11 Encouragements Young Pastors Need to Hear

I’ve been a pastor on staff at a local church now for over 7 years. In that time, I’ve been the new guy. I’ve been the young guy. I’ve been the guy with dumb ideas. I’ve been the idea killer. I’ve been the guy that made stupid mistakes.

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image credit: TheBibleQuotes.org

And I’ve learned a couple of things. Not everything. Not even close to everything. Every day I feel like I’m being bombarded with new ways of thinking, new ways of operating, and new ways of leading here at Long Hollow.

Along the way, I’ve had to remind myself of some truths. And I’ve had to hear words of correction from others. Neither of which is immediately joy-inducing, but each of which has propelled me forward in ministry.

11 Encouragements Young Pastors Need to Hear

1. You don’t know it all.

You’re not the savior of our church staff. You’re not “all we hoped for.” You don’t have all of the answers to all of the questions we’ve been wrestling with. And the answers we’ve landed on have been wrought with prayers, tears, and sweat.

Encouragement: Bring your ideas with humility.

2. Not every hill is worth dying on.

This is a hard one for me, because I can easily find myself making mountains out of molehills. There are ideas, principles, and dare I say…*theological stances* that are better left untouched and buried for the time being. Triage the most important aspects of your ministry, and fight for those. If you go to battle for every one of the ideas you birthed in the seminary classroom, you’ll breed a staff of people who can’t stand to be around you.

Encouragement: Let someone else die on the molehills. Don’t cash in your relational chips on things that don’t matter.

3. The way you love your family now is the way you’ll love them in 5 years.

If you struggle with spending too much time at work now…you will in 5 years, too. If you tend to bring your job your best…and your family your leftovers…that won’t change. You’re dredging out a trench that will grow more and more comfortable to plow through as the years go on. If you don’t like the way you’re loving your family, change now.

Encouragement: Problems, solutions, and emails can wait until tomorrow. Your wife and children can’t.

4. Not everything is urgent.

This is a mashup of #2 and #3, but it stands on its own feet. Email seems urgent. Phone calls seem urgent. Sunday morning seems urgent. But if you don’t carve out time to dream and plan for the future, you’ll look up and 3 years will have passed you by.

Encouragement: Make sure you’re thinking forward for your ministry. Don’t let the urgency of today drown out your dreams for tomorrow.

5. Not everyone will love your ideas.

Whether you’re a small groups pastor or not, all of your ideas won’t be instantly loved and adopted. That shouldn’t persuade you from remaining silent, though. Learn how to lead up, down, and across. Learn how to innovate and build a team. Learn how to lead people well and integrate your ideas into the life of your church’s culture.

Encouragement: Get a thicker skin, take criticism seriously, and lead people well.

6. You’re not God.

God doesn’t sleep. You need to.

God changes hearts. You don’t.

“There is a God, and it is not you.” – John Ortberg

Encouragement: “Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish.” – CJ Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life

7. Time with God isn’t easier because you’re a pastor.

Many people naively assume that pastors just sit around, read our Bibles all day, and sing Kumbaya. Let the record show: I’ve never sang Kumbaya in my office. Just because you’re a pastor doesn’t mean that carving out personal time with God happens easily. Emails, meetings, phone calls, tragedies, meetings, videos, and meetings happen naturally.

Encouragement: Don’t neglect personal worship.

8. Leadership will be more important than theology on a day-to-day basis.

Before you hang me out to dry, know that I’m a theologian. I love to dig in and wrestle through theology. I love a good theology book and a good lecture. But nobody cares what you believe about your thoughts on the authorship of the book of Hebrews when their marriage is falling apart. When life doesn’t make sense, nobody leads with, “Who are the Nephilim, really?” Are there potentially important things about the authorship of Hebrews that come to bear? Yep. But the way you lead your staff and congregation will be more important than what you believe about the Nephilim. Or about Calvinism.*

Encouragement: Get your hands on some good leadership books. Maxwell, Osborne, and Godin are all pretty good places to begin.

9. Seminary is good. But it won’t prepare you for much of ministry.

It’s easy to get comfortable in the ivory tower. But real ministry rarely happens there. It happens on the street-level. I learned lots there…but not everything.

