When I originally started writing this post, I only had ten statements that I would’ve told myself. But as I wrote, the list exceeded much more than ten. It soon became fifteen, then twenty, and I’m stopping at twenty-five. Here is the last fifteen of that list:
- Not everyone does things like you. It is vitally important that you understand the uniqueness in which God created you. But God also created others with this same uniqueness. There are going to be many things that you entrust others to do in your ministry that you would do different and that’s ok. Good leaders equip others to lead even when they do things differently.
- Invest in parents. As a youth pastor, it is vitally important that you do all that you can to invest in the parents of your teenagers. Moses did not call youth pastors to disciple their students. He called parents to disciple their children at home. For this to take place and for you to fulfill part of your purpose as a youth pastor, you must take it upon yourself to equip parents to disciple their children in their home.
- Ask this question: Is the issue worth the relationship? Many times over the past five years, I’ve been confronted with some sort of issue. Whether it was something that I was personally confronted about by another person or a frustration of my own, I always consider this question. This is a piece of advice my dad gave me years ago and it has become a constant in my life. In most cases, the issue is not worth compromising your relationship with another person. Unless there is something going on that is contrary to the Word of God or is morally unacceptable, it probably shouldn’t be talked about. Proverbs says, “A soft answer drives away wrath.”
- Look presentable. This is a big controversy that has come up within the last decade – how we dress for Sunday gatherings. I’m not in any way going to get into this argument. However, I believe it to be vitally important that you, as a minister of the gospel and of Christ’s Church, should be dressed in such a way that is appropriate and that represents Christ well. This means ironing your clothes, polishing your shoes, keeping your beard trimmed, keeping your hair neat, etc.
- Schedule yourself. One of the few things I did correctly early on in ministry was schedule myself. What gets calendared is what gets done – plain and simple. Therefore, I believe it is important to schedule your day. Devote a certain number of hours for sermon prep, devote a certain amount of time to communication, etc.
- Don’t tell your spouse everything. Let me be blunt (again) – the church hired you, not your spouse. You don’t have to give your spouse the opportunity to bear all of the weight and pressure that you do. I know you need someone to talk to but find someone in ministry that is not your spouse. Your spouse does not need every burden of the Church. Also, there are some things that you hear or are told that is to be confidential. If they are, then you shouldn’t tell anyone.
- Do everything with excellence. Another practical advice is to do everything with excellence. People notice what is done in excellence. Sadly enough, they can figure out what is done in mediocrity. But more than anything else, God calls us as believers to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and that invokes us to do our very best in all things.
- Communicate well. Your first thought is preaching. Nope. When I say communicate well, this means to keep a direct line between you and your student’s parents. Write this down: you can never overcommunicate. There is never a time when you can overcommunicate what is going on. Whatever events you have, whatever you are teaching, who is leading, etc., is best known when it is communicated well. Use every outlet possible to keep parents informed.
- Have a purpose for everything you do. Along the lines of ministry events, there is most often times a missing element: purpose. I recently read a book that challenged youth pastors to have a purpose for every single thing that took place in their ministry. When this occurs, you no longer have “filler” events or things taking place that don’t really matter in the long run.
- Build relationships with your members/students. The single best thing my wife and I have ever done in ministry was used it as an avenue to build relationships. If you know us at all, you know my wife is much more outgoing than I am. I am the more introverted one which means that I do not love the idea of being in a room full of people sharing our stories while drinking coffee. It’s just not me. However, ministry demands this out of every minister. If you want to minister effectively and have lasting influence, build relationships with those to whom you are ministering.
- Ministry is messy. There is a misconception about the ministry that your desk should always be organized and that you should always have your act together if you are a minister. Well, that is just bunk. Most FWB pastors have more than one role in which they are playing in their church. Therefore, it is important to understand the messiness of ministry and that what you schedule (point 5) may or may not get done. In fact, there are days when you schedule a full day and none of it gets done because of other things that come up. That’s ministry. And sometimes, it is messy.
- Preach the gospel to yourself. Sometimes in ministry, it becomes so easy to be preaching the gospel to your congregation that you forget to preach it to yourself. There are many preachers who preach grace, mercy, forgiveness, etc. and forget that they receive all these things and more from Creator God. Take time daily to remind yourself that the same gospel you preach is the same gospel that saved and is saving you.
- Live within your means. This is a hard one for me to write. As I write this, I am currently working two jobs while my wife is in nursing school until December when she will graduate as a Licensed Practical Nurse. If we would’ve made better financial choices earlier in our marriage, we would not be in the situation where we would need two incomes to make ends meet. Make smart financial choices.
- Disciple others. Discipling is a genuine act of true believers. Fact: if you are a believer in Christ, you will disciple others to follow Him. True, genuine believers are always influencing others to follow Christ. As a minister, the more you do this, the more your people will fall in line in doing also which will create a culture of discipleship within your local church. Do not neglect Jesus’ last words to make disciples.
- Don’t quit. The cliché says ministers quit on a daily basis. In all honesty, I’ve had weeks, months, and even years like this. Ministry is not easy. Ministry is something you don’t leave at work once you go home for the day. Most nights, I sit up thinking about things going on at the church, things going on in our student’s lives, and things going on in my own life. It is important that you let these thoughts linger, but then you let them leave. Do not dwell on the negatives of ministry. I have done this and have seen significant changes in my life because of it. Let the fact that God called you to the ministry and will sustain you while you work in ministry be on your mind as you serve Him with all your might.
Although there have been many, many days of hardship over the last five years, there is one thing that has been concrete – the presence of God and His calling on my life. These 25 things are just a drop in the bucket of what I would’ve told myself five years ago and I will probably write another post in another five years saying totally different things to myself. But more than anything else, our aim as ministers is to work heartily as unto the Lord to show ourselves approved to Him so we can lead our sheep to the Good Shepherd and let Him lead us who are His flock.