I’m quickly rounding Year #4 of ministry, which aside from completely freaking me out, has proven a helpful time and season of said ministry. I want to offer a few insights I’ve learned during those four years.
Four insights, to be exact. (See what I did there?)
Not everyone agrees with your theology, and that’s okay – I walked into my first church fresh from seminary, knowing what ‘right’ looked like with regards to theology. I was shocked to learn that congregants don’t necessarily believe the same thing as their pastor. Whether it’s sacramental theology, or a “theology” against preaching in sandals, people won’t always agree with your theology. And it’s okay.
Here are two reasons why it’s okay: 1) Christianity isn’t about getting the right answers on a theology test; it’s about a relationship with Christ. And 2) I’m not so sure I agree with all of my theology from four years ago. So it’s not likely worth getting too worked up about making sure my congregation falls in perfect lock step with me.
The disagreement is how my congregation help me continue to grow as a Christian.
Time can be both long and short – Three years doesn’t feel like a lot of time, but it really can be. I walked into my first church knowing I was on the clock, and so everything felt like it needed to be done yesterday (a trait I carried with me a little bit into my new church). It’s easy to forget that most of the changes you’re hoping to see take months and maybe years. Cultures weren’t created overnight, and they won’t be changed overnight either.
That said, I was surprised at how quickly my four years have passed. I’m not sure I’m keeping pace with everything. It’s easy to let life blur by you if you’re not intentional. So there’s the lesson: be intention in how you use your time in ministry. You can’t change everything you want too, but you don’t need too; God doesn’t stop working in the church when you [pastor] leave.
Prioritize your life – There will always be something that needs your time and attention. I had a realization a few weeks ago that I had inadvertently let the Army become a greater priority than it should have been, but not until I was stressing out about small things.
It’s tempting to blame someone or something else for our out of balance lives as pastors. That’s unfair. It’s not the churches job to prioritize your life. It’s yours. No one else knows what’s going on in your life, so they can’t schedule your days for you. It’s up to you.
Find a place to worship – I hesitate to post this one, but it’s too important to not say out loud/confess. It’s hard to worship God in a church you’re leading. Here’s a glimpse into my usual thought process for the first 10 minutes of worship:
[During the announcements and greeting]
“Who is that person sitting next to ___ today? They look new. I should say hi to them… Wait, what was I announcing.”
[Ending the announcements]
“Does that opening illustration really work for the sermon? What if no one knows what I’m talking about?”
[During the first song]
“Is the PowerPoint moving too slow? Oh crap, it totally is. I should tell them. Wait. Don’t. Let them figure it out, it’s not that big of a deal anyway. You’re the only one who notices. I should move the second point to the first point. The sermon will flow smoother that way. Crap, they totally notice the slides are moving slowly. I should say something.”
The point is, it’s hard to feel like you’re worshipping God when you’re worried about the service itself. But as a pastor, you can’t pour yourself week in and week out without getting refilled. If you can’t worship fully in your own church, suck up your pride and figure something out. Maybe you go to another church at another time. Maybe you come up with an alternative service for yourself during the week.
Whatever it takes.
So there you go; four things I’ve learned in four years.
What about you? What’s been most important for you to remember as a pastor? Tell me below.
And remember: I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.