I’m sure all of us who’ve served as pastor have things we’d like to tell new pastors. I make no claim that my suggestions are unique, but here are some simple suggestions for new pastors – and perhaps they will help veteran pastors as well.
- Don’t just study; get to know the people you shepherd. It’s wrong to think that your job is only to study and preach. If that’s all you do, you reduce your congregation to only an audience—not a people you need to know and love in order to best preach the Word to them.
- Look in faith for potential among your members. It’s easy to see among your congregation only the issues; for example, you see only undiscipled people rather than followers of Christ who need—and might even welcome—discipleship. In faith, trust that God wants to use you to grow others.
- Plant your life where you are. Don’t start your ministry already thinking about the next (and often, in our own minds, bigger) church where you will serve. You can’t serve your present-tense congregation well when you’re looking forward to your future-tense ministries.
- Pastor not only your congregation, but also your community. My point is that you need to love and influence your community as you become one of them. Get out in the streets, learning names of leaders and praying for them. It won’t hurt you at all if others beyond your church family know you as “Pastor ____________________.”
- Think and think again about your sermon illustrations. Most of us tend toward illustrations that reflect our own interests (e.g., the pastor who uses only sports illustrations), but doing so often misses some of our congregation. Sometimes pastors also use illustrations that are offensive to part of their congregation, simply because they haven’t asked, “How will my congregation hear this story?”
- Use Sunday morning wisely to spend time with your church members. I understand why pastors want to be alone and quiet as they prepare for a service, but we also miss an opportunity to meet and know people when we seclude ourselves until the service begins. I assure you that you can shepherd people simply by being available, taking initiative, and talking to people when they’re at church.
- Guard your personal and family time, but recognize the unpredictability of ministry. It’s not wrong to set aside and protect your time (in fact, I encourage you to do so), but do understand that some ministry demands may occasionally change those plans. Be flexible enough to adjust as needed without losing your personal and family time.
Pastors, what would you add to this list?