Reflections on a Year in Ministry

In a few days, I will conclude my first year in ministry at Mackville UMC and Antioch UMC in Kentucky.

I’m still in awe and humbled that the journey has taken me to this point. This year has been a blessing in many ways. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine a better group of Christians to be in ministry with than the people of these two congregations.

This year has been a time of growth. I have learned a lot about what it means to be a pastor. In some ways, I have gained a deeper ministerial education than I did during my time in seminary.

As I conclude my first year in ministry, I want to offer some reflections on some of the things I have learned. Even as I offer these thoughts, I recognize I have so much more to learn from God, my congregations, my peers, and my elders about what it means to be a pastor. This first year is only a beginning.

Everyone has their own idea of how to be a pastor. 

I received a lot of advice on how to be a pastor. The advice came from all corners. Each person offered advice with the hope that I would grow as a pastor, which was very humbling. It was an honor to know so many cared about how I was growing  as a pastor. The hard part came in how to process the various pieces of advice that I received, especially when I received contradictory advice. At one point, I was receiving so much advice that I felt I had to implement each suggestion in order to be a “good pastor.” In time, I’ve learned that the advice was simply a suggestion. It did not mean I had to implement it. Not every piece of advice will be appropriate. You have to make the decision on what to take in and what to make a note of for the future. To be fair, this is still a struggle, but I hope I am continually growing in this.

A pastor cannot please everyone.

There is a deep temptation to want everyone to like you. It is only natural. You are new to a community and you want the people to like you and your family. That’s great, but the people will like and appreciate you because of the fruit of your ministry and not because you do everything they want. It is stressful and unproductive to the mission of the church to try to please everyone. I believe I spent the first few months trying to please everyone, because I wanted to be appreciated. It took time to realize I would be appreciated for being a good pastor and not because I tried to please everyone.

Volunteers are great, but remember they are volunteers.

I am fortunate that I have some amazing volunteers. They are people who deeply care for the church and go out of their way to make sure things are taken care of in appropriate ways. It is a huge blessing. With that, I have to remind myself that volunteers are volunteers who have lives and families that they must attend to. Too often we see volunteers not as volunteers, but as unpaid staff. This can prevent true ministry from taking place, because are volunteers can become overworked and unappreciated. Volunteers need rest just as much as pastors do.

It’s OK to not preach on occasion.

One of the biggest things I have learned is how mentally and spiritually taxing it is to prepare a sermon week in and week out. Even though my preaching professors hammered this point home to me, it was still a huge shock. I think this was because most of my previous preaching experience had been as a guest preacher. I never had to prepare weeks ahead and think about the following Sunday. I could just focus on one week and be done. It is important for both the pastor and the congregation for the pastor to step out of the pulpit from time to time. For the pastor, it gives him or her a chance to recharge and an opportunity to be part of the congregation during the sermon time. For the congregation, it allows them a chance to hear from a different perspective. So far in 2012, I’ve not preached on three Sundays and I’m hopeful that I can find a couple more Sundays to sit in the pews with my congregations.

As I said, this year has been a huge blessing. I am excited for what year two has in store for the two congregations and for me personally. I pray that it is a time of spiritual growth for us all and time to more deeply understand what it means to follow Christ.

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