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10 Stretching Experiences of Being a New Pastor

My son recently got a part-time job at Dunkin’ Donuts. Attached to his name tag, for the first few weeks, he had to wear a ribbon that said, “I’m new—thank you for being patient!” I teased him when I saw it, but then it convicted me!

Every Sunday, as I step onto the platform or shake hands in the lobby, I want to wear one of those ribbons. In fact, I want to wear it for the next five years. “I’m a new pastor, thank you for being patient with me!”

Perhaps you identify. I recently made some “top ten” lists about being the “new pastor.” Heres my first—ten ways being a new pastor has been a stretching experience:

1. Leading forward while simultaneously honoring the past. Some believe these are mutually exclusive. I do not. I believe that giving fresh vision to the future is the BEST way of honoring the past. “The way we’ve always done it…” will only keep us where we’ve always been. Fresh vision requires that we all look forward together while holding fast to the faith once delivered. When I’m old, I will be thrilled to see a younger generation carrying forward the faith I’ve handed to them—even if they don’t “do it just like I did…” Never expect a new leader to shoulder the last leader’s exact agenda or ministry style.

2. Caring for the church family while reaching out to new souls. Both are vital. Both are biblical. Both are a great privilege. Both could be overwhelming! Balancing these demands has proven to be exciting and challenging at the same time.

3. Keeping eyes on the big vision while trying to meet day to day expectations. Little stuff crowds out big stuff. Up close, little stuff looks bigger. Alone with God, little stuff looks smaller. There’s certainly enough little stuff to push aside big stuff indefinitely. As a staff member big vision wasn’t my responsibility. Now it is—and little stuff keeps calling me away from it. Over time, this could be halting to ministry progress!

4. Letting people down when you’re trying hard not to. If you care about people, you care how they feel and how they respond. You want their spiritual needs to be met. You want to edify and encourage them. Finding out you missed something, forgot something, or had a blind spot just isn’t fun. One thing for sure, good churches have to be made up of good forgivers! I’m thankful God gave me a really patient church family. They knew they were getting a “pastor in training” and they’ve encouraged me along the way!

5. Being in positions where you must make decisions that won’t please everyone. To be a church of “one mind” everybody has to be willing to put their preferences, opinions, or personal desires on hold for the greater good of the big mission. This requires real surrender. Personal selflessness. And as a pastor, sometimes I’m forced into a decision that offers two good options and people on each side who want “their way.” Thank the Lord for gracious people who are willing to follow leadership!

6. Being in positions where God has to come through, or you’re toast. It’s called faith, but sometimes it sure feels like risk! I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life as the last eight months. But that’s a good thing. God has not failed. God will not fail. Learning to rest in the face of risk—that’s the art of FAITH! Biblically, God gives seasons of predictability, rest, and assurance—but He did His most miraculous work when He called people out on a limb.

7. Sermon preparation over ministry administration. Preach the gospel. Feed the flock. Set in order the things that are wanting. Healthy churches are well-fed churches. But when well-fed churches grow, they require administration. After twenty-two years of administration, my mind gravitates to projects and task lists. But my pastoral heart senses God’s call into His presence and preparation. One thing is more needful!

8. Seeing there’s far more that you cannot do, than what you actually can do. As a staff member, my job description was limited. As a pastor, my job description is wide open. Every day there’s a river of things flowing my direction that need to be done. Reaching into that river and finding the highest value, highest priority, “will-of-God” stuff is a challenge. And every day ends with the feeling that “not enough” was done (as the river continues to rush…) It all brings a fresh awareness of my finite limitations, and how that any good thing that happens in ministry is “in spite of me, not because of me!”

9. Experiencing spiritual, soul-level warfare at a new level of intensity. This one is hard to describe without  sounding like a nut case. Suffice to say, I believe Satan works over-time on the mind of a pastor. Pray for yours, and encourage him. Every word of blessing is like an oasis in the desert. Lots of people disrespect him. Plenty of people talk down to him, stab him in the back, or otherwise abrasively confront him. I guess it comes with the title. Makes me wish I had been a better encourager of my pastor.

