Letter to a New Pastor
- Friday, April 04, 2008
I hope you will not mind if I make a few points here which I intend only as an encouragement to you in this new ministry. Entire books have been written to beginning pastors, but you will not mind if I don't attempt one here. Here are ten pointers, most of which I have learned the hard way, and have the scars to prove it.
1) Remember to say 'we' and 'our,' not 'I' and 'my.'
When you are referring to a staff member, say "our minister of music" or "our minister of students." It makes little difference to you, but a world of difference to him/her. As a former staffer, you of all people know this. The assistant on your staff may take direction from you and be accountable to you, but you can magnify their ministry and encourage their faithfulness by speaking to them and of them with the greatest respect.
2) Never claim any authority as the pastor.
Any time you tell someone you have authority, it lessens it. If you truly have the authority to do a thing, you may sit quietly by and listen to the controversy that surrounds you, knowing within yourself that when the moment of decision comes, you will make the call. You must be prepared to do just that.
You might recall, Jim, a meeting in my office a couple of years back when I cautioned you about using that word "authority." It was just before I did the same thing with the two lay leaders who mistakenly thought they had some too. Serving the Lord and leading His church are servant jobs, not positions of authority. Slaves have no authority other than to help and bless and give and suffer. They take orders from the Master or the Master's representative.
So, if someone in the church gives you authority over them--and that's the only kind you and I have in leading a church--it is their gift to us. We should wear it lightly, use it sparingly, and try not to let the recipient know they just saw it on display.
3) Learn to listen.
You've worked with me long enough to know that I'd far rather talk than listen. We preachers sometimes think the Lord called us into the ministry because we have this gift for gab. In most cases, we should look upon that as a liability rather than a strength, Jim. It takes a mature person to discipline his mouth to stay shut so he can tune in to what the person across the desk is saying.
The Lord knows this to be a human problem, which accounts for all the times in Scripture He said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
4) Try not to overtalk.
If there is a number one ministerial failing, it's probably this. Ask a preacher a yes-or-no question and you get an essay in return. A friend suggested something I want to pass along to you. The next time you're in the car alone, imagine a committee meeting or church conference in which you are asked a question on a particular subject (you get to choose the subject). Now, practice giving a short, positive, to-the-point answer. Then, come up with other ways to say the same thing even better. Role-playing is a great way to unlearn some old habits and to create some new ones.
5) With the office staff, always conduct yourself with quietness and strength.
When you raise your voice to someone in the office, it feels to them and anyone overhearing it that you have lost control. That unnerves people. People want to know their leader has things in hand. I once heard a leader of a large company say he never lets an employee see him rushing anywhere or hear him raising his voice. He knows how vital it is that the workers trust the leader to keep a cool head.
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