Encouragement: Don’t let your seminary education get in the way of you loving people.

10. Investing in the next generation doesn’t come naturally.

Look at your role as preparing the next generation of leaders. Even if you’re 22 year old. Or 32. Or 62. The next generation needs you! Spend time investing in people by bringing them along with you when you are doing the work on ministry. Help them to know what you know, see what you see, lead how you lead, and love how you love. Then turn them loose to use their gifts and passions!

Encouragement: Bring people with you when you do ministry.

11. Build in individual accountability, because nobody will do that for you.

Spoiler alert: you’re going to be tempted to sin. Maybe even more so as a pastor. Satan would love nothing more than to destroy your marriage, your local church, and your ministry. Asking other people to speak in to your life on a consistent basis will help guard against this.

Encouragement: Surround yourself with people whom you can be open, honest, and transparent with.

 

*I think that these things are incredibly important. Especially Reformed theology. What you believe informs how you live, how you preach, and how you counsel. But it’s easy to become a “Calvin-ite,” a “John-Piper-ite,” or a “Mark Driscoll-ite,” making a bigger deal out of them (what they believe and how they operate in ministry) than out of the way you are to contextualize the Gospel for the people you are called to lead. Be careful in how you wield your theology.

 

 

5 Super Simple Keys to Changing the World, Mike Foster, Catalyst 2012

Mike Foster is the cofounder of People of hte Second Chance as well as working with Plain Joe Studio. He most recently wrote Gracenomics.

 

5 Super Simple Keys to Changing the World:

1. The fuel for world change is a truthful and trustful you.

So often in our own passions and dreams, we’re not honoest with those. We get boxed in with expectations and what we should be about. Only you can bring what only you can bring. Our callings are different from each other. Reinventing comes from a place of truth, from who and where we are…good things, and things that we’ve failed at.

The greatest gift you can give the world is becoming the person you were uniquely meant to be. (You’re not meant to be anyone except who God created you to be.)

Freedom is found when we let go of who we think we’re supposed to be…and embracing who we really are. When you’re doing someone else’s calling, you’ll be frustrated and tired.

There is nothing holy, godly, or admirable about a “calling” that leaves you drained, empty and exhausted. When that’s you, you may be in the wrong role/place. Numbers can become an idol to us.

“I have done my best” is a great philosophy for life and for your mission.

2. Courage is required. Safety is deadly.

Our world is in a constant deficit of courage…and is drowning in fear. Our culture often limps along because so few people act courageously.

POTSC definition of courage: to truthfully live your story, being who you really are, unashamed and with all your heart.

Quit preaching and teaching safety…that’s anti-Jesus and anti-faith!

3. A pound of doing is better than a ton of promising

World change requires you to be action biased. Grow to hate meetings…instead, love doing things.Most everyhting is a crap-shoot anyway. Get out there and start practicing it.

God is in the “yes” business.

If you’re 100% sure, then your strategy is a 100% wrong. The military works on an 80% rule…they ahve to be 80% sure before they move. Don’t wait on 100% certainty!

Grow a backbone, not a wishbone. Don’t have another meeting…do it!

4. Don’t fix problems that are not really problems.

We’re guilty of dealing with sysmptoms rather than core problems.

Target the 51. Don’t just target the top 50…target the people who are on the outside. We all come across people who are overlooked, marginalized and minimalized. Go for the people everybody else is passing by.

Be a friend to those who others leave behind.

5. Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of yours

Never be the critic and cynic that steals dreams.

Those who can do. Those who can’t teach. Those who won’t can only criticize.

“You can’t beat the person who refuses to give up.” – Babe Ruth

Question: What’s your world-changing idea? What’s stopping you from going after that?

 

5 ways to break through creative roadblocks

I’ve been behind a creative roadblock since yesterday.

image via NBC33

I ran into it on Monday.  But because of the looming deadline of when the project has to be complete, I powered on through the block.

Except that I didn’t really power through it.

I thought that if I spent enough time, and put forth enough effort, the ideas would eventually come.  They’d eventually surface after hours and hours of failed attempts.

The roadblock persisted.

But now the roadblock’s gone.  And in the process, I learned how I got passed it.

