“What would you suggest for someone getting started in ministry?”
I’ve been asked a variation of that question numerous times over the course of the last few weeks. Thus, I thought I’d press a few thoughts into the keyboard. I’ll start with three pieces of advice. There might be a follow up post down the road.
Advice #1: Say “Yes” Often
Ministry experience is incredibly valuable and incredibly easy to gain. Yet, many people pass it up. When asked to serve you should be eager to say “Yes!”
When I was a college freshman I said “Yes!” to teaching a sixth grade boys Sunday School class. I wound up teaching that class for 5 years – the lessons learned were immeasurable. When I was in college I said “Yes!” to serving on every committee to which I was invited – the lessons learned were immeasurable. I said “Yes!” to leading small groups. I said “Yes!” to helping out with special events. I said “Yes!” to working in extended session.
When I finished college I was still unsure of what God was calling me to do – but I had served in numerous areas. I was confident of my strengths and I was aware of my weaknesses.
Once I was seminary (I’ll need to tell my road to seminary in another blog post), I once again jumped at every chance to serve. I worked on a church staff in a struggling neighborhood attempting to build a church from the ground up. We succeeded. We failed. We failed some more. Yet, the lessons learned were immeasurable. I also interned at a ministry devoted to the poor and marginalized. The days were early and long but you guessed it – the lessons learned were immeasurable.
Advice #2: Develop Good Habits
Ministry is always busy. “I’ll have time for that later” is one of the biggest lies ever voiced. I’ve heard Sundays described as fence posts along a country highway: There goes a Sunday, and another one, and another one, and another, and another one. You get the idea. The pace is relentless. On top of that, there is always one more phone call to make and one more phone call to return. There is always one more meeting or piece of administration. Then throw in the unpredictability of hospital visits, deaths, and crises.
All that to say … develop good habits.
Never neglect prayer.
Never neglect Bible reading.
Never neglect any spiritual discipline that is good for your soul.
Never neglect your relationship with God.
Never neglect your relationship with your family.
I know you’re suppose to “never say never” but I mean never. Never. Never. If you ever drift in that direction. Repent and make corrections.
Advice #3: Surround yourself with friends
Surround yourself with friends … good ones. Ministry can be difficult. It can also be lonely. Wherever you go – get this – you go as the pastor. And people treat you as the pastor. It makes relationships hard.
You need to find good friends. Enjoy down time. Dig into hobbies. Find time to stay relaxed and refreshed.