As a pastor, if you could write a letter to yourself 10 years ago, what would you say? What would you tell yourself to focus on or shy away from? The mistakes and learning experiences we have at the beginning of our careers are the lessons that make us into the great pastors we will be in 10 years but aren’t quite yet. Here are five mistakes young pastors commonly make:
- They lack a work-life balance. Being a pastor is an all-consuming job. It’s relational in nature and, therefore, hard to leave at home. It is easy to get so wrapped up in helping your congregation that you forget there are people waiting for you at home. A common mistake young pastors make is to overwork themselves. They overestimate how much they have to give. Overwork leads to burnout and is the cause of many young pastors quitting too early. Take time for yourself and for your family and to rest. It will lengthen and strengthen your career and your ability to make the impact you want to make.
- They don’t receive counsel from older pastors. The fact of the matter is that pastors who have been doing this longer than you have are going to know more than you do. Wise young pastors find someone well ahead of them in years and experience to mentor and teach them. You and your congregation will benefit greatly from wise counsel speaking into your life and your ministry.
- They preach outside of their experience and understanding.A dangerous mistake young pastors often make is preaching about something they don’t fully understand. As a pastor, we have to be sensitive to the fact that we’re speaking into other people’s lives, and we have to do so with the tact and empathy that often comes from experience and research.
- Being driven to succeed more than driven to serve God.Leading a church, just like any other kind of leadership, is a great honor. It’s encouraging to see people come into your church, for your numbers to increase, or for your Twitter following to double. It’s nice having people know your name and pay attention to you and care what you think. But it’s crucially important that we keep our heads on straight.
We need to remember why we’re doing this, who gave us the power and authority we hold, and what our purpose is. We are pastors to glorify the name of God, not the name of us.
- Having passion without knowledge.Passion is important, and as a new pastor, I hope you have loads of it. But a great way to grow in your first few years as a pastor is to increase your knowledge. Your congregation looks to you for biblical application and translation and nuance that they wouldn’t understand on their own. And it’s up to you to learn those things so you can turn around and impart them. Read as much as you can—study, research and listen to other kinds of teaching. Immerse yourself in the knowledge of God so your congregation can too. It’s one of the best ways you can serve them.