5 action steps to get  the creative juices flowing again

1. Talk with another teammate.

A fresh set of eyes can do wonders to point out holes you’re missing.  I talked with another staff member, and immediately he helped me decipher a step forward I could take.  He saw things I didn’t.  He wasn’t bogged down with it like I was.

2. Stop working on it.

This is counterintuitive, I know, especially with a looming deadline.  But I had to take my eyes off of the project…get away from it, and think about something else.  And you know what happened?  When I returned the next day, I knocked out in an hour what would’ve taken me an entire afternoon to complete had I kept pressing through.

3. Step back and zoom out.

When I returned to the project, I tried to look at the project as a whole.  I had focused in on minute details for so long, that when I zoomed out to see the whole project, the holes I was trying to patch were seen quickly and easily.  Seeing the entire project is key to moving forward creatively.

4. Produce a hard copy.

I had been doing all of my work on a computer, digitally.  There was something that happened, though, when I could look at a physical page and evaluate it.  It felt different.  I could spread each of the pages out in front of me, and look at the whole project at a single glance.  And being able to physically “touch” the project changed things up enough to shake me out of my funk.

5. Do something physical.

Go for a run.  Work in the garage.  Walk around the mall.  For me, I worked in my backyard.  I wasn’t actively thinking about the project I still had to complete, but the act of physical labor helped clear my head, exhaust my body, and, somehow, prepare me to get through the roadblock.

Question: What do you do when you’re blocked?

 

The blog vs the book

Writing a blog may be more effective than writing a book.

I’m not convinced of this.  But here’s one thing I know.

When I’m doing initial research for a project, I don’t first ask Dewey Decimal.  I used to.  But the game has changed.

I’ve replaced Dewey Decimal with a little tool you may have heard of: Google.  And if you tell me you haven’t, I’ll tell you you’re a liar.

A Google search for a topic may lead you to a book.  But if it does, you’ll probably skip right over that to click on the link that lands you on an article you can read immediately.  And the way that search engine optimization (SEO) works, a single blog post is forever searchable.

When it comes to most of our information gathering, our culture values speed and timeliness over exhaustiveness.

Publishing isn’t dead

Books and publishers still serve our culture well.  They help sift ideas and package them in a way that helps a broad audience.  They put flesh to content that single blog posts just can’t do.  They have often spent years building trust through their platform (by publishing reputable, helpful resources), and use this as a launching pad for current and future titles.  But the publishing industry’s strengths lead them to be a slow-moving machine that’s not capable of moving as quickly as a blogger.

The days of books aren’t over.  But the days of books being the primary starting point for research is done.

Moving your idea forward

So if you want to get your idea out, start a blog.  Don’t wait for a publisher to pick you up.  If you wait for a publisher, your culture-shifting idea may take years to get into people’s hands.  Most books take years to move from initial idea to gathering dust on a shelf.

I just talked with a guy in London who had found my blog helpful in dealing with a delicate small group issue he faced in his local church.  Could he have found the answer to his questions and concerns in a book?  Certainly.  But Google is much more accessible, when problems arise, than your local library.

Write a blog post, and your content is at the fingertips of people who need it most.  In fact, consider guest-posting right here on my blog.  I’d love to feature you!  Details HERE.

I may write a book someday.  But in the meantime, I’ll keep fleshing my thoughts out quickly and efficiently right here on the blog.

Ever considered starting a blog?

What’s keeping you from posting more often?

 

 

The epic battle of running

Running, for me, is an epic battle, both emotionally and physically, every time.

Here’s how a typical run goes:

  1. I’m pumped to run.
  2. .5 mile in, I hate it.
  3. 1 mile in, I feel like I might be able to do this.
  4. 1.5 miles in, I hate it.
  5. 2 miles in, I start to hit my stride.
  6. 2.5 miles in, I start to hit the wall.
  7. 3 miles in, I really start cruising.
  8. 3.5 miles in, I feel like I might die.
  9. 4 miles in, I die.
  10. 4.5 miles in, still dead.
  11. Last .5 mile, I get a little more energy.
  12. I’m thrilled to be finished, and can’t wait to do it again.

Am I the only one that has these ups and downs…all in the same run?

