10 Lessons From 10 Years as a Senior Pastor

I have now been in Senior Pastoral ministry for over 10 years (15 years of total ministry). While there is always experience to be gained, there are several lessons I have learned. I in no way have it all figured out, but these past 10 years as a Senior Pastor have taught me some important truths about pastoral ministry. Here are 10 of the most significant.

1- It’s impossible to draw water from a dry well.

If your relationship with God is stagnant it will affect all aspects of your leadership. If you stop learning and growing, you negatively affect your leadership. The more you thrive spiritually and the more you learn the better chance you have to lead your congregation well.

You can’t expect your congregation to learn and grow when you aren’t.

2- Structure either furthers or hinders your ministry. It is not neutral.

The leadership and governance structure of your church will either help you do what God has called you to do, or it will hinder you from doing what God has called you to do. It is never neutral.

Spend time getting the structure right, and your ministry will reap the benefits.

3- Don’t just study to preach good sermons; study to disciple your people.

We all want to preach good sermons, but why? Good sermons are not the end goal. Life transformation is the goal. We should want our people to be discipled through our preaching. We want our people to know God through his Word.

Keep people in mind as you prepare and preach your sermons.

4- Your identity cannot be rooted in your ministry.

If you root your identity in your ministry you will be on an emotional roller-coaster. A good Sunday will give you a high and a bad Sunday will send you into depression. We can never escape these feelings completely, but if your identity is rooted in Christ, there is always reason for joy.

Pursue Christ more than you pursue ministry success and you will have more joy in ministry.

5- People won’t always understand you, like you, or support you, and that’s okay.

Pastoral leadership is leadership, and leaders have to make difficult decisions. Some people will like those decisions others will not. That’s okay. As a preacher, you must preach truth. Some people will like that truth and some will not. That’s okay. That is what pastoral leadership is.

Lead from your beliefs. Lead from conviction. Lead from a love for God, his Word, and his people.

6- When a church follows Jesus, not everyone in the church will be happy.

I’m not sure who originally said this, but it’s true. Don’t think that just because you are trying to be biblical that everyone will automatically be on board – they won’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow Jesus, it just means that you shouldn’t be naïve about the reality that people will resist it.

Follow Jesus, do right, love your people, and be willing to leave the results with God.

7- A church never accidentally drifts toward greatness.

No one ever accidentally gets in shape. It takes committed intentionality. No one accidentally breaks an addiction. It takes hard work. No one ever won a marathon accidentally. It takes discipline. Church is no different. If you allow your ministry to drift, you will never end up in a healthy, mission-accomplishing place.

Identify the goal and then constantly steer the ship in that direction, otherwise you will never get there.

8- Vision is both caught and taught.

Yes, communicate your vision and teach it to your people. But if you are not passionate about it, no one else will be either.

Teach it, talk about it, live it, and then watch your people embrace it.

9- Not all church members are believers. Evangelize your congregation.

This is a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless. In an effort to reach the unsaved outside of your church, don’t forget the real possibility of there being those who are unsaved within your church. Evangelize them as well.

Always communicate the gospel, because there are always people listening who need to hear it.

10- While each service and each sermon is important, don’t ignore the cumulative effect they have.

Pastors tend to place far too much importance on one service or one sermon. While it is certainly important, God often uses faithful ongoing ministry to soften the hearts of those in the church. So yes, make each service and each sermon as good as it can possibly be. But also understand that doing that has a cumulative effect that God can use in a great way.

Be faithful, plan well, always do your best, and trust God to use it, both in the present and in the future.

These are just a few of the lessons I have learned in my first 10 years as a senior pastor. I am excited and eager to see what God will teach me during the next 10 years.

3 Reasons Monday Is a Good Day for Pastors to Take Off

This really is just a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong day for a pastor to take off. However, these are some of the benefits I have found with Mondays being my day off.

1- It allows time to recuperate from Sunday.

Sundays are wonderful, but long and draining days. The mental and emotional toll of preaching multiple times, spontaneous counseling sessions, and other meetings all make this the most tiring day of the week. By doing nothing church-related on Mondays, I have the needed time to recuperate before diving in to a new week.

2- It lines up with many school holidays.

Many of the holidays that schools acknowledge are celebrated on Mondays. Presidents Day, MLK Day, and Labor Day, are examples of this. By taking Mondays off I am able to spend these days with my kids without having to take an additional day off work.

3- It gives time to process ‘Sunday’ before making adjustments.

A lot takes place on Sundays, both positive and negative. In one day a pastor will receive praise and criticism. On one Sunday there will be things for which the pastor is excited, and other things about which he will be discouraged. Things will take place that need to be built upon, and things will happen that need to be changed. On any given Sunday attendance may be way up or it may be way down.

Immediate reaction to any of these realities is unwise. There needs to be time to process all that has taken place. I have found that by taking Mondays off and not addressing anything until Tuesday, I have the time to process everything accurately, see it for what it really is, and then make a level-headed determination about what needs to happen.

Again, this is just a matter of personal preference, but I have found these three things to be real benefits. Are there other benefits to taking a different day off? Sure. Are the negatives to taking Mondays off? Absolutely. You know yourself. Determine what will work best for you and your family and then be intentional about protecting that day off.


6 Ways Pastors Can Keep Learning and Growing

How can pastors who are immersed in the busy life of pastoral ministry continue to learn and grow? It’s important. In fact, it’s vital – not just to you, but also to your ministry. Here are six ways you can continue to learn and grow in the midst of hectic pastoral ministry.

1- Read

I know this is a simple concept, but reading provides many benefits. Reading allows you to learn from people you have never met, but respect. It allows you to benefit from the study, research, and knowledge of others. Reading challenges your thinking and provides ideas and concepts with which you must wrestle.

With the number of books being published (both in print and for e-readers) there really is no excuse not to be reading something.

2- Listen to Podcasts

There is an amazing amount of learning that can take place by listening to podcasts. Because of this technology, your drive to the office or to a hospital now is a time of learning and growing. Here are a few podcasts to which I regularly listen.

(Comment below with podcasts you have found helpful)

3- Take a Class

I’m not necessarily talking about pursuing a degree, but if there is a class being offered that you think would benefit your ministry, your personal growth, or your ability to lead others, do it.

4- Fellowship with Others Pastors

I always learn and grow when I am around other pastors. They have used resources I have not yet heard of. They have tried things I have been thinking about trying. They have experienced challenges that are new to me. Conversations around these topics help me learn and grow in my ability to lead my church.

5- Attend Conferences

There are more conferences offered now than at any time in the past. There are conferences focused on the gospel, missions, evangelism, leadership, music, and culture. There are other conferences with the aim of encouraging and refreshing pastors. Whatever the need, there is a conference that can help.

6- Commit to Teach an Unfamiliar Topic

There is nothing that will motivate you to study a new topic like knowing you are going to have to teach others about that topic. Is there a book of the Bible with which you are unfamiliar? Commit to preach or teach through it. Is there is topic that is unfamiliar to you? Announce to your church that you will be teaching a series on that topic. It forces you to study and that study fuels learning and growth.

Commit to continue learning and growing. Not only will it benefit you, it will also benefit the people in the ministry you lead.