Some years ago, I sat across from a pastor of a rather large church. This fellow is gifted and he and his wife have impacted thousands of people. He’s the kind of fellow you could be jealous of, if you’re not careful.
I was surprised as he related some of the difficulties he had when he came to his present church. One of his best friends in the church eventually turned against him and led a group that wanted to bring him down. There was no way he saw that coming.
He was telling this story years later, after God had worked it out and the church was booming. But tears still filled his eyes as he related his pain from that period of his ministry.
I’ll soon be celebrating 48 years of ministry. I’ve noticed a growing ache to help younger ministers navigate some of the stormy waters we’ve already gone through (and seem to go through again and again).
Leading, building people, and staying before God isn’t always easy. Matter of fact, it’s often downright hard, especially emotionally and spiritually. I decided I was going to write a book to help young pastors battling some of these things for the first time.
Unfortunately the book is still on the backburner.
What I did, though, was ask several people I respect because of years of effective, faithful ministry, what advice they would give a young minister starting out. These responses were so good that I didn’t want to let them sleep in a file somewhere when they could be helping young men and women.
Their counsel could be a game-changer in several areas, not only for pastors, but for anyone who leads or ministers to others. Tell me what you think …I’ve reacted to some of them.
- Am I called?
- What are my calling and my gifts?
- Am I willing to stand alone, and be faithful to this calling even if no one else supports me!
Willie Lee Williamson, pastor
“Somehow I would address the volatile nature of the relationships you will develop in the church–how someone can seem 100% with you one day, and how they can change, seemingly overnight, to be against you. Not just from my experience (but) since becoming a presbyter some time ago (I’ve seen that) this is a big deal that many pastors really get blindsided by. “
“Another is about how important it is to build relationships personally with people…despite what I said in the first (counsel).
“The third thing would be about how important it is to facilitate healthy relationships in the church body…..to understand that a healthy church is a church that truly operates in the “one anothers” of the New Testament.
This one has been said…but needs to be said again…church health is the right focus rather than church growth. “
Scott Williams, pastor
(DP—People are sometimes funny, in the unpleasant sense of that term. It’s hard to prepare for something that seems out of character, especially when you thought that person was your friend).
What a great book idea! Some thoughts:
-How to handle the pressure or stress of leading people (who don’t always like what you do or (they) don’t want to be led).
-How to make time to relax/rest when the work seems to never end.
-Dealing with discouragement and the spiritual battle of leading a ministry, especially as the lead pastor.
-Conflict resolution and diffusing tense situations.
-For those of us who want to make everybody happy: counsel on how to change that nagging need for approval.
Joy Krajicek , missionary
Here are some topics that come to mind immediately …
- Effective ministry comes from the overflow of your relationship with the Lord.
a. Daily scheduled time with Him increases your effectiveness; prayer, personal Bible study, listening.
b. Discover living by the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.
- Ministry revolves around relationships.
a. Learn how to understand where people are, what they value, how they communicate, and what makes them happy.
b. Learn how to communicate your vision, values, and goals to your target audience.
c. Learn how to deal with interpersonal conflict.
d. Learn how to relate to people in small groups.
- Be one who is learning constantly and is flexible to adapt as situations and circumstances change.
- Keep your “calling” at the core of your ministry. Greatness in ministry is defined by obedience, not results.
Mark Flattery, missionary, President Network 211
People pleasing versus God pleasing–
Urgent vs. important–
Balancing Authority and Responsibility.
Tim Southerland, missionary, area director
How to Maintain Spiritual Passion.
The Greatest Gift of All: Love Your Sheep.
What Not to Delegate?
Donald Exley, missionary/pastor
(DP—We all go through ups and downs as far as passion goes. But, if a leader is going through the motions that seems to multiply itself through the whole Body.)
The Poor You Will Have With You Always: Dealing with those who won’t be helped!
Vice President of Academics, Trinity Bible College
(DP–It’s so hard to know which frogs to kiss that will become princes and which are just frogs looking for suckers.)
These are three things that I would tell a minister/pastor.
Love ALL of the people.
Pay special attention to the children and youth!
Don’t forget the older members who founded the church!
In my opinion: The church vision should give emphasis to these areas.
Also don’t rely on new programs as much as you do on the Lord’s plan for your church with EVERYONE involved.
Joe Wilmoth (deceased), past district superintendent and pastor
- Not everyone will like you or be behind your decisions.
- The importance of spending personal time with God for yourself, not sermons.
- Clearly identify and write down the important principles that guide your life. For example:
a. I do not live to serve the AOG, I live to serve the kingdom of God.
b. No person supersedes the word of God.
C. You need a strong conviction that Jesus really is the head of the church….
Marty Roman, missionary
“Numbers mean nothing,
they’re not rejecting you.
Prayer, prayer, prayer,”
John C. Scroggin, pastor
The variety of ministries. I would have loved to know that the variety of ministries truly exists and that it is possible to express it nowadays.
Second theme : the Dufours. (DP–The Dufours are a couple who have a super counseling ministry and help pastors and pastors wives). I would have loved to known them before.
The third theme is “priorities”: (God/spouse/family/work/friends)
Maybe one more (2 Timothy 2:2)– Transmission/ empowering and trusting people
Nicolas Panza, French pastor
The principle of pain. In order to grow your ministry you have to grow your pain threshold.
The principle of the ladder. The larger the ladder (ministry) the more important it is, who is holding your ladder.
Of course, the principle of the oxygen mask. Put yours on first. Before you can minister to their (need) you have to be concerned about yourself.
L. Kevin Ward, pastor and former district youth director
David Porter–That first one is excellent. I think that’s always been a weakness with me. I can remain cool on the outside but inside it’s a volcano and the explosion goes inward instead of outward.
The necessity of personal time in Bible study and prayer (not for the ministry). Keeping your love for the lost above gaining the loyalty and admiration of others. #1 – Learning to lean upon and trust in the anointing of the Holy Ghost.
Tracy Wright, pastor
Something that comes to mind, David, is to be careful to guard your emotions from being consumed with other people’s worries and struggles. Care, and love, but don’t obsess over them, and don’t be consumed with how they feel or may feel about you… The main reason I tried several times to quit the ministry, was because of my closeness to people who ended up causing me great emotional pain.
Approval addiction is real.
Timothy K. Wiebe, pastor
(DP—You’re right, Tim. I’ve found myself nearly depressed over other people’s problems. I struggle to take these problems to the Lord and sometimes feel I have to solve them all. I didn’t want to do counseling for a while because I was more depressed afterwards than they were. I think we have to be like a doctor, compassionate, but still keeping a bit of distance. And I think we have to get to the point of having faith that God will do something in them. It usually takes me some time to get there).
I wish I’d known something about budgets and money.
I wish I’d known my unique voice and place in the kingdom (not trying to compete but being yourself, running in your lane, etc).
I wish I’d known how to pastor my wife while pastoring the church.
I wish I would have had the humility to find the right mentors.
I’m glad I went to church planting boot camp
I’m glad I constantly worked on developing a team
Charles Porter missionary
(DP–It’s especially tough when your “unique voice” is not the one sought out and glorified by others. Its tough to stay in an unappreciated place. There’s always the question (and we should ask ourselves), “Is this what God wants for me or should I have faith to do more?”)
For me it would be time management. I hate that term, but it is all I can think of right now.
1) How many hours a week do you work? Most ministers, I think, have no idea. Some, as a result work 70 or 80 hours a week, and others work 30. They don’t keep track and as a result their ministry or their family suffers – usually both. Some who work way too much feel that they are not working enough, and others who don’t work enough feel they are doing just fine.
2) How many days off? Most ministers work six and some even seven days a week. This can cause great harm to the family.
3) When does the workday start? When does it end?
4) Can you ever feel that you are “off the clock”?
5) How about vacations? How much?
6) What is work? Some ministers and missionaries spend a lot of time on family matters — picking up the kids from school, fixing the car, etc. If the car is used for ministry, is that therefore work time when you have to fix it? What about lunch with church members? Is that work or not? When you are at a church service, is that all work? Wouldn’t you be there anyway as a Christian? Tough questions.
Kerby Rials, missionary
Know hermeneutics and exegesis. Learn basic accounting. Learn basic leadership skills.
The one thing: That missions is the basis for the church.
Bob Lafon, missionary
David I am assuming from your question, you are addressing a person who is considering accepting the position of Pastor to a congregation.
Topic 1. Do diligent research in the community, to find out who are the real decision-makers in the congregation. They are often not even board members, but they wield the power of influence, and they are the ones who determine the direction the new Pastor will be allowed to take once he is installed in office.
Topic 2. How will the Board and the congregation view the new young Pastor? Is he the executive leader, or is he an employee, or is he a self-employed minister? The relationship must be crystal clear (preferably in writing) in the minutes of the meeting before accepting appointment. Later is too late!
Topic 3. To what extent do the Board Members participate in “Ministry” in the congregation? Who is locking up the facility? Who opens the facility? Who is responsible for the organization of Janitorial duties? How many of the Board are active in biblical teaching, hospitality, and events organization? These things need to be spelled out, or the new pastor will find unrealistic expectations expected of him, beyond prayer, sermon preparation, and new believer/members training.
Jim Cole-Rous (Jim is in his eighties and a sort of retired … everything! He’s had a varied and fruitful ministry for many years)
(DP—Wisdom Jim. Sometimes we only find out these things after we’ve been there a while. Then we have to learn to work in a situation we didn’t expect).
1). Missions giving is tangible evidence of kingdom building.
2). Why isn’t anyone else pastoring that church? Why did the last pastor leave?
3). People respond to presented need, but they follow vision casting/results.
Aaron Koepp, missionary
Here are some proposals for chapter titles. Can you think of others?
The Book You Should Have Read Before You Became a Pastor
(How To Flourish As A Pastor or Leader in God’s Church)
Dealing with difficult people and those who oppose you.
–Don’t wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.
(Michael Hyatt’s friend)
–Young pastor who likes confrontation. Gunslinger mentality. You’re going to meet someone faster than you. Servant of God must not quarrel. Jesus’ way of dealing with them.
–Sometimes these folks aren’t, “Of the devil.” They may be a gift of God.
Vision—Building people, seeing the way forward, worshipping the King.
Monday morning quitters
Finding out who you are and become that person
Few of us, especially pastors, get to do exactly what we’re fitted for. In baseball, relief pitchers come in for one inning, fire a few pitches and win or lose the game They get paid big bucks for that. A small church pastor often finds himself pitching 12 innings, running the bases, hitting, coaching and cleaning up the locker room until he can recruit and train some help.
Getting and training good help—the secret of multiplication. Finding gifts that complement yours. Finding John Marks and Timothies. An effective program of preparation—knowledge mixed with hands-on experience.
Working with other people, especially those who have leadership personalities.
Relationships with the opposite sex
Books, people, seminars