As my Annual Conference starts new week my mind wandered to the newbies entering the ministry. Those fresh out of Divinity School ministers who march energetically into their first appointment with a sparkle in their eye. I remember when that happened for me and now 7 years later what I have really learned about ministry. So here is some pieces of wisdom I have learned in my short term as a minister/preacher/pastor/guy in the black dress on Sunday.
- These should be your priorities, God (personal relationship not ministry), Family, Church. Once you place Church in front of the other two, your screwed!
- Discover who God created you to be and then BE YOU. Find your ministerial identity. Find and perfect YOUR preaching, leadership, teaching, and pastoral care style.s Ministers, more than any other profession, have to work harder than ever not to live into other’s expectations. Everyone thinks they know who you are and how you should do your job. Don’t give into everyone’s expectations of yourself and be who you are.
- You will fail. At some point, in some moment in ministry, you will fail. Live with it. Get over it. Learn from it. If you don’t learn anything from failure your not doing it right.
- Be your congregations pastor not friend. People want to feel warm and fuzzy all the time in church. They want a pastor who loves them but what they really want is a ‘best friend pastor’. Someone they can connect with but not be pushed by. You are called by God to be a minister not a best friend. True love is hard work, difficult, and full of conflict, but it is still love and so worth it in the end. Love your congregation like Christ loves us. Christ is willing to wrap us up in a hug when needed but also to look us in the eye and disrupt our soul in order to get closer to him, both are love. DO BOTH!
- Change nothing for the first year. You may have heard this in seminary but trust me it works. Take that first year to listen, find out who the people are, and honor their past. Don’t walk in and scrap everything they were doing and think you can do it better. Get to know EVERYONE and pray a lot. After that year you can then move forward by knowing the direction God wants you to take and the people who can get you there.
- TAKE YOUR DAMN DAY OFF! You will always have something to do in ministry, it never ends. Get use to it. Get use to the feeling that there is always something waiting and bidding for your attention because it will always be there. If your congregation cannot live without you for 24 hours, then you are doing something wrong. You need that time and your congregation (no matter what they say) needs you to take that time.
- Put your family first, even if you are not married. The 4th of July and New Years Eve are holidays I share only with my wife/family. Church gets so much attention during the big holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, I know what you are thinking, Thanksgiving? but think about it, you’re really thinking about the 1st Sunday of Advent on that Thursday!) Give your spouse/family/friends something that is only and solely theirs.
- Ministry is AWE…wait for it…SOME! You get to work for God and change people’s lives. You get invited into the most intimate and tender moments of people’s lives. You get to offer peace and love to people in need. Even with all the junk that comes with it, in the end and no matter what the other people say who have had a bad experience…it is SO WORTH IT!