I recently celebrated five years of ordained pastoral ministry. Not a big deal, I know, but significant for me. So what have I learned in my first five years? Obviously many things, but a few particular lessons come to mind:
- Pastoral ministry is a calling. It’s more like parenting or farming. You’re always on call, always on duty. This can take a while to get used to, as there’s always more to do–the work is never finished. But I’m learning to embrace my calling as a pastor, and not just do the work of a pastor.
- Spiritual formation is important. In fact, it’s my first job as pastor. How can I help my people grow spiritually if I don’t seek to be spiritually formed? So it’s crucial for pastors to immerse themselves in God’s Word and practice various spiritual disciplines of the Christian life (including taking Sabbath).
- God loves worship! Time and time again the Lord blesses those who enter the sanctuary to worship him. This isn’t an excuse to slack off in worship preparation (including preaching), but it’s comforting to know that the Lord will bless his people when they gather to worship Him–despite our broken words.
- I will not please everyone. This is an important lesson to learn. Some people treat pastors as hired hands, that she is to do whatever is asked of her. But the pastor is called to serve the Lord first and foremost. So when she does this well, many people will be pleased, but certainly not everyone.
- Mentoring is beneficial. In my opinion, pastoral ministry is too complex and demanding to go it alone. Pastors need peers to walk with and mentors to guide them. I always learn from others and gain perspective when I hear and tell stories. I’m thankful for my personal mentor and my mentors in writing, who guide me spiritually and coach me in pastoral ministry.
This is only skimming the surface. I’ve learned so much in my first five years of ministry. But these are a few significant lessons I’ve learned a long the way. I look forward to learning many more. One thing’s for sure: pastoral ministry is a great place for spiritual and professional growth. I thank the Lord for calling me to be a pastor of a local church.