After having been a pastor for 16 years, I have a newfound understanding of what my pastor needs from me.
I spent most of my adult life outside vocational ministry. Then God called me into vocational ministry. I never imagined he would give me 16 years as a pastor. I never felt qualified or worthy, but I’m amazed at the opportunities God has given me in ministry. In many ways I always felt like a newcomer, with so much to learn.
I certainly saw things differently from some who had only done ministry. It gave me a unique perspective from some pastors. I sat “in the pew” far longer than I stood “behind the pulpit.”
One thing my experience has done for me, especially after I became a pastor, is to help me realize how much I didn’t understand about being a pastor; like the feeling work is never done, like feeling you are never really “off,” like knowing people are going to be upset with every decision you make—and balancing whether to move forward or give into their frustration, like the pressure of “Sunday’s coming” and like carrying the weight of everyone, but sometimes feeling you’ve got no where to share your own struggles. Stuff like that.
That’s the “fun” stuff I didn’t know prior to being in ministry. Plus, in the business world, we handled problems so differently from how they are typically handled in ministry. Usually we handled them a lot faster and with less political ramifications.
I also spent a lot of time investing in other pastors. It fueled me personally, but I learned some of their challenges, some of their concerns and some of their wishes. (It actually helps me in my current position.)
Along the way of being a pastor, I learned some great lessons of what it takes to build a healthy church—many I didn’t previously understand—even though I was very active in the church. Things look different when you look at the church from the pastor’s perspective.
So, I always said if I were ever on the other side again—and I was back “in the pew”—I’d change a few things about myself.
Well, here I am.
HERE ARE 10 THINGS I’LL DO DIFFERENTLY AFTER BEING A PASTOR:
1. I’ll Make Church Attendance a Priority.
I’ll build my week around the services of the church, knowing how vital every person is to the body. I’ll understand what an encouragement it is to the pastor when people give the same priority to church that they give to other places in their life.
2. I’ll Love My Pastor.
I mean really love my pastor. Knowing how many expectations are placed on the pastor, I’ll be among the group always ready to help, but recognizing the pastor is simply one imperfect person, not one to get my feelings hurt if the pastor doesn’t do everything I hoped they would.
3. I’ll Be a Generous Giver.
Understanding there are really a small number who financially support the work of the church, I’ll be a kingdom investor.
4. I’ll Be an Ambassador for the Church.
I’ll use my influence in the community and where I work to bring people to church and Christ. I’ll look for people I don’t know on Sunday mornings and try to help them acclimate to the church.
5. If I Have a Problem With the Pastor, I’ll Talk to the Pastor.
Not the pastor’s spouse (That’s always a bad move.), not other church members, certainly not the community. I’ll talk to the pastor.
6. I’ll Try Not to Get Upset About Things That Impact Only Me.
I won’t get as upset about things, which are mostly matters of personal preference. Things like worship styles or the way the pastor dresses, or even some of the programs the church offers or doesn’t offer—I realize those are minor issues compared to the work of the gospel. (In fact, that’s the biblical principle of considering other’s interests ahead of my own.)
7. I Will Pray Bold Prayers for the Church.
I’ll take the matters of the church as matters of personal concern—enough to bring them to the throne of God.
8. I Will Support the Pastor and Pastor’s Family.
I will understand they can’t be everywhere and never make them feel guilty for not being where I hope they will be. I’ll not put unrealistic expectations on them, such as having to speak to me every Sunday or acknowledge everything I do for the church. I realize it’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus.
9. I Will Smile When the Pastor Preaches.
This is so huge. When you speak to any group of people you look into an audience. Some people have good listening faces and some simply don’t. (Some look in a way that makes you wonder if they even like you.) I’ll practice being a visual witness that I am paying attention. I’ll take notes, nod my head and I might even say “Amen” when appropriate.
10. I Will Serve Where Needed.
In fact, I’ll volunteer without being asked. If I see something out of place, such as a spill on the floor, I won’t need to go find someone to handle it. Give me a mop and a bucket.
Pastors, anything you’d add to my list? Now that I’m not serving actively as a pastor, I’ll follow your lead.
Ron Edmondson is CEO of Leadership Network, former pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and the planter of two churches. This article originally appeared on RonEdmondson.com.