For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of being mentored by one of the most influential leaders in the church world. Carey Nieuwhof is the founding pastor of Connexus Church, author, speaker, podcaster, blogger, and all around… a wicked smart guy. Through 1-hr monthly Skype calls and an awesome weekend trip to his home this past summer, I’ve grown to learn so much from him.

Besides being wicked smart, he’s genuinely a great guy that loves helping the local church. How I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes of his time and how that eventually turned into a mentorship is a story for another time.

Today I want to give you the Top 8 Things I’ve Learned from Carey, and they just might surprise you. 

1.  Promise only what you can deliver.

As young church leaders we dream big. Millennials, in particular, have grown up in a generation where all things have become possible. Whether that is good, bad, or somewhere in between we can discuss at a later date, but the point is, we dream big and sometimes in our haste we make promises we can’t keep. We desire to attempt great things, and we make promises accordingly.

What I’m learning from Carey is to promise only what you can deliver, and then work your butt off to keep that promise.

Here’s why this matters. Leaders make promises all the time. We are constantly asking people to trust and follow us, and they actually do it! It’s a crazy privilege to be trusted by others.

You see, in God’s wisdom he designed the Church to be lead by trustworthy men and women because He is trustworthy. So when people take us at our word, they demonstrating their trust for God. And here in lies the problem,

When Godly leaders don’t keep their promises, they make their promise-keeping God look bad.

Our role in ministry is to make Jesus famous. To encourage those we lead to trust and love Jesus more and more. When we promise only what we can deliver, we make trusting God easier for those we lead.

2. You never know what you’re capable of until you try.

Leading when you are young has one big obstacle: experience. You simply don’t have the years of experience to distinguish what you are capable of.

Due to this, we naturally spend our time and energy on what we have experienced. This is why we have so many youth ministry majors freshman year at bible college. Nothing wrong with that! That’s my story actually. We are naturally drawn to what we know, and sometimes that results in us not trying anything new.

Carey has helped me with this immensely. Being a young church planter, everything is new to me, but for me, preaching was VERY new and SCARY! When fear began to creep in (I’ll talk about that next), creating doubt, he simply told me,

You never know what you’re capable of until you try.

That’s the truth. You will never know until you do it. More than this simply being about finding a new skill, or “higher calling,” this can produce in you more confidence for your current role, and greater appreciation for the other roles on your team. So if you feel like God is nudging you to try something new, give it a try. You never now what might happen.

3. Don’t let fear determine anything.

Fear. We all experience it, and many times, we hide behind it. Often it becomes our excuse for why we can’t do something.

You know what I’m talking about. The fear that resides in all your insecurities. The fear that says…

You shouldn’t, you couldn’t, you’ll make a fool out of yourself, you’re unqualified, you need to wait until you’re more like that person.

This fear Carey has helped me overcome, specifically in the area of preaching. Honestly, I’m still afraid. The emotion is still there, but what Carey has helped me decide is that I can’t let fear determine anything. Here’s the truth for us all:

You might not be called to do everything, but don’t let fear determine anything.

You might not be called to be a missionary, preacher, teacher, doctor, youth minister, whatever… but don’t let fear be the reason you don’t. Don’t let fear determine anything. And if you can do that, God will provide such clarity with what He wants for your life, and you’ll experience the freedom to live in it.

4. Seasons of ministry you push through, while with constants in ministry, pause and evaluate.

Ever feel stressed? Maybe I should spend the rest of the blog just on that topic! Honestly, we all deal with crazy busy times,  and it can be difficult to know WHAT to do when we face them.

Carey has helped me see the importance of distinguishing between seasons and constants. Seasons are for a short time, while constants are… well… constant. They don’t go away, but are more a part of the team and church culture. Knowing the difference is half the battle. The other half is responding accordingly.

When you’re experiencing stress in a busy season of ministry, Carey’s advice is to push through. There is light at the end of the tunnel! I’ve seen people jump ship too soon because they misread this reality. They thought the stress would never end and the belief of it continuing was too much. So ask yourself… is this just a season? If so… Push Through!!

