Many young pastors have found themselves in over their heads during their first couple of years in pastoral ministry. Just last week, I spent some time praying with one of my students who is pastoring his first church and facing a very difficult shepherding situation. While Christian colleges and seminaries do their best to prepare rookie pastors for the various scenarios they could face, it’s simply impossible to cover everything. Even seasoned pastors mentoring younger ministers can’t cover every situation that might come up. It can especially be difficult for a young man serving as a solo pastor in a smaller church, because often he is the only person providing any (formal) pastoral care and leadership to the church.
My friend Wayne McDill has co-authored a new book to help young pastors navigate the early years of ministry. Wayne has experience as a pastor, church planter, state convention evangelism coordinator, and—for 21 years—preaching professor at Southeastern Seminary. He is the author of numerous books on preaching, pastoral ministry, and personal evangelism. His co-author Austin Tucker is also a longtime pastor, professor, and author. Their new book, The Young Shepherd: Nathan Murray’s First Year as Pastor (CreateSpace, 2013), offers a treasury of wisdom for new pastors who are still a little wet behind the ears. It would also be a helpful read for veteran pastors.
The Young Shepherd is a fictional account of a young pastor’s first year serving New Hope Church, a rural congregation in the North Carolina Piedmont. Nathan Murray’s story is inspired in part by the experiences of Wayne’s son, Matthew McDill, as well as the experiences of Wayne himself and many other young pastors over the years. During the course of his first year of ministry, Pastor Nathan struggles through the nuts and bolts of shepherding God’s flock, some of the pitfalls and temptations that befall pastors (especially rookies), and how to navigate balancing church and family responsibilities. Along the way, he receives ongoing advice from his father, a veteran pastor, and other wise folks, both from inside and outside the New Hope family.
Students preparing to be pastors would do well to read this book before they tackle their first official church ministry position. But again, even those who are already involved in pastoral ministry, perhaps for many years, would benefit from this book. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter and the recommended readings at the end of the book make The Young Shepherd a helpful resource for associational reading groups, mentoring relationships, or classroom use.