A young pastor once wrote me with this excellent question. He is still fairly new at his church and has gone to pastor a church in an area and culture that is pretty foreign to him. One of the challenges this poses is how to find common interests with his people in the church, especially the elderly. He finds he is having a hard time connecting on several levels and gets nervous when they invite him to fish or garden when he has never done either one.
Here was my response with hopes it might help some of you facing the same challenges in your church:
This is a great question and one to consider in light of where you serve. The best thing to do to win them as your pastor is to go see them where they are and do what they do with them. If you don’t fish, go fishing with them and learn to do it. If they like to garden, go with them and ask them to teach you. I found myself doing many of those things to communicate my desire to get to know them and learn about what they love. If you think about it, it is better for you to go do things with them they love you don’t, as that communicates most powerfully your love for them in those sacrificial efforts as well as a teachable spirit to learn from them.
I have gardened, walked 5 miles on a track with an 90-year-old, got whipped in Wii golf by an elderly man, and taken a group of older ladies to Cracker Barrel for lunch–not because I necessarily loved to do those things, but because I loved them and wanted to communicate it to them. Because it was with my folks, I enjoyed all of these activities. Apply this principle and I think you will see some fruit over time. If not, the Lord will most certainly mature you as you sacrifice for your people and seek to love them in this way. This is one of the best ways not just to build relationships with your people, but to break down walls of resistance that may exist towards the young, new pastor.
Pastors, whether it is your wife, children, or flock sometimes love and sacrifice is most powerfully communicated when you do something they love and you don’t. Applying this principle in your family and ministry will serve you well.