“Bigger is not better. Newer is not cooler. God has you at your church at this time for a reason. Find joy in that reality.”
The last thing pastors need is someone to offer them advice.
I know … they receive “advice” every day of the week. Some of it is well-intended. Some of it is not. All of it cumulatively is overwhelming.
So my goal here is not to pile on. But I do want pastors to hear those pieces of advice that are really difficult to heed. And they are difficult, even if pastors know they are true.
1. Love your members unconditionally.
That’s all of your members. Even that deacon who told you that you had no business being in ministry. Even that ministry director who told you God told her it’s time for you to leave. We are to love as Christ loves us—unconditionally.
2. Don’t focus on your critics.
This one is really challenging. Critics are the constant ringing in our ears. They are squeaky wheels. But enough of the metaphors … it’s hard not to jump when a critic barks.
3. Make the tough personnel decisions sooner rather than later.
It won’t get any better. It won’t get any easier.
4. Accept that you won’t be loved by everyone.
I’ve gotten to the point in my life that I’m OK with a simple majority. I’m just not sure I have it!
5. Put those things on your calendar that you often neglect.
You know what I’m talking about: family. Devotional time. Gospel conversations. Don’t neglect the best for the good.
6. Accept the lows of ministry as normal.
If you haven’t been attacked by critics, you probably aren’t leading. If you haven’t been torn up by a family tragedy, you need a heart transplant. You will have lows. It’s a part of ministry. It’s a part of life.
7. Don’t compare your church to others.
Your church is not that other church. Bigger is not better. Newer is not cooler. God has you at your church at this time for a reason. Find joy in that reality.
8. Learn to be content.
That green grass is someone else’s brown grass. Unless God clearly—very clearly—tells you otherwise, be content where he has placed you in ministry. Even be excited about it.
9. Learn to rejoice, always.
It’s healthy. It’s biblical. Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” I’m glad the translator added the exclamation point.
10. Have fun.
Life is too short to stay in the doldrums and focus on the negative. Our ministries are a brief but incredible time to make an eternal difference. Love it all. Have fun. Lighten up. Learn to smile.
Such is my counsel. Such are my admonitions to you pastors.
By the way, you who serve the churches are my heroes. I hope you know how much I appreciate you, admire you and pray for you.
Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter (@ThomRainer) and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer. This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on Aug. 7, 2017.