You’ve finished seminary and been ordained. You’ve served an internship or associate pastor position. Now you are called to become the Rector (Senior Pastor) of a church. All of this has prepared you for your assignment, right? Well, lets hope! But as you get started, here are some tips to help steer the ship a bit. I’ve pulled some great advice from various sources, and linked them below for you to check out, along with David Roseberry’s 30 Lessons from 30 Years:
1. Learn and Listen
“Learn the history of the church. The past will give you great insight about to how to lead into the future. Spend time getting to know the leaders. Find their heart and learn what they think. Ask about the strengths and weaknesses of the church, but not like a consultant conducting a survey; ask like a parent who cares about their kids.” –Dan Reiland
It is also important to have mentors, coaches, and colleagues. Some of these will be self-chosen, and others may be assigned to you. In any case, share your thoughts and questions with them, and listen.
2. Catechize and teach, teach, teach the Faith
“You have three priorities: teach, teach, and teach. Evangelical churches are weaker than we realize because we don’t teach the confessions and doctrine. Set new standards in teaching. Understand the word catechesis, and practice that art.” –J.I.Packer
You may be the main teacher and you may have other teachers. Just make sure that people are learning about the creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, the Bible, the commandments and the Great Commission. Many people have never really had a chance to learn these things, and others have some things to unlearn. And you as the priest and pastor will benefit from constantly returning to the beauty and mystery of the Christian Faith.
3. Maintain mental and emotional health
“Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” -Peter Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
I didn’t take this seriously enough until I went through a period of burnout. But you, my friend, are new in ministry and so heed the warning and slow down the ship. We will all have growing pains, mid-life passages, and personal emotional issues. Take the time to become aware of these things, and make space to grow and heal though reading, counselling, and time away.
4. Cultivate and practice disciplines of humility
“The best and the most talented in the pastoral ministry and in denominational hierarchies harm themselves and harm the church most through their unrestrained ego and unwillingness to step off the high places. Sexual sin gets the press, but ego sin kills the church.” -David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without all the Answers
Humility is a key. Humility isn’t something that we just either have or don’t have. Mother Theresa didn’t serve people because she was humble. She was humble because she served people. Practice disciplines and make life choices that are humbling. We don’t need to be passive-aggressive, or just plain passive, and we don’t need low self-esteem. What we do need is to put ourselves in places where we are reminded that our ministry is to point to Jesus Christ, and to serve people. Ordination and church leadership aren’t achievements, they are assignments.
5. Preach the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
“…the relevance of the Church of the Apostles consisted not in the provision of outward peace for the nations, nor in the direct removal of social distress, nor yet in any outward beauty of the Church itself, but in pointing to the death of Jesus the Messiah, and to the deeper issues of sin and judgment–sin which the Christians had shared, judgment which they stood together with the rest of mankind. In all this the Church was scandalous and unintelligible to men, but by all this and by nothing else it was relevant to their deepest needs.” -Michael Ramsey, The Gospel and the Catholic Church.
The gospel is relevant. We need to get to know people and ourselves as we are, and we need to speak from our own lives and to people in theirs. But we need to trust in the power of the gospel to go deeper into our hearts than anything else.
These things will help ground you as a person, establish you as a servant leader, and center you on the Gospel.
Photo: © Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk