Every once in a while I go back and reflect on my time as a pastor. ?I look through old journals, prayer lists, sermons and blogs. ?Sometimes it is encouraging and sometimes discouraging.As I was reflecting the other day, I came up with these two lists: 10 & 10. ?Ten things I think I did right… and ten things I did wrong.
10 & 10: Lessons From Ministry
So here they are:
TEN THINGS I DID RIGHT:
1. Unabashed Boldness in proclaiming the Gospel.
In over ten years of ministry, I feel like I taught, preached and proclaimed well the full Gospel of grace and truth, and the full counsel of God. ?From my early days of ministry with Young Life through my church planting days, literally hundreds of people heard and responded to the Gospel. ?I praise God for that!
2. Modeling & Extending Grace.
Grace is central to the Gospel message and was always central in my ministry. ?I believe that you cannot over-teach, over-preach or over-extend grace. ?Grace saves, grace transforms, grace heals. ?Not cheap grace, but real grace.
3. Challenging People to Take Their Next Step.
Whether you are a skeptic, seeker or seasoned follower… we all have an next step we can take in our faith journey and relationship with God. ?Consistently challenging people to take their next steps is the essence of discipleship… because as people take their next steps in following Jesus, they grow in their character, their love and their relationships.?
4. Team Teaching.
Embracing team teaching meant that our pulpit was never dominated by one personality or voice, that the ministry always was bigger than one person, and that the full counsel of God was preached. It also meant that I had a regular opportunity to sit under the teaching of others and model what that looks like. ?It also, frankly, meant that I was able to become a better speaker/preacher and spend more time on fewer sermons. ?Preaching less always made me better. Many pastors don't like to give up the pulpit, but this seems silly and ego-driven to me.
As a pastor, I avoided becoming a chaplain to people… that is, I never let my ministry be defined by pastoral care. ?Instead, pastoral care was provided through small groups and within the community. ?I spent time encouraging this, equipping people, etc. This meant that (a) people got better pastoral care; and (b) it avoided making the church all about me as pastor. ?Less pastor = More ministry!
6. Vision Casting.
You can never over-cast vision. ?We had a regular schedule for our vision casting and an annual strategy to reinforce the vision.
7. Avoiding Boring & Irrelevant.
I believe firmly that "it is a sin to bore someone with the Gospel." ?By embracing creativity, the arts and focusing on life-change, I believe we were able to avoid boring people with the greatest story — and greatest news — in the world!
8. Culture of Yes!
When people wanted to do ministry, the answer was always yes! ?Instead of being a barrier to people using their gifts, we actively freed people up to pursue their own vision and calling.
9. Risk Taking.
We created a real culture of risk-taking, innovation and creativity — and it was a dynamic, fun and inspiring environment to be in.
10. Spend Money.
We invested money in our community, our mission and in people. ?Our budget reflected our vision and mission… and our?commitment?to invest God's resources in God's Kingdom.
TEN THINGS I DID WRONG:
1. Encourage Busyness.
I think I encouraged too much busyness among our volunteers and members — too many church activities, too much time. ?I don't think this is healthy.
2. Ask too much from people in terms of time/activity.
Similarly, I think I asked too much of people in terms of time and activity — and this takes away from family time, time with friends, time in intentional community and time with non-Christian friends.
3. Not asking enough of people in terms of giving/growing.
While I think I asked too much in terms of time/activity, I don't think I was bold enough in asking people to give and to grow spiritually.
4. Not enough mentoring of leaders.
I wish I had spent more time mentoring emerging leaders… I would make this a top priority if I was in full time pastoral ministry again.
5. Maintain Healthy Boundaries.
Frankly, I worked too much, was too available and allowed healthy boundaries to get blurred to easily. ?In my case, this was a significant contributor to burn-out and moral failure.
6. Not equip people enough to self-learners.
The best thing we can do is not tell people what the Bible says, but help people learn to read the Bible for themselves… likewise, help people learn to pray, to listen to God, etc etc. This was becoming an increasing focus when I left the church… I wish I had embraced this paradigm a decade earlier.
7. Listen to the Squeaky Wheel.
While not as bad as many pastors or organizations, I too often allowed "squeaky wheels" to dominate my time and influence my?decisions?too much.?
8. Worried Too Much About What Other Christians Said About Us.
I allowed the criticism that we received from other Christians and ministries (and there was a lot of criticism) to really eat at me. ?While I was disciplined in not responding (no defense, no attack!) it did eat me up inside and really wore me out. ?I wish I could have turned more of a deaf ear to those critics.
9. Not Take Enough Time Off.
I should have taken more days off, more days away, more vacation, more Sundays away… I think if I had done that regularly — as well as met with a spiritual director — from when I started ministry, I might still be in full time ministry today.
10. Should Have Allowed Things to go Undone.
Organizationally, when people didn't step up to do things, I almost always took them on. ?That meant that not only was I the lead pastor, but also the church?administrator, treasurer, a small group leader, cleaning crew, marketing guru, webmaster, etc — I should have allowed more things to go undone — in the tension, I think people step up. ?But when they think it will get covered by the pastor, they are less likely to volunteer.
These are not comprehensive lists… there are many more things that I did wrong, haha… but it is interesting to reflect upon.