Not too long ago I celebrated my 20th year in ministry. It was actually a couple of years back, but the title 22/22 wasn’t very catchy, so I kept it at 20. Over the next 4 weeks I will open my heart and share what I consider the most important lessons I have learned in ministry. I will attempt to be practical, real and helpful. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and successes (more of the former to share for sure). Let’s get started:
1. Most conflict in churches is about power and control. Not about what you think you are fighting about.
Most of the conflict you will deal with has no eternal significance whatsoever. It usually falls into 4 categories: drums, diet, dress or turf. (I was going for 4 d’s but couldn’t think of one. If you can, email me!) I have found that the issue behind the issue is power and control. Who gets to decide, is THE question. One of the most dangerous things you can do as a pastor is take power away from people. The best advice I can give you is this: have hard conversations early. Controlling people seldom change.
2. If you don’t set boundaries, you will be run over.
Most emergencies, aren’t. Don’t neglect the church, but don’t play the role of the savior. There is only one husband of the church, his name is Jesus. I was very bad at this. I felt guilty if I wasn’t working. I would have people show up in my house unannounced and I acted like I was either about to go visiting or working on my sermon. Since people are going to talk regardless, make sure you establish clear boundaries. Write them down. Put it in the minutes. Frame it in a positive way, but be firm. Work hard. Rest hard. Since in ministry there is no finish line, you must decide beforehand when to rest.
3. Divide the work week day in three parts.
I learned this early in ministry and it worked for me. I divided the day in three parts:
I tried to do my work in two of the three and used the other one for personal issues. That gave me breaks and kept me accountable. When I had children, I made sure I was at their games and activities, so I worked the first 2 segments. As seasons of life change, adjustments must be made.
4. Is it worth it?
This question I ask myself when going through difficult times. When planting a church, I once had very fierce opposition. Letters were written, usually unsigned. Phone calls were made. Secret meetings. Threats of withholding tithe. When going through the storm, I asked myself this question: in 20 years, when I look back, will I say to myself “it was worth it”? I decided it was. So we went ahead with the plans. That church is a thriving congregation now. It was worth it.
5. People that talk bad about the pastor who left, will eventually talk bad about you.
Even though we hate to admit it, it secretly feels good when you know you are improving on the previous administration. I have written in another blog about the need to watch out for the first person who wants to take you to lunch when you arrive. I have seldom met a person who complained about the previous pastor who was an asset to the church or to my ministry. There is a reason why they had issues, most times it wasn’t completely the previous pastor’s fault. Make this rule clear from the pulpit and in your leadership team: I will not entertain any conversations about my predecessor. Seek ways to affirm him/her.
What are your thoughts? Reply in comment section.