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Mamas, Please Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Pastors


In 2008, some clever person from Florida Hospital Church penned a spoof of the country song song “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” that cautioned parents instead to keep their children from becoming pastors. The parody lightly pokes fun at the quirks and challenges of the pastoring life, including burnt Sunday dinners due to having to shake everyone’s hand after an overlong sermon.

I’m sure it would be harder to keep a video on that theme light today, after the recent coronavirus pandemic, when for many pastors the challenges rose to traumatizing levels. Polarization and distrust are no laughing matters. And it’s understandable that the rising criticism and falling esteem pastors face in their communities could cause some parents to think twice about letting their babies grow up to be pastors. Some ministry candidates have told me that their pastors and mentors reminded them of Charles Spurgeon’s advice: “If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.”

But even with all the discouragements, distractions, and pressures that our emerging leaders likely face these days, I want to suggest—with all due respect to Spurgeon and his solid point about needing a strong sense of internal and external calling—that it might be more helpful to encourage anyone sensing such a call to listen to the voice of God and step out in obedience rather than to explore all other vocational options until they hit a dead end (as some tell me they did after hearing Spurgeon’s advice).

We might also help them by highlighting the beauty of the pastoral vocation. Even the most discouraged pastor will usually admit they feel blessed to have a job description that includes listening to God through Scripture, proclaiming the gospel, and leading people into a deeper relationship with God. Pastors are invited into significant moments of people’s lives and accompany them in their deepest sorrows and joys. Pastors have the sacred privilege of leading people to Christ and equipping others to do the same. And along with the heartbreak that comes with loving and leading the church, pastors experience a deep sense of eternal purpose in even the most mundane ministerial activities. Even while sowing in tears, pastors know they will someday reap with songs of joy (Ps. 126:5). They encounter God in surprising ways through the diverse, Spirit-filled people that make up their congregations. It’s these sorts of blessed realities that motivate pastors to faithfully love and serve the church.

Today, just as in Jesus’ day, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2), so the Candidacy committee invites you to join us in asking the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the field. Ask God to open the eyes and hearts of all people to the Spirit’s work in their families, workplaces, and friendships. Then ask God to raise up pastoral leaders to equip the body for this great mission.

As you pray, God might prompt you to encourage someone in their pastoral gifts. Many candidates testify that they first heard God’s call to ministry through a comment from one of their teachers, mentors, or family members. Someone saw in them what they did not see and encouraged them to think about ministry. If you see pastoral gifts in someone, tell them what you’ve noticed and ask if they’ve ever considered pastoral ministry. If they have, offer to connect them with a pastor, council member, or classis leader who can help them discern their next steps.

For contact information, biographical information, eligibility status, and testimonies from each candidate, visit the Candidacy committee website at

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