One pastor’s advice for those in their first year of ministry

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Recently, a friend asked me: What advice would you give someone in their first year of ministry? What do you wish someone would have told you?  

I’m certainly no expert but if experience counts for anything, I’ve been a full-time pastor for over 30 years (I was really young when I started!). I do wish someone had told me these things when I was just getting started. In no particular order, here are ten things that immediately came to mind: 

Keep your first love. Avoid replacing serving God for loving God. Your personal walk with Jesus is far more important than your place and position of service.  

Your first ministry is to your family. If you are married, remember who stood with you at the altar – your mate, not the church!  

Keep a godly scorecard. All in ministry struggle with expectations. If your scorecard is “budgets, buildings, and butts” you will be frustrated beyond belief. However, if your goal is to please Him, you will not be driven by the expectations of man (including your own).  
 
The Holy Spirit is the only one who can change hearts. Keep prayer as a priority so that your heart is constantly being stripped of the things of the world.  

Stay in the Word.  

Create accountability with people who will truly hold you accountable and tell you some difficult truths.  
 
Lead people with humility. Avoid driving them with ambition.  

Don’t take yourself so seriously! Laugh. Take trips. A change in perspective is important.  

You have feet of clay like everyone else. Admit your mistakes quickly and clearly.  

Love people. Agape love is only possible as you abide in Christ. 

I responded rather quickly to the question. However, upon reflection, I’d add one more thing among many others that I have thought of since that initial response.   

Remember that hurt people will hurt people. People will hurt you intentionally and unintentionally. But most people are simply lashing out because they are hurt. Do your best to avoid taking it personally. 

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