Three things I wish I’d understood when I started in ministry.
1. Sometimes Your Ideas Are Not the Best Ideas.
Often when a pastor enters into their ministry calling, they have big, beautiful ideas about the programs, sermons, partnerships and impact they will have. Then, reality sets in, discouragement comes because the people they are leading are not responding in the way they had imagined. Sometimes, this makes church leaders frustrated and want to give up. The fact is, this realization does not have to be a bad thing. Oftentimes, the best thing that could happen in pastoral ministry is for the anointed leader to come to terms with the fact that they are not the most creative person in the church. Perhaps there are others who, if listened to and given authority, can set the church up to fulfill the call that God has given them. Now, don’t get me wrong, the pastor is the person who articulates the agenda for the group they are shepherding, but don’t forget that there are others who are blessed with great talent and creativity. They can be a powerful force for ministry, too.
2. Don’t Make Your Ministry a Career.
My heart breaks when I see pastors moving from church to church in a relatively short amount of time. In a way, I get it. Sometimes one church is not a great fit and we make mistakes discerning where God wants us. The problem comes, though, when a minister is always in search of that next larger church as if it were some sort of promotion. When we do this, we start to look at people as a consumer good or an inanimate object. We also begin to look at each spiritual interaction as a means to an end for our benefit. This needs to stop. The people who are in front of you are hurting and need someone to lead them into their own Promised Land. Don’t leave your ministry until God calls you to do so. And, no, God’s only way of “calling you” is not through the avenue of more influence, comfort and a higher salary.
3. It’s OK to Admit You Are Wrong.
It is often tempting to believe that the people whom we lead in ministry think of us as flawless human beings who can do no wrong. This is obviously false. There are times when the pastor is wrong, and if they are stubborn about admitting this quickly, then their influence will be tarnished. People want leaders who are transparent and who understand their pain. If their shepherd won’t admit and embrace their humanity then they become irrelevant. We don’t have all the answers and we can’t fix every problem. We can, however, love people through their own mess.
I wish I would have learned a lot of these things earlier in ministry. I think it would make me a better leader today. It’s okay, though, because God is still using me and I am anxious to continue to grow.