As a professional ministry leader for the past 25 years, I have made many, many mistakes. Some of them I have learned from and some I am still learning to overcome.
Here are three early challenges that I faced in ministry. Perhaps, you can relate:
Mistake 1: A Congregational Constituency?
The church is not a nation, town, or a city, but sometimes pastors fall into the trap of treating their congregation like voters. Rather than teaching the truth of the scripture and proclaiming the gospel of Christ, ministry leaders often make decisions based on trying to gain the acceptance of the church body. It's the pastor as a politician. In becoming a politician the leader is more interested in maintaining an “approval rating” over bold leadership.
The word pastor means shepherd. As in, the shepherd of a flock of sheep. Remember, God's people are often described as sheep in the Bible (Is 53:6). Remember when Jesus asked Peter to “feed his sheep?” The pastor's mission is to care for God's people.
I can’t imagine a world where any shepherd would need to manage the approval rating from his sheep! Instead, the shepherd knows what’s best for his sheep–even when it’s something that doesn’t seem best at the time.
Of course, I’m not saying that there’s no democracy within a church congregation. I’m pointing out that a pastor should lead God’s people to the truth, even when it's difficult or unpopular.
My motto: Please God first, if the congregation is happy too–all the better!Please God first, if the congregation is happy–all the better.Click To Tweet
Mistake 2: Sacrificing The Sabbath
Simply stated: pastors and ministry leaders must learn to take a day off. Too many of us have gone down burnout lane just because we fail to see the value in time away from our congregations.
Being a pastor is hard work and it’s often frustrating work too. Without a weekly recharge of our mind, body, and spirit, it’s not possible to continue to run at a break-neck spiritual pace. Still, many pastors and ministry leaders work non-stop. This always surprises me because taking a Sabbath is clearly regarded as an important part of God’s expectation of all people (Ex 20:8-11).
Remember, it is not critical which day you take off as a minister. But it is important to set ONE day aside each week. Turn off your phone, disregard email, ignore text messages, and leave social media alone. I preached about this very topic in detail…listen here.
After more than 25 years in ministry, I have learned that the church won’t fall apart in a single day. There are very few emergencies that can’t wait 24 hours.
And besides, if God rested on the seventh day, shouldn’t we?
Mistake 3: The Jack of All Trades
The problem with being a new pastor in a new church is that you sort of have to do it all. A small church pastor is often the preacher, the song leader, the media guru, the web designer, the carpet vacuumer, and more.
But eventually, as the congregation grows and as the church matures, more people can and should fill those roles.
Often young ministry leaders fail to give up some basic tasks because they feel they won’t be done well enough. The problem with that thinking is that it’s not sustainable. At some point, the new pastor needs to concentrate on bigger issues.
Andy Stanley says, “Only do what only you can do.” That’s a great mantra. What he means is that the ministry leader should concentrate on doing what they are uniquely gifted to do. This is not always possible in the beginning but it should be the target on the bullseye for every ministry leader.
Follow up questions:
- Where are your big challenges in ministry?
- Have you made these mistakes in the past?
- What mistakes have you learned from and how did you overcome them?
Consider leaving a comment and let me know about your experience as a ministry leader or pastor.