Second, when you experience stress and it’s a constant in ministry, Carey’s advice is to pause and evaluate. Stop pushing so hard, hit the rest button, and take some time to evaluate what is going on. You’ll need to ask some hard questions to yourself, team, boss, church board, and evaluate if responsibilities and expectations need to change or if you need to graciously ask for a replacement.

This is SOOO important. Too often people burn out in ministry because what they thought was a season of ministry was really a constant in ministry. They kept believing things would slow down, they’d eventually get more time with the family,  and they never took the time to pause and evaluate if what they were believing was actually reality.

Live in reality and respond accordingly.

5. Generosity unseen is Godly.

This is an observation more than anything. In my experience, Carey is an exceptionally generous person.  I’ve seen this publicly, but I’ve also experienced this privately.

Carey has taught me that generosity unseen is Godly.  And this is largely evidenced and lived out by our motives. Why we do what we do, reveals whether we have a generous heart or a greedy one.

During my mentorship I’ve asked Carey several questions, but the answer to one of them has always stuck with me. My question was… How do you determine what you write about?  What’s your filter? His answer was simple.

Will it be helpful to people? 

This revealed his motive, and the motive wasn’t… to get more likes or shares on Facebook, invitations to speak at conferences, book deals…

The motive was to be helpful to others. To be generous with his time and talent for the benefit of those who needed him,  and this unseen generosity is Godly.

6. Family health is more important than church growth.

What you celebrate often reveals what you care about. I often hear and see Carey celebrate his family. From day one of connecting with him, he has indicated his family is more important than his role as a pastor.

As young church leaders, we can and should be passionate about serving God and His church.

However, we need to start serving the Church that meets in our home. Our family must be number one. Churches can find another youth minister. They can get another preacher. To be even more bold, God doesn’t need you to accomplish His mission. He is simply allowing you to be a part of it. Thus, it is a privilege to be a part of His growing kingdom.

But… your role as father/mother and husband/wife CANNOT be replaced.

So figure out what it will take to build family health and commit to doing whatever it takes.

7. Honesty may hurt, but truth always produces better results.

Sometimes the truth hurts. That’s the reality of it. What many young church leaders struggle to do is push past the pain and grab hold of what the truth produces.

Truth always produces better results. God uses truth to lead us where He wants us, but all truth is pretty worthless if it is shrouded and shackled in pain.

We see this evidenced in the lives of people who are unable to have someone disagree with them. Many of them are held down by the emotions they experience when hearing truth that contradicts what they think or want, and this has more to do with their insecurities than their own beliefs.

As leaders we must deal with our insecurities so we can enjoy the results of truth.

Carey has taught me this valuable lesson. Before creating YoungChurchLeaders.org,  I “pitched” an idea to Carey about a different type of website.  His response was honest but…. it hurt.

Not because what he said was wrong or cruel. It was simply because he said it, but I pushed past the pain, chose to trust him, and the truth produced a far better result than I could have imagined. YoungChurchLeaders.org was created!

So invite people into your life to speak truth, and be willing to push past the pain to reap the harvest truth produces.

8. While learning from others, be committed to being yourself.

Being mentored is pretty awesome. Carey thinks he is a bad mentor, but honestly simply him being available is enough for me. Really that’s what we all want. We desire to know someone is in our corner.

As young church leaders, we usually look for those kind of people to not only be in our corner, but also to model our lives after. That’s why so many preach or talk like someone they look up to. We try to emulate the people we are learning from.

What Carey is teaching me is to learn from others, but be committed to being myself. There is only one Josh Pezold and there is only one you.

God created you on this Earth for a reason. Unique and special. Able to grow and learn from others. And…

While learning from others can shape you, their influence should never replace you.

So, be yourself today and feel good about it.

What about you?

What have you learned from mentors that has shaped your understanding? Whether you know them personally or only through their books, blogs, and podcasts, share 1-2 things that have been most helpful in your life.

And go!