I’ve been serving in the ministry in one shape or form for the last 15 years. Be it volunteer or paid, full or part time, or as a youth minister, music minister, or both at times.
And while I certainly don’t have the track record of many who have gone before me that doesn’t mean that these last 15 years haven’t taught me some important things.
I mean, if we are honest, we ought to always be learning and that is what I want to do, learn and be molded in to a better husband, father, christian, and pastor until my dying day.
That said, here are 10 things I have managed to learn over the course of 15 years in the ministry and another 20 years of watching pastors in my life (my own pastors, my father, my grandfather, my uncles, and other various pastors):
1. If our tenure in a church is determined by our disappointments, we will constantly be on the move and will be resigned to a lifetime searching for the mythical “perfect church”. Disappointments will come. You can’t leave a church every time they do.
2. Pastors need pastors. We need accountability. We need counsel. We need confidants. We need to give someone the authority to love us enough to correct us even when we may not like what we are hearing.
3. Our families should never take a back seat to our ministries. And our wives should never feel second place to our church. The church and the ministry is important, but our first ministry is to our household. Read about it, 1 Timothy 3:4-5.
4. It’s not about developing a thicker skin, but about developing a bigger heart for the sheep who, let’s face it, are going to bite once in a while. God has entrusted us to care for these sheep. How can we minister to them if we cannot stand being around them or are guarded against them? They aren’t wolves. They’re God’s children.
5. Be flexible or you’re going to break. Seriously, we cannot be so rigid that when God moves in a way we do not expect that we snap. As my own pastor puts it, sometimes our setbacks are setups. Always be prepared for the unexpected.
6. Take time away to regroup, refresh, and reconnect with God. I’m not talking just your daily personal time. I’m talking about literally getting away and having a personal retreat with just you and God. Jesus did it and He was God. What makes us think we don’t have to or need to?
7. Longevity breeds credibility. Be resolutely committed to a local church body and do not move unless you can explicitly state without a shadow of doubt that you are being moved by God and not your own feelings or fears. Church people will feel more stable when their shepherd isn’t always being traded out every 2 years, which in turn gives you more credibility in their eyes, which ultimately paves the way for you to speak more authoritatively in their lives. They aren’t going to follow you if they feel like you’re going to leave them.
8. Learn to be able to let go. People will come and go in your ministry. Sometimes they leave on good terms. Other times it may be less than admirable. If someone chooses to leave, we need to be able to let them go.
9. What we teach and preach on should not be dictated by a fear of who may or may not leave the church after hearing it. If God’s word speaks to it, we too should be speaking to it.
10. Pick your battles wisely. Not every fight is worth fighting. Not every hill worth dying for. And if we are constantly choosing to fight battles that aren’t worth fighting we won’t have the energy to fight the ones that are.
That’s it for now. Check back in about 5 to 10 years and I can promise there will be more!