10. Wishing you could be everywhere, for everybody, and everything that they need all the time. No surprise here—I’m not Jesus. If I try to be Jesus, I’ll not only fall far short, but I’ll hurt others in the process. I can’t be Jesus. I can only point them to Him. I can’t meet every expectation. I can only help people have realistic expectations—and place their super-human expectations upon their Saviour! He’s truly the only one that will never fail them!

“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Pastor friend, how has God stretched you in the pastorate? How would you counsel me regarding these ten areas? Do you identify? How do you grow and get through these challenges? Take a minute to mentor me and others who might read…

 

 

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13 Comments

  • Great post! What a blessing! All of these hit home. I’m in no position to “mentor” anyone but my greatest challenge lately is to just discern which battles are worth fighting on and when. Keep up the great work, Bro. Schmidt.

  • Bro Schmidt, I appreciate your openness. When I was a young man I simply wanted to be a good preacher but now at 59 I want to be a good pastor. If I can convince my people that I genuinely love them they will accept my humanity, forgetfulness, and mistakes. You and I follow the Lord because…well frankly because of Romans 5:8. People will follow respectively a leader who cares…John 10:1-15. Again I appreciate your honesty and your heart to be a good pastor. Praying for you!

  • That was one of the best posts I have read in a long time. You really hit home with me. 8 years in and I still feel like the new guy on the block. You really have a way in connecting with pastors. thank you. No advise… just learning. thanks again

  • As a newer Preacher, I look forward to the, hopefully soon ,day that I will be pastoring. Thank you for the insight into what can be expected. It is a lot different to be a Pastor when compared to being in the ministry. It can certainly be a struggle, but God equips all of those that He calls. Thank you again for your blog.

  • Every single one of your points hit home for me. I’m just nearly three years into a ministry that is 38 years old. Your first points was very real to me in the first year, and new vision has proven to be the greatest honoring of our past as well. I’m so excited to see what God is doing in new church plants, and ministry re-starts. It seems to me that the ones really thriving are focusing more on health than growth. That is a huge part of my heart right now for our church.

    Thanks so much for so adequately articulating where you are as a new Pastor, for this new Pastor. Praying for you.

  • Your ability to express with words what so many Pastors feel is an I credible gift that is encouraging because it reminds us that we are not alone in our attempts to deal with these ongoing tensions.

    You are a blessing!

  • When I became a senior pastor, I experienced all of the above. I suppose most if not all of those experiences do not really taper off with time; we simply grow in our handling of them. Now that I am a new missionary, I am reliving those newbie experiences, but in a totally different cultural setting with all the added linguistic challenges that come included. Whether you intended to or not, you have accurately described many of the experiences of a first-term missionary. Such experiences make us more keenly aware of our utter dependence upon the Lord. Thanks for your transparency!

  • Thanks for this. I needed it.

  • Excellent summation of the many “plates” that pastors and other ministry leaders wrestle with to keep “spinning”. Thank you for your continued faithfulness in your writing ministry and being an encouragement to so very many!

  • Pastor Schmidt:

    What an absolute blessing this article is. For young preachers like me, we can only fantasize what being a true pastor will be like. May we ever be careful not to say that we can have a church like any public figure pastor out there. We may never have that church, or we may have an even bigger church. The important thing any young preacher needs to know that a pastor is a shepherd and not a salesman or a dictator. I don’t pray that God makes me like a well-known pastor out there but that he shows me how to be a caring and influencial pastor. Pastors are only human, the only difference is that the bar is raised higher for them than the average church member. Seeing this article is God comforting me and saying, “if you follow this there may be a few bumps in the road but smooth sailing all the way to the end.” I greatly appreciate this article. Keep more of them coming.

  • Well said… As we all seek for…and head toward the ultimate “Well done” from our precious LORD.
    Love you and praying for your strength and wisdom for the journey.
    Dad

  • You have expressed in words what most new and veteran pastors go through but we either have a hard time verbalizing it or a fear being so transparent. Thank you brother for sharing this, it is good to know I am not the only one.


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