved people to action with questions. You’ll remember when he asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” You know the story.

One of the most impactful questions I’ve ever asked came about several years ago while flying to a GCI conference in Chicago with a young man named Dennis who was serving in ministry in the church I was pastoring. Dennis and his wife Diana were overseeing our youth ministry at the time, and though they were doing an amazing job, I felt the Lord was possibly calling them to pastor a church––my church!

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Dennis and PD

For some time the Spirit had been compelling me to decrease so that others might increase, thus creating “space” where others could spread their wings and develop as leaders. Basically, Holy Spirit was telling me to get out of the way! These weren’t easy concepts to wrap my mind around—they made me wonder what I would do, where I would go, and how I would be utilized. But I’m getting ahead of myself—back to the airplane.

For the majority of the flight I struggled to ask Dennis the question. I’m not sure why. It was a simple yes or no sort of question. I guess I was afraid of being told no, afraid of rejection. In fact, it wasn’t until we began our descent that I finally blurted out, “Dennis, have you ever thought about being a pastor?”

His prolonged silence was deafening. Had I put him in an awkward position? Many things ran through my mind as I waited for his reply. Finally, after what seemed like a minute of silence, he replied, “Yes I’ve thought about it.” And that answer began a wonderful journey together of discerning the nature of the Lord’s call in his life.

You might be interested to know that I’ve asked the same question of numerous people over the years. More often than not, the answer was no. However a few answered yes. In every case what was needed most was for someone to see in that person what they could not see in themselves.

As much as anything, developing leaders involves actively looking for the potential in people—seeing it and then doing all you can to help the person realize that potential (thankfully, it’s not “rocket science”).

In addition to loads of leadership and pastoral potential, Dennis possessed four qualities that, though essential to pastoral leadership, are not easy to find in people. Those qualities can be summed up in the acronym A.F.T.R, which stands for Available, Faithful, Teachable and Responsive.

Dennis was nearly always available (barring family or work commitments he could not get out of). He looked for additional opportunities to hang out with me, visit members and simply learn by doing. It was always a pleasure spending time with Dennis!

Dennis was faithful, first in little things then later in big things. He could always be counted on. If he said he would take care of something, he did. If he said he would be there, he was. It’s been said that 90% of success is just showing up! Dennis and his wife Diana always seemed to do this effortlessly and with joy.

The thing I think I appreciated most about Dennis was that he was teachable. He had an open mind and genuine hunger to learn. Additionally, he was willing to admit he didn’t know everything. To this day we enjoy a very special relationship in which we learn a great deal from each other.

Finally, Dennis was responsive. Not only did he accept guidance and constructive criticism, he actively sought these out and did his best to respond accordingly.

Who might the Lord be leading you to plant a seed in by asking a question? How might you decrease so others might increase? In what areas could you create “space” for others to spread their wings and grow as leaders? Are there any among you who are A.F.T.R. more?—women and men who are available, faithful, teachable and responsive?

If these ideas resonate with you (and I hope they do), please take a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret doing so.

Dennis has come a long way since that plane ride to Chicago. In fact, he’s my pastor now. It all began with a question.

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