I have been a pastor for a little over a month now. When people ask me how things are going, I usually tell them that I am still having fun, that I really like the people I serve, and that I have a ton of work to do. All in all, things are going very well here.
While it has been a good start, everyday proves itself to be a learning experience. Some of these lessons are particular to my context (Ex: learning the history of this congregation), and some are more general (Ex: continuing to evolve as a preacher). Below are a few important lessons I’ve learned that may be helpful to others beginning a new ministry.
1. Focus more on the people than the tasks. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is easy to get caught up in the proverbial to-do list rather than spending time getting to know your people. As a solo pastor/head of staff at a church that has been without an installed pastor for more than a year, there is a lot of administrative work to be done. This is important work that needs to be done, but setting it aside to make pastoral visits, have lunch with members and staff, and visit with people who stop by the office are more important. The administrator hat is an important one to wear, but we must never forget that pastors are there to serve God’s people.
2. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. When the time comes to tackle that to-do list, figuring out what is at the top of the list and what is at the bottom is very important. Different contexts may have different priorities, so this is something each person must figure out. I find safety to be a wise place to start, so that is where most of my energy is going at the moment. Talk to your congregation to discover the big needs, then tackle those, delegate what you can, and don’t stress about the rest.
3. Don’t forget about your family. I am at an interesting point where I constantly have a ton of work to do and am still excited enough to muster the energy to do it. Yet, I also have these two important people at home who need their husband and father. Do not neglect your family, especially at the beginning when you are establishing habits and expectations that will carry. Seriously, don’t. Example: I’m missing an important outreach ministry at the church right now because I’m at home with my sick, napping son.)
4. Build relationships with other pastors. I am lucky to start my ministry in a presbytery where I have preexisting friends in ministry nearby. I suspect most aren’t this lucky. Figure out if there are regular meetings for clergy types in your area. If there isn’t one, don’t be afraid to start something small yourself. We all need safe space to discuss, vent, and laugh. Example: Cimarron Presbytery ministry types get together for lunch on the last Tuesday of each month.
These are a few suggestions on my mind, but I need your help as well. What advice do you have for a new pastor?