See, if I’d quit any along the way, I would’ve kicked myself, because I wouldn’t have experienced that sweet taste of completion.  Because there’s something awesome to be had at the end…the feeling that I did it, I completed what I set out to do, I’ve gotten a good workout in, and I feel tired and energized all at the same time.

We have the tendency, when things get tough, to tucker out.  Give in.  When a relationship is emotionally draining, we’ll give up on it…rather than pushing on through.  When a project reaches that it’s-not-cool-anymore stage, it’s easier to quit than persevere.  When life gets tough, and doing what God’s called you to do seems more than you can bear, it’s much easier to say, “God’s just closing that door” than to say, “God’s called me to it even though it’s unbearably difficult.”

It’s time to finish strong.

What project do you need to give a bit of endurance to?

What idea to you need to keep pressing in on?

What relationship do you need to pursue?

What “closed door” do you need to knock down?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. -1 Corinthians 9:24-27


 

Good ideas need your brilliance

Have you seen Toy Story?

Did you know that they have authentic replicas of the movie characters that are built to scale…looking exactly like that you saw on the movie, even down the smallest detail?  They’re a replica of the exact size of the characters you saw on the movie!

But with no imagination, they’re just a plain, lifeless doll.

With the imagination of a child, they become Woody…or Buzz Lightyear…or Jessie.

Good ideas

And the same is true with good ideas.  We go to conferences, read books, interact with broad audiences, dialog on social media, and get tons of ideas.  But until we put life to them, until we contextualize them, until we bring them into our systems, they’re lifeless.

A great idea looks cool…especially marketed in a slick package.  But it’s a different game altogether once you get it out of that package.  Because it takes your creativity, your insight, and your wisdom to put that idea into action.

That’s why copying another ministry doesn’t work.  Because it takes your effort to change, tweak, and contextualize the idea to make it function in your ministry.  If you try copying someone else, even though it may have sounded awesome when you heard it the first time, all you’ve really got is a dead, lifeless child’s toy that’ll sit on your desk.

But with your brilliance, the idea can come to life.

Where do you get your good ideas?  Books?  Conferences?  Conversations?


When was the last time you put one of those ideas to life?

 

Failure: The Secret to Success

I have lots of respect for the Honda company now.

“The idea is that you can fail 100 times…if you succeed once.”

We will have loads of bad ideas.  Ones that fall flat on their faces.  Maybe even right out of the gate.  And we’ll have to take the rap, own up to our mistakes, and learn from them.

Because a failure doesn’t mean that we’re done.

(HT: Mike Foster)


 

You Just Don’t Get It

Sometimes it’s because of my age.

Sometimes it’s because of my stage in life.

Sometimes they’re just prideful.

Sometimes they’re completely off base.

Sometimes they’re older.

Sometimes they have experienced more of life than I have.

Sometimes they’re right on point.

Sometimes they’re flat-out wrong.

But every time somebody gives the smug perception, “I get it…and you don’t…” I’m immediately turned off. (I know, I know…I’ve got lots to work on.  Just hear me out…)

I’ve sat in meetings where I felt like I had a good idea, but was shot down because, peering over their glasses, they would say, “You just don’t understand…but you will one day.”

I’ve been at larger meetings where I can’t get a seat at the table because of my age and stage in life.

I’ve been chuckled at because my thought was ludicrous to them.

And, like I acknowledged above, they were probably right.  Maybe I had no right to be at the table.  To offer critiques.  To suggest solutions.

But, regardless, they’ve set me on edge, and put me on the defense, when they’ve looked down on me.  (1 Timothy 4:12 is a great admonition.  But that’s another post)

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When you’re leading people, remember this.

Just because somebody hasn’t been a Christian as long as you…

Or a father as long as you…

Or haven’t read as many books or written as many blog posts as you have…

Or haven’t taken as many seminary classes…

Or been a “member” as long…

Or been in as many small groups…

Or led as many small groups…

Doesn’t mean that they don’t get it.

Who can you take a chance on today?

Who can you give respect to, by simply listening to their story?

*Note: This post is not in response to my current position at Grace Community Church. I’m thankful for the risks they’ve taken, and for the ones they continue to encourage me to take.