Robert: 10 Things I Wish I Knew In My First Call

Robert Thomas Quiring —  October 17, 2013


(This is part of the What We Wish We Knew Before Our First Ordained Call series.)

Seminary does a pretty good job of preparing pastors for their first call, but there are some things you just have to learn on the job. Here are the 10 things I wish I knew for my first call.

1.  I Wish I Knew… The Challenges Of The First Year

“Don’t change anything your first year.”  This is good, sound advice for a new pastor, but you are now leading events that most everyone else has experienced before… except you.  So, you ask a billion questions about how an activity works and lead it, but the first thing you hear when you sit down is, “Well, that was different.”  The first year can be especially challenging as you learn the ropes and develop relationships.  I might have been a bit naive to envision my first year being as flawlessly organized as a Neil Patrick Harris Tony Awards’ opening number.

2.  I Wish I Knew… About The Transition From Part-Time To Full-Time

I had to change after serving four churches as a part-time employee NOT working during normal office hours – to now working as a full-time Associate Pastor with normal office hours.  I had been on a student schedule for eight years previously and that’s a hard habit to break.  It took a while to find a rhythm.  And some of the new rhythm was becoming comfortable just taking things as they came.

3.  I Wish I Knew… How To Do: Baptisms, Communion, Weddings, Funerals.

What do you do when the baby you’re getting ready to baptize is asleep?  Was I supposed to turn the bread to the precut seam before I ripped it unsuccesfully with 10% in one hand and 90% in the other?  I understood the theology behind each of these sacred events, but lacked the practical experience to have confidence in presiding/officiating during these important moments.  I am blessed to have great mentors (Neill & John) and three other pastors at the church I serve who walked with me through my questions, but this post would probably be wildly more entertaining if I had to learn everything on my own.

4.  I Wish I Knew… The Privilege Of Leading Communion, Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals

I knew that presiding over communion and baptisms and officiating weddings and funerals would be meaningful, but I didn’t understand how fortunate and blessed I would feel to be leading these sacred moments.  I remember driving home from officiating my first funeral feeling that I had just shared in a new, unique sacred moment.

5.  I Wish I Knew… Late Registrations For Events: Frustrating < Life Changing

Event registration is crazy and inevitably once the deadline has passed… you get a call from someone wanting to sign up late – usually right after you’ve set up groups, printed everything, and told the retreat center the magic number of how many are coming.  This is a much bigger pain than most people realize, but I can also tell you the names of my six youth who got hooked on church after they were allowed to sign up late for an event.

6.  I Wish I Knew… To Set Up Weekly Check-Ins

As I moved 17 hours away from seminary to my first call, I thought that I would easily keep in touch with good friends.  This, not surprisingly, didn’t happen.  So, I now have three separate specified times that I call and check in with the same best friends each week.  These check-ins have proved to be invaluable.

7.  I Wish I Knew… The Gift Of A Good Week Off

Pastors don’t usually have a lot of time for contemplation after finishing a bible study, sermon, or mission trip because our mind is off to the next bible study, sermon, or mission trip.  It turns out that vacations benefit our vocation.  I have been really surprised how after a good week off and out of the fishbowl – I am able to make a list of new ideas that previously seemed impossible.  I am able to view things from a refreshed perspective.

8.  I Wish I Knew… How To Refill My Spiritual Tank

It is obviously extremely important that spiritual leaders make time for their personal spiritual wellbeing.  However, I fell into the trap of personal spiritual time feeling like “work.”  I wish I could give the simple answer of how to overcome this common issue.  For me, it was trying different practices until I found what worked.  Then discipline and practice came into play for my continued care and growth.

9.  I Wish I Knew… How To Delegate With Faith

There are many things that a pastor cannot delegate, but there are also many things that a pastor can delegate.  Learn people’s skills, empower them to use their skills, and have faith that those people of faith will do what you ask them to do.

10. I Wish I Knew… What SECA Was

Self-Employment Contributions Act.  At the end of seminary, we had a CPA come and talk to us about clergy taxes.  I listened, but I apparently did not grasp the whole shebang.  Some churches pay half of your SECA and some do not.  It is an important question to ask when you’re working out your Terms of Call.  To learn more than I know – click here.

It is amazing how much there is to learn in your first call.  Do any of these points resonate with other pastors?  Is there anything that you wish you knew in your first call we haven’t mentioned yet?  In what ways do you wish you had a better understanding of your pastor?

(This is part of the What We Wish We Knew Before Our First Ordained Call series.)

Robert Thomas Quiring

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Robert is currently serving as an Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida. Robert is a husband, father, pastor, sweet tea lover, technology enthusiast-er, and webmaster of Masterin' the Pastorin'.