Eight Things I’d Do Differently

With more than 16 years in ministry, there are definitely some things that I’d like to go back and do differently. Here’s my TOP EIGHT:

Add value to the entire church body.

Sometimes our vision is too small and in my early years of ministry, I rarely considered how my ministry area fit as part of the church as a whole – I just couldn’t see the bigger picture. I viewed myself as an unselfish team member, but my actions expressed that I only cared about the ministry areas I oversaw. It was easy to live in a self-created ministry silo and if I had the opportunity to go back and do it again, I would interact with the staff and key leaders with a more open mind.

Embrace feedback.

A church I worked at would take leadership retreats to evaluate the effectiveness of our ministry areas. I HATED IT.  I was insecure and felt attacked even though everyone in the room loved me. These were times of coaching, not criticism and I embrace these opportunities today.

Understand influence.

At one church where I served, we were required to wear khakis on Sundays. Our church reached a lot of unchurched people – people that weren’t the “khakis crew.” One day on the way to lunch with our senior pastor we talked about church. I mentioned how I felt our khaki requirement didn’t quite match the people we were reaching. Because it was a casual conversation there was no pressure of making an official decision, my pastor listened and responded with, “You are right.” Influence isn’t all about what happens in a meeting. Influence is not about title. It happens through relationships.

Be happy

It is not someone’s else’s job to make me happy – that’s called entitlement. As long as entitlement exists bad attitudes will persist. We are responsible for our own happiness.

Leaders vs. Managers

When I started in ministry, I didn’t understand leadership. I was a leader by title, but I didn’t act like it. I was a manager and I could do that well. A leader works through influence and I was clueless. I would wait for a task to come my way and to be told what to do. My time would have been better spent through my time investment in others. Managers need a map to accomplish their tasks – leaders create the map.

The organization will outgrow my leadership skills.

I once heard someone say, “When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you’re rotten.” If you are not intentionally learning, you are not growing as a leader and the time will come when the organization needs someone with a greater skillset to lead their ministry. Early in my ministry, I grew a lot while on staff – but it was a result of being a part of a growing church. Because of my lack of intentional growth I unintentionally slowed down the growth of the church. Keep growing.

Give grace.

If I could go back in time I’d show more grace to my pastor. When he had a bad day, I’d show more grace. When he didn’t make a decision I liked, I would have I would shown more grace. When my ideas were rejected, I would have shown grace. I rarely thought through how the pastor had to deal with the entire pressure of the church. I had to deal with the minimal pressure of my area. I didn’t lose sleep at night about attendance, money or staffing. The weight of pastoral leadership is heavy – show grace.

Lead with “Yes.”

So often I would lead with “We can’t do that,” “That won’t work,” “That’s a bad idea.” If I could go back in time I would always lead with a yes. I killed ideas before I gave them a chance to succeed.

Being on a church staff is difficult. It’s much more difficult with a childlike mindset that looks at the pastor as the mean parent who is limiting fun. Bottom line is that in working on a church staff my calling was to fulfill the vision of the pastor and church. I often got that mixed up. They weren’t there to fulfill my vision. And that’s okay.

What Do You See? What Would You Change If You Could Go Back In Time? If You Are On A Church Staff Now, What Surprised You About This Post?

Showing 2 comments
  • Rusty Foley

    I would better appreciate the fact that a quick, bad decision has greater consequences than I gave it credit for.
    I would be more understanding of the fact that the Sr. pastor carries that weight.

    • Rob Shepherd

      Rusty, thanks for sharing those lessons. We appreciate your authenticity!

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