I’ve written several blogs of late on “advice,” varying from money, marriage, children, and a few other things. One thing I know a little something about is pastoring, so today’s blog is advice for pastors about pastoring. So that probably makes for a smaller audience, but hey, it’s what I know so here we go.
1. Make certain your children live in as normal a home as possible. A pastor has a special responsibility to safeguard his or her children and spouse from the crazy, erratic, and emotionally depleting world they have to work in every day.
2. Take a sabbath day once a week. Sunday and Saturday do not count because you work very hard on those days. I always took Friday, most people take Monday. Monday never worked for me because I always felt so drained on Monday that when I took that day off I didn’t feel like enjoying anything. That is when I decided to go on into work on Monday. If I was going to feel bad I might as well not do it on my own time. On your sabbath refuse to answer the phone, and train your spouse not to answer her’s/his either because they will call her/him to get to you. I wish I’d had the strength to hang up the phone immediately whenever I answered and they said, “I know it is your day off but . . . ” It always ruined my day.
3. Read books, but don’t read so many churchy books. I regret spending so much of my time reading one ‘how to do church book’ right after the other. Maybe pick about five of them that others recommend and then stop, perhaps then reading one more every other year. Instead read literature (Dickens, Poe, Dostoevsky, Wilde, Shakespeare) and current best sellers. I also wish I’d read more history and thrillers and less about church.
4. Accept the fact that church is a broken institution and live in the midst of that brokenness. People are messed up (including you) and that makes it impossible to have the perfect church system, so stop trying to make it perfect. You are only wasting your time.
5. Work hard at pastoring on two fronts. The most important front is learning to pastor the system(s) of your church. I know that is counter-intuitive, but trust me it is the most important aspect of what you do regardless of your church’s size. You have to learn to think systemically and then fix, repair, change, grow and adapt the systems of the church you lead. The second front is learn to pastor people in their crisis moments. It is faddish today, especially among those untucked goateed Calvinist pastors to neglect classic pastoral ministry but it is vital for the long term health, credibility, and integrity of people of faith. Learn how to do a funeral the right way. Go to the hospital. Visit the nursing home. Show up unannounced at a home in crisis. Dedicate babies. Learn some liturgy. Conduct marriage counseling. Be a pastor, not just a CEO.
6. Watch your back, at all times and really, I mean this, trust no one. If you want an example, just read the Bible. My small group right now is learning about Moses. Yeah, you see how the people he led treated him. They will do no better by you. Love them, but don’t trust them. Jesus didn’t trust the people around him either (John 2:24).
7. Learn to say no.
8. Don’t be afraid to say yes.
9. You’re not the solution to every problem.
10. Make decisions and stick with them. One of the greatest defects I saw in pastors and in churches was their inability to make a decision about most anything.
11. Never use shame, guilt, or manipulation to get people to do things. That is not how the Kingdom of God works.
12. One more–enjoy what you do, this divine calling that is also our daily work, or else it will become a bitter pill. I decided a long time ago that I would have fun, always, because I couldn’t control other people’s enjoyment level anyway. Therefore, I might as well have a good time. Yeah, there will be hard times and difficult moments but there must be a level of satisfaction, deep in your soul, that the work you are doing matters.