It has taken some time, but I'm at a place now where I can admit that I made some mistakes in my first five years of ministry. I definitely learned from them, and I want to share some of them with you. Maybe you can avoid them. One of them does have to do with growing my hair out way too long, so if you want to see that picture and have a good laugh -- you'll have to click "Read More."
Mistake 1: Handling Everything Via Email
I had my reasons. I wanted to be able to document everything. I wanted to be able to prove that I had indeed said thus-and-so on this date at this time. Several church leaders urged me to rethink this policy, and I didn't listen. I've matured (some). Now, I feel that I have a much better handle on the kinds of conversations that should be handled in person, on the phone, or that are perfectly fine for email. I'm writing it down now: Do a post on this in the future.
Mistake 2: Doing Other People's Dirty Work
As the pastor, you understand that some church leaders have a problem with someone either in the church or on staff. You assess the situation and find that the concern has a fair amount of validity. To protect your place at the roundtable, you assist the effort to address the concern. Then, when the problem person is in the room, they leave you hanging to dry. "You were the one with the problem, not us." Lesson learned.
Mistake 3: Taking Sides in Church Politics
I swore I would never do this, but it happened. I wouldn't want to post the circumstances in a public blog, but it didn't look and feel like a church politics situation. It looked a lot more black-and-white. But looking back, it was nothing shy of age-old church politics. And I took the bait. "Never again."
Mistake 4: Growing My Hair Too Long
For you, it may not be a long hair issue. It may be a skinny jeans issue, a wire rim glasses issue, a flip flops issue. I thought I was accomplishing good by pushing certain legalistic envelopes and enhancing our church's appeal to a younger generation. Looking back, I think it just looked stupid. Once I went back to short hair, I learned that everybody hated the hairstyle. I wish someone had said something sooner. Best advice I can give on this: Be yourself. Don't try to be edgy or trendy with your appearance.
Mistake 5: Believing the Critics
You are well aware of the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. In Freshman Speech 101, I was introduced to Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt's "It is not the critic who counts." The leader of the Bull Moose Party had a lot of wisdom! Mentors have told me take all criticism to the Lord. Ask Him to help you sift through what is valid and not and guide you into any changes you need to make. I've also been advised to become immune both to criticism and to praise. This was from Dr. Lee Roberson who founded Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, TN. In other words, don't believe the praise, and don't believe the criticism. I had heard certain criticisms so many times that I began to believe them, and it paralyzed my ministry for a few years and damaged my judgment. God used my wife to help me overcome this. Give your critics to God. The Apostle Paul did this in Scripture.
Trust me, I could go on with mistakes I've made, but nobody has time to read all of that. Get in touch with me on the Contact page, if you'd be interested in letting me be your pastor coach. You can also sign up for free resources and discounts when the store opens.
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Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.