Notice I didn’t say, “How to have a thriving Church Ministry.” The two are not mutually exclusive – in fact, in the long run thriving ministry requires that you thrive as a pastor.
God rescued me from myself when he called me to Cuba, NY – a village in economically depressed Western New York with only 1600 inside its limits. As soon as he called me here, I knew I would never be a famous, world-changing, magazine-cover, hip t-shirt wearing pastor. I also knew my God had called me. The answer was obvious, simple and even joyous. It was at that moment that God saved me from and for ministry simultaneously. I no longer would strive to be a great pastor, but rather to be a great Christian who happened to be a pastor.
Being a pastor is not peripheral to me, but neither is it central – it’s integral.
15.5 years into professional ministry, I am also more excited about and energized for the people God is entrusting to me and our Church. I am not depressed. I am not discouraged. I am not burned-out but calmly passionate about being God’s man in this office of pointing people to Jesus. Here are a few principles that I have found helpful in living out a life of devotion. Feel free to add yours in the comments.
1. Be yourself, growing. God called YOU, not someone else to your charge. Rest in the assurance of your church’s need for you for this time, but don’t rest on your (or anyone else’s) laurels. Be transparent enough that your people can see you growing – and thereby be challenged by the Spirit to do likewise.
2. Read. There are way too many great ideas and insights in the world for you to have to come up with all of them. A book is a life condensed. Learn a life’s worth in a couple of days. You can’t ask for a better return on your investment than that.
3. Have a day off…every week. God did all His work in 6 days and rested on the seventh. The corollary to this is obvious – work, actually work, 6 days a week. My day off is Friday, and Friday night is our sacred family time (every other week that means date night).
4. Comp time. As a pastor, my schedule is flexible so that when there is a need, I can flex my schedule to meet that need. That means that some weeks, my day off gets taken. I have an ongoing understanding with my church that if I put in more time in a week, I can take that time the following week (or as soon as possible) as comp time. My family understands emergencies, but what they should never have to suffer through is taking a backseat. Go pray with the dying saint in the hospital on Friday night – then have a family night the next week as well as a date night. This is not vacation – it is earned.
5. Flex for your family. No, not in front of a mirror grunting. As pastors flex time is required for the parishioners – use it for your family too. Child is getting an award at school in the middle of the day? Flex. Go, be there.
6. Talk to God, not just about Him. Don’t confuse preaching with praying. Just because you spend your every day talking to others about God, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to spend serious time talking with Him. It is possible to die of thirst while pointing others to the fountain. Be a leader, not a signpost. Show them how to drink deeply and frequently.
7. Don’t quit too early. I am not talking primarily about your work day – but about your sermon preparation. Don’t ever stop preparing until you have learned something and been changed by it. It will increase your passion for the message, and will insure that you are constantly raising the bar so that your leaders can keep growing.
What ideas do you have?