Clergy Conversations

Pastors are great at talking. In fact, we talk for a living. One of the greatest pastoral privileges is the opportunity to stand on a stage and talk to people on behalf of God. Yes, talking is what we, as pastors, do, and most of us do it well. One area, however, where our communication skills are sadly lacking is in our ability to talk to other pastors – particularly of different generations. When I look over the landscape of ministry or tune in to the latest hashtag on social media, I see a great deal of preachers talking AT each other, but very few efforts to talk WITH each other.

I believe that we are at a pivotal moment in the life of the Church, and if we do not manage this moment correctly, we run the risk of losing an entire generation. Yes, the stakes are that high. However, we cannot truly turn our attention to saving the generation outside of the Church because we have not mastered how to effectively communicate with the generation inside the Church.

Most intergenerational dialog between church leaders is often skewed by a sense of distrust. The older generation doesn’t trust the younger generation to lead, and the younger generation doesn’t trust the older generation to leave. One group is holding the reins, while another group is trying to grab them. We have created a culture of competition between generations. This, my friends, should not be so.

The Church gains strength when both generations work together and not against each other. However, we cannot work together if we don’t learn how to talk together. This is one of the reasons why I started initiatives like our iTeachiPreach events where pastors and preachers from all walks of life can come together for meaningful dialog on subjects of faith, family and finances.

I told you that pastors do a great job of talking. What we don’t do as well with is listening. If we are truly going to develop intergenerational conversations between clergy, we must be willing to listen. That means those of us in the older generation must take time to hear the heart of our sons and daughters. We must suspend our preconceived notions and open our ears. This goes for both generations. Conversation only begins when someone starts listening.

For the past few years, I have been intentional about listening to younger men and women around me. In fact, out of these experiences, I am partnering with one of my nephews in ministry – Dr. Tejado Hanchell – and together we are writing a book entitled: “Dear Young Pastor: Clergy Conversations Between Generations”. I believe it will certainly be a great conversation starter to help us learn how to talk and to listen to each other.

Keep your ears open…the conversations have just begun.

—Donald Hilliard, Jr., D. Min