It’s been over three years since I left the role of lead pastor and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on things I did while I was in that role. There are some things I wouldn’t change for anything and there are plenty of others that I wish I could get a do over as a husband, dad and disciple. I recently made a list of 50 things that I would do differently if I were to re-enter the role of pastor. I won’t drop all of them in this one post, but here are 10 to consider for yourself as you work in ministry.
10 Things I Would Change.
1. NORMALIZE FAILURE
We are human and we have high ideals that far exceed our capacity. While the two words “appropriate disclosure” need to factor in to every failure story, the reality is pastors need to embody resiliency and struggling well. That’s where people live! When we appropriately share our struggles we do something important – we distinguish the difference between who we are and what we do. The implications for this are huge. When it is not okay to fail, people are afraid to try new things, which results in fewer people following the Lord into new and creative areas as disciples.
2. ADDRESS “THE WIN” CONSTANTLY.
So often, we are in survival mode where we neither celebrate the gains that have been made, nor do we correct ourselves quickly enough when we have begun to drift off the intended course.
3. EMBRACE CONSISTENT CHANGE.
The way we accomplish our mission and live out our values should constantly be under consideration. By tweaking the way we do things consistently, we allow for fewer sacred cows. The people we serve alongside will get used to the idea of change when we model it in our life and ministry.
4. LISTEN INTENTLY TO THE NEEDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE.
I would be much more intentional about helping young people where they are rather than where I, and their parents and every other adult, think they should be.
5. LISTEN TO OLD PEOPLE.
I would be more intentional about helping them where they are rather than where I, and every other younger person, think they should be. I would value not only what they have done and who they have been by listening to them, but I would also try to make sure that lanes are still open for them to take part in the ministry.
6. TALK ABOUT GIVING.
Seriously, I would not talk less about it, but I would talk more. I know we live in a day where the church’s credibility is often lacking and that money is a sensitive issue (especially as it relates to newcomers coming to church!). It could also be self-serving when a pastor wants to encourage giving financially. I’m well aware that pastor’s wearing sneakers that are $1000+ is becoming a commonplace joke and that this stuff is making it difficult to know how to speak about giving. We have to distinguish ourselves from being health and wealth profits, but God still loves a cheerful giver! I believe there are ways to teach generosity that are outside of pastors asking people to put more into the Sunday offering.
7. VALUE WOMEN MORE HIGHLY.
I’ve made tons of mistakes in my ministry life but none that bother me any more then this one. As pastor I can honestly say that I have always tried to be gentle, kind and appropriate in my interactions. I also, however, failed to create lanes of leadership training for women to serve in ministry. And worse, I didn’t address the discrepancy in how some women (including my wife!) were being paid.
8. HAVE MORE FUN.
It’s a fair statement to say that my personality and bent in ministry tends to be work-oriented. I have often given my best to leadership while not paying enough attention to how I was living. Everyone pays over time for a driven, work-oriented, tired, passion-drained pastor and leader. If I had it to do over I would make sure that I had better rhythms and was having more fun with my family, people who are my age and at my stage in life, and especially with the leaders in our church. Enjoying life together, including on Sunday, really should not be an option. My church family was amazing but I was too often distracted by “the ministry” when I should have been simply enjoying the moments.
9. TALK ABOUT SEX.
Sexuality and gender issues are no longer secondary, but are now primary as it relates to speaking to a lost person’s identity. It used to be that apologetics addressed origins, evil, suffering, and such. Witnessing for Christ still includes issues like this but we now also have to address gender and sexuality.
A perfect example of this is found in Tim Keller when he was asked about his book Making Sense of God. He said as recently as 20 years ago, or even when he first hit the scene as an author with his book The Reason For God, this was not a primary apologetic issue. Now, it is. As a pastor and leader in church and home I think we need to be articulate when it comes to this issue. The people in our pews or in our home groups are much more likely to have conversations with people about this then they are the origins of life.
10. SPEND MORE TIME ONLINE.
I would do this as a matter of mission because this is where people live. Since it’s not necessarily my strength I would study it diligently, including getting coaching from other people in ministry who are doing it well, and then I would hire a younger person to absolutely crush this ministry.
What would YOU change?