I began serving on staff in local churches in 1991. During that time, God has blessed my life with the opportunity to serve with some amazing pastors. Here are some lessons I have learned from their examples.
- Surround yourself with people whom you trust. The pastorate can be lonely. A pastor needs to surround himself with people who will encourage him. However, a pastor also needs to surround himself with those who will be honest with him.
- Be a learner. I am grateful for pastors who have modeled for me the value of being a mentor. I am especially thankful for those who serve as mentors in my life and ministry. Through them God teaches me much!
- Deal with difficult people directly. It’s been said that “things get better with time.” That may be the case in some arenas of life. However, problems with people do not get better with time. The situation typically worsens and becomes toxic. I am have learned from the example of other pastors that I must deal with difficult people directly.
- Don’t make emotional decisions on Monday. Furthermore, don’t make decisions when you are emotional. For most pastors, Sundays are exciting and exhausting. They arise early in the morning. Spend time in prayer. Arrive at the church before most others and make sure all things are in order. They preach multiple services while often times during services providing on-the-spot counseling or questioning. Then the afternoon is filled with meetings, services, and counseling appointments. By Monday morning what began as the most exciting day of the week (Sunday) has a pastor disillusioned and discouraged. In those moments and seasons, it is unwise to make emotional decisions on Monday as a pastor.
- Know what you don’t know. It is not uncommon for a pastor to believe the myth that they are the smartest guy in the room and no one else understands the situation. I must know what I don’t know. I must allow God to speak through His Spirit within, His Word, my circumstances, and through others.
- Pace. I have probably learned this most effectively through pastors who made mistakes in this area. A church or any organization for that matter can only endure a certain amount of change and/or transition within a certain period of time. When leading a church I must keep in mind it is a marathon not a sprint. Pace allows the church to move forward together.
- Distract people with the gospel. A dear mentor shared with me the reality that most churches will naturally turn their attention inward. Part of the pastoral role is to create distractions for people around the gospel to continue the mission Jesus has given to His people.
- Good administration places you in the best possible position to be used by the Spirit. Although I must be ready and willing to go where the Spirit leads, when leading others last minute changes or lack of organization discourages involvement rather than encourages it. Nehemiah is an excellent example of a man who sensed what God was calling him to do. He spent much time in prayer. Then he developed a plan and when the time was right his good administration put him in the best possible position to be used of the Spirit.
- Churches are important, but my family is priceless. This is another area where I have seen more negative examples than positive ones within the pastorate. The church is important. It is God’s chosen vehicle to proclaim the gospel to the nations. But my family is priceless. They are my dearest disciples. Not everyone will understand it. Some will be critical. But all will appreciate it in the end, especially my family.
- Never be too busy for people. The call to pastoral ministry is a call to comfort, encourage, challenge, and disciple people. Regardless of the demands of my schedule may I never be too busy for others. The power of presence in the lives of people provides a platform for ministry like no other.
What are some lessons you have learned as you have observed other pastors?