Ten Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before They Became Pastors.
In an informal survey of pastors, I asked a simple question:
What do you wish you had been told before you became a pastor?
Some of the responses were obvious. For me, a few were surprises.
I note them in order of frequency of response, not necessarily in order of importance. After each item, I offer a representative quote from a pastor.
- I wish someone had taught me basic leadership skills. “I was well grounded in theology and Bible exegesis, but seminary did not prepare me for the real world of real people. It would have been great to have someone walk alongside me before my first church.”
- I needed to know a lot more about personal financial issues. “No one ever told me about minister’s housing, social security, automobile reimbursement, and the difference between a package and a salary. I got burned in my first church.”
- I wish I had been given advice on how to deal with power groups and power people in the church. “I got it all wrong in my first two churches. I was fired outright from the first one and pressured out in the second one. Someone finally and courageously pointed out how I was messing things up almost from the moment I began in a new church. I am so thankful that I am in the ninth year of a happy pastorate in my third church.”
- Don’t give up your time in prayer and the Word. “I really don’t ever remember anyone pointing me in that direction. The busier I became at the church, the more I neglected my primary calling. It was a subtle process; I wish I had been forewarned.”
- I wish someone had told me I needed some business training. “I felt inadequate and embarrassed in the first budget meetings. And it really hit home when we looked at a building program that involved fund raising and debt. I had no clue what the bankers were saying.”
- Someone should have told me that there are mean people in the church. “Look, I was prepared to deal with critics. That’s the reality of any leadership position. But I never expected a few of the members to be so mean and cruel. One church member wrote something really cruel on my Facebook wall. Both my wife and children cried when they read it.”
- Show me how to help my kids grow up like normal kids. “I really worry about the glass house syndrome with my wife and kids. I’m particularly worried that my children will see so much of the negative that they will grow up hating the church. I’ve seen it happen too many times.”
- I wish I had been told to continue to date my wife. “I was diligent in dating my wife before I became a pastor. I then got so busy helping others with their needs that I neglected her. I almost lost my marriage. She felt so alone as I tried to meet everyone’s needs but hers.”
- Someone needed to tell me about the expectation of being omnipresent. “I had no idea that people would expect me to be at so many meetings, so many church socials, and so many sports and civic functions. It is impossible to meet all those expectations, so I left some folks disappointed or mad.”
- I really needed help knowing how to minister to dying people. “Some of those who have terminal illnesses have such a strong faith that they minister to me. But many of them are scared and have questions I never anticipated. I was totally unprepared for these pastoral care issues when I first became a pastor.”
How do you respond to this list? What would you add?
Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at ThomRainer.com. Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at Steve.Drake@LifeWay.com. We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.
Recently I have been embroiled in a controversy not of my own making. A denominational leader called me out for bringing in guest preachers for our Good Friday Service. I was basically told that I was wrong for bringing in non-baptist preachers and fellowshipping with non-baptists, and that I should have “stuck with the script” and used Kentucky baptist preachers only.
I was floored.
I was angry.
I was grieved.
I was angry.
I was annoyed.
I was angry.
I was raised in ministry by Dr. A. Bernard Devers, who is now in Heaven, and he trained us, taught us, and primarily he taught us of the autonomy that we have in the Baptist Church. His father in the ministry (who I claim as my grandfather in the ministry), the late Dr. C.E. Williams, was chairman of the Ministers Conference for the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest and he regularly hammered into our head “Conventions don’t make churches; Churches make conventions.” In other words, what I heard in 2013 greatly differs from what I was taught in 1978.
I invite in who the Holy Spirit tells me to – PERIOD.
I have always enjoyed fellowship with other Christian Denominations. I admire the A.M.E.’s for their dedication to Christian Education. I admire the COGICs for their tenacity of praise and worship. I admire the United Methodists for their reverence of worship. And yes, I am baptist born, baptist bred, and when I did baptist dead – BUT, I was a believer before I became a Baptist. I am Baptist by choice. However, I am not confined to the baptist way of doing things and frankly, there are some flaws in our baptist polity that some of us have chosen to ignore rather than enforce.
There is no “baptist way” of worship. Matter of fact, there is no printed order of worship throughout the Bible. The early church didn’t have an order of worship with “Baptist” written across it. Stunningly, someone sent me an email and suggested that the Baptist Church was what Jesus instituted when He called the twelve. If that’s the case, there’s a Judas in every camp.
There’s nothing wrong with being proud to be Baptist – but there’s some wrong when that pride turns to exclusivity. It’s akin to going to Waffle House every morning for breakfast and passing by 100 other restaurants and saying, “Waffle House” is the only folk that makes real breakfast. It’s a narrow interpretation of scriptures that do not exist.
Some good has come of this. On Facebook, I started a “KENTUCKY PASTORS AND PREACHERS & FRIENDS” page that has caught fire – over 100 pastors and preachers, tired of the non-biblical tradition of separatism, have latched on. I’m not using that platform to start a convention nor association (that’s what they call what most of the country calls state conventions here). However, I am interested in fellowship with those who I will eventually re-unite again with in heaven.
Somebody has to make a stand against this mantra of “us’s only.”