Sometimes I cringe when I think of my young days as a pastor. I started pastoring full-time at age 20, and only the grace of God and the love of forgiving churches helped me survive. At the risk of my embarrassment – but perhaps to help others – below are some of the dumb things I did. Tomorrow, I'll deal with some of the smarter things God helped me to do.
- I didn’t clarify the terms of the calling with the first search committee. I thought they were calling me as a part-time pastor, but they instead voted me as a full-time shepherd at part-time pay. God worked it all out as I served them full-time, but I learned a lesson.
- I refused to admit I needed help. I wanted to prove that my youth wasn’t a problem, so I worked overtime. The result was an ulcer and a semester off school before I was 22 years old.
- I advertised for a new pianist even though our church already had a pianist. I thought it was obvious to everyone that we needed someone with more training. It wasn’t.
- I failed to ask about how to pay taxes. I learned this problem the hard way, when I realized I owed the IRS an entire year of self-employment taxes.
- I took women with me alone to make visits. Granted, they were often old enough to be my grandma, but not always. I was a single guy at the time, and one of these women even informed me later that God told her that she and I should begin dating. We didn’t.
- I chose not to reach out to other pastors in the area. I’d been told by veteran pastors not to trust other pastors, so I started ministry with a negative slant. I could have learned from the others, but I didn’t give myself that opportunity.
- I called on a man to read the Bible aloud without his expecting it. I thought he and I both would die on the spot when it became obvious that he, a strong leader in our church, could not read.
- I had no follow-up plans after doing evangelism. God blessed our evangelism, but the result was a church full of baby believers because I didn’t know how to disciple them.
- I preached other pastors’ sermons. It didn’t happen often (you had to buy books, journals, or cassette tapes back then to get access to sermons), but it happened.
- I tried to solve every problem. I stood between couples as they were fighting in the street—literally. I checked the water level in the cistern. I purchased the microphones and the tape machine. I ran the sweeper. I bought a pager so members could find me anytime, anywhere. I realize that pastoral ministry sometimes demands we do these things, but I did them because I thought I was supposed to do it all.
Pastors, what dumb things did you do when you were a young pastor?