10 Things I Would Change
It’s been over three years since I left the role of lead pastor and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on things I did while I was in that role. There are some things I wouldn’t change for anything and there are plenty of others that I wish I could get a do over as a husband, dad and disciple. I recently made a list of 50 things that I would do differently if I were to re-enter the role of pastor. I won’t drop all of them in this one post, but here are 10 to consider for yourself as you work in ministry.
10 Things I Would Change.
1. NORMALIZE FAILURE
We are human and we have high ideals that far exceed our capacity. While the two words “appropriate disclosure” need to factor in to every failure story, the reality is pastors need to embody resiliency and struggling well. That’s where people live! When we appropriately share our struggles we do something important – we distinguish the difference between who we are and what we do. The implications for this are huge. When it is not okay to fail, people are afraid to try new things, which results in fewer people following the Lord into new and creative areas as disciples.
2. ADDRESS “THE WIN” CONSTANTLY.
So often, we are in survival mode where we neither celebrate the gains that have been made, nor do we correct ourselves quickly enough when we have begun to drift off the intended course.
3. EMBRACE CONSISTENT CHANGE.
The way we accomplish our mission and live out our values should constantly be under consideration. By tweaking the way we do things consistently, we allow for fewer sacred cows. The people we serve alongside will get used to the idea of change when we model it in our life and ministry.
4. LISTEN INTENTLY TO THE NEEDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE.
I would be much more intentional about helping young people where they are rather than where I, and their parents and every other adult, think they should be.
5. LISTEN TO OLD PEOPLE.
I would be more intentional about helping them where they are rather than where I, and every other younger person, think they should be. I would value not only what they have done and who they have been by listening to them, but I would also try to make sure that lanes are still open for them to take part in the ministry.
6. TALK ABOUT GIVING.
Seriously, I would not talk less about it, but I would talk more. I know we live in a day where the church’s credibility is often lacking and that money is a sensitive issue (especially as it relates to newcomers coming to church!). It could also be self-serving when a pastor wants to encourage giving financially. I’m well aware that pastor’s wearing sneakers that are $1000+ is becoming a commonplace joke and that this stuff is making it difficult to know how to speak about giving. We have to distinguish ourselves from being health and wealth profits, but God still loves a cheerful giver! I believe there are ways to teach generosity that are outside of pastors asking people to put more into the Sunday offering.
7. VALUE WOMEN MORE HIGHLY.
I’ve made tons of mistakes in my ministry life but none that bother me any more then this one. As pastor I can honestly say that I have always tried to be gentle, kind and appropriate in my interactions. I also, however, failed to create lanes of leadership training for women to serve in ministry. And worse, I didn’t address the discrepancy in how some women (including my wife!) were being paid.
8. HAVE MORE FUN.
It’s a fair statement to say that my personality and bent in ministry tends to be work-oriented. I have often given my best to leadership while not paying enough attention to how I was living. Everyone pays over time for a driven, work-oriented, tired, passion-drained pastor and leader. If I had it to do over I would make sure that I had better rhythms and was having more fun with my family, people who are my age and at my stage in life, and especially with the leaders in our church. Enjoying life together, including on Sunday, really should not be an option. My church family was amazing but I was too often distracted by “the ministry” when I should have been simply enjoying the moments.
9. TALK ABOUT SEX.
Sexuality and gender issues are no longer secondary, but are now primary as it relates to speaking to a lost person’s identity. It used to be that apologetics addressed origins, evil, suffering, and such. Witnessing for Christ still includes issues like this but we now also have to address gender and sexuality.
A perfect example of this is found in Tim Keller when he was asked about his book Making Sense of God. He said as recently as 20 years ago, or even when he first hit the scene as an author with his book The Reason For God, this was not a primary apologetic issue. Now, it is. As a pastor and leader in church and home I think we need to be articulate when it comes to this issue. The people in our pews or in our home groups are much more likely to have conversations with people about this then they are the origins of life.
10. SPEND MORE TIME ONLINE.
I would do this as a matter of mission because this is where people live. Since it’s not necessarily my strength I would study it diligently, including getting coaching from other people in ministry who are doing it well, and then I would hire a younger person to absolutely crush this ministry.
What would YOU change?
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Thanks Irene! I look forward to that.
Hey Pastor Eddie, As I never realized what being a Pastors life was all about I do know what I heard you preach about.. Although I was up in the balcony a few times I felt like you were talking to me! So I thank you for getting me back on track.. Thank you for always listening to me for my prayer requests and my praise reports. (like my nephew James getting the 1st basket) Anyway I will continue to pray as I believe GOD has big plans for you~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Eddie, thanks so much for this…gave me much to ponder! I did want to say how much it meant to me that you valued my contribution to ministry, and always loved serving with you (#7)…perhaps this quote sums up a lot: “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”
George Washington Carver
Great reflections Eddie, thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Thank you for this! I especially love that the very first one is normalizing failure which includes sharing our struggles. This requires vulnerability and too often we pastors are afraid to be vulnerable with those we lead but appropriate vulnerability builds trust and it can be a testimony to the power and love of God. I am seeing this first hand as I have been openly sharing my battle with cancer with our congregation. That’s just one aspect. But as you point out, when we are afraid to fail we shrink back and live small. I want a church of Christ-followers who are always living BIG for Jesus.
Thanks for #7…and it’s not too late to do this one differently. There is much work to be done in the Kingdom of God and in the world and we need godly men to lead the change in their circles of influence.
This is so rich with leadership insight that I just might use it for a guided conversation with our staff team.
Jeannette, you’re a champ. I appreciate you for taking the time to write me a note and share some some thoughts.
I appreciate you staying faithful to your convictions and the call God has placed on your life, especially because I know it’s not easy when you don’t feel well.
And thanks for being a woman who loves Jesus and loves His Church, even when some of us guys in leadership haven’t made the road to serve and lead as welcoming as it should be.
I pray God’s continued strength and healing for you!
Your brother in Christ,
Thanks Eddie for a fresh perspective on the routine of ministry. Wonderful lessons and great reminders and an excellent measuring tape for me. I look forward to the other 40.
Thanks Paulo – and especially so since you get to help guys who are trying to weave some heady theology into life. Connecting the two isn’t always easy for teachers and preachers.
Bravo,kid. I’d love to talk to you about some of these!