When my husband and I accepted our first paid position in ministry work, we were filled with excitement for all this new life offered. Sure, a cut in pay stung, but finances paled in comparison to all we would gain: a life of purpose, significant work and helping others discover the relevant, practical, loving God that we had come to know.
Before that day, we had experienced God in ways that emboldened us to believe He was capable of anything. We watched as He changed our friends lives, too. Drug addicts and alcoholics walked away from their vices and into the arms of Jesus, church gatherings ended in multiple salvation decisions, and 16 other friends chose to make ministry their career. Our faith was so much more than a religious do and don’t list; our faith was our life.
So when we stepped foot on that tiny church campus in 1995, we were ready. We had big plans. We were going to tackle hell with a water gun and watch God do His thing.
Apparently, life in ministry involves people, and people can make a mess of things.
We learned quite a bit about ministry work at that little church, and in all the years since. And, while I’m still just as passionate about God and His church, I’m also a bit wiser. If I could talk to my 24-year-old self again, I would tell her a few things.
Find a mentor. Talking with someone else who has walked the road ahead of you affords the opportunity to ask questions and compare notes. Learning from their experience will not only help you avoid mistakes, but will help develop the leadership skills and spiritual maturity you will need to be useful in God’s hands.
Don’t take criticism personally. Some will like the music loud; others not so much. Some will like your husband’s teaching; others not so much. Some will like you; others not so much. People have opinions. Get used to it. Your goal is to be gracious and kind … even in your private thoughts.
Leverage your platform. Leverage your influence and credibility to point people to God by modeling transparency with integrity. Don’t model low standards or poor character. People are watching you simply because you are married to the pastor. Give them something good to watch!
Love people. Be patient with people while they grow spiritually. Don’t expect them to change sinful behavior overnight. Remember, it is your job to lead them in love. Talk with people after church services, write encouraging notes, and invite them into your world. People need love.
Love God more than church work. Don’t substitute your service to the church for your relationship with God. Never forget that God cares more about your motivations and character than He does about your acts of service. Nurture your relationship with Him … daily.
I must still remind myself of these things when ministry gets messy. Like when complaints run amuck or when I find myself drowning in ministry admin. I’m still learning it seems. I hope I always am.
Your turn: what would you tell a younger version of yourself about leadership and ministry life?
Published March 14, 2014