As a lot of you know, I’m 55.
That means I have 10-12 years left of full-time ministry.
(Ironically, I confessed to someone recently that ten years AGO I had befriended a guy who is a corporate speech coach, and somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea that I should move away from church work and into that field. Then God intervened.)
But back to being 55 with over 27 years of full-time ministry — nine at Mt. Carmel & Midway in Monroe, NC and then the last 18 here at Good Shepherd.
What would I do differently if I could? Maybe more to the point, what would I do differently since I CAN? I do have time left, after all.
Here are five:
1.Devote more time to developing people, processes, and a congregational atmosphere. I’ve always been better at “pastoring people” than at “growing leaders”; if I had to do it all over again, I would strike a better balance.
2.Understand my “need to be needed” as the subtle narcissism that it is. A lot of us get into ministry because we like to be there for people in the most vulnerable moments of their lives. And a lot of us like the affirmation we receive because of that ministry of presence. Yet it is a very thin line between representative ministry and co-dependency … and I suspect I’ve crossed it a time or two.
3.Choose team over talent in hiring. Wow Factor Guy or Girl seldom builds staff chemistry in the same way as does the person who wants to work with you because they love the mission of the church first, the team second, their own ministry third.
4.Have hard conversations earlier and speak assertively but not aggressively when you have them. That’s one class they sure didn’t teach in seminary. As a chronic avoider, it’s one I could have used.
5.Don’t personalize what is not meant personally. Years ago, someone implored me via email that a certain situation had nothing to do with me. I realized in an instant: “email writer knows me better than I know myself.” In ministry it is all too easy to take personal credit for the success and to feel personal blame for the failures. In the same way, it is easy to interpret people’s misdirected anger as genuinely personal attack. I think I’ll spend a good chunk of the next dozen years distancing myself from my natural tendency to make